What Is The Future Of Design? (Hint: it's not the web)

What’s the future of design you ask?
Taking game design concepts and ideas, and applying it to all other areas of design, from products to websites, to make experiences more engaging, addictive, and visceral.

This week USA Today’s Mike Snider wrote an article: “Social sites help casual games reach the next level” where he talked about the ready-to-boom casual games marketed. He quoted me in the article, and here’s an excerpt of that:

The reach of online casual games is already impressive: One-third of people ages 6 to 44 have played them, according to market tracker The NPD Group. Globally, casual games on PCs, game systems and handhelds, played online and off, generate about $2.25 billion annually, according to the Casual Games Association.

Two popular existing networks, Zynga and Social Gaming Network, have begun adding their games as applications on social networks. More such combinations are on the way, because the revenue potential from advertising, subscriptions and virtual items “is enormous,” says Ross Popoff-Walker, a researcher for Forrester Research. “It’s a huge audience, (and) there are a lot of different experiments on the Web taking on elements of gaming and the traditional social network.”

This is only the tip of the iceberg, or in this case, glacier.

A year ago I ghostwrote a Forrester report with Kerry Bodine called “Desirable Online Experiences” that argued as consumers spend more and more time online with sites like Facebook and YouTube, their expectations for what they can do online grows. They’ll crave entertainment and engagement more, and become increasingly dissatisfied with traditional experiences like e-commerce flows and online banking.

Game design teaches us how to make things fun in an almost systematic way. Design a system of rules where the player can win or lose (creating a sense of challenge), add emotion and humor with theme and story, some collaborative multiplayer elements so people can play with a friend, and Whammo-Mario!!

Some well known examples of sites that use game elements are:

Guinnesshands.com – The site allows users to make their own stop-motion film by playing with different animated hand movements mapped to the letters on the keyboard.

The Nike+ iPod Sports Kit takes it a step further combine a real world product and single-player competitive sport (running) with Nikeplus.com, where players can upload their running and exercise statistics, enter into virtual competitions, and earn awards based on their real-world performance.

My latest Forrester report, “Three Different Gaming Approaches That Can Enhance Online Experiences,” looks at a branded microsite called Get the Glass, the online gaming community Club Penguin, and a social network with gaming elements called I’m in like with you. The last one is by far my favorite — a brilliant mashup of so many diverse elements. Here’s an excerpt from this recent report:

I’m in like with you integrates game elements into a social network. This social network combines elements of dating sites like Match.com, bidding sites like eBay, and gaming sites — all within the context of a social network. Users can view each others’ profiles, but they can only contact each other by initiating small “flirting” games and then bidding on each others’ affection to get connected. Users can also compete in basic online games like “Blockles” to win points.

Forrester’s take: Iilwy pulls users into the experience quickly and holds their interests with real-time elements to create a sense of urgency and immediacy. Mini pop-up notifications at the bottom of the browser show other users as they log in or ask users yes or no questions such as “Do you like Cabernet Sauvignon?” Users can add flirting games to their profiles that have a time limit ranging from 3 hours to three days. By designing these games with an expiration clock, Iilwy encourages users to return and check out a game’s progress.


Again, this is only just a piece of the puzzle. As more and more generations are brought up with video games, and the mobile web under their thumbs — their expectations from designs of the future will change. What will Web sites look like in ten years time?