Usability Guidelines for a Generic Educational Game Shell

Usability Guidelines for a Generic Educational Game Shell

Louise Sauvé (Télé-université, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-731-2.ch024

Abstract

This chapter discusses usability rules for avoiding defects in the media design for Generic Educational Game Shell (GEGS) components, including visual interfaces, text, and sound. These rules served as a guide for the Web design of the Parcheesi™ GEGS and the games that it generates. The first section of the chapter deals with the screen, text, color, windows, images, and video as well as sound used in the input forms of the GEGS. The final section discusses some errors to be avoided in the interface design.
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Introduction

Media design for the interface of a generic educational game shell (GEGS) makes use of familiar production techniques and tools, including computer graphics, layout design, and programming. An interface is a (hardware and software) device that enables an exchange of information between two systems. In concrete terms, an interface can be defined as everything that helps a human being understand and manipulate a machine. It is the central point of exchange between the person and the machine and has a physical layer (screen, keyboard, mouse, etc.) and a software component which intervenes between the machine and the user (Martial, 2000). This chapter focuses on the design of a GEGS interface, particularly its ergonomic aspects.

Ergonomics covers the body of science related to how humans use tools and machines for maximum comfort, security, and effectiveness (Wisner, 1972). In the case of computer interfaces such as for a GEGS, the ergonomist finds and implements solutions to inform and guide the user to minimize as much as possible the software’s cognitive (information) load. (Millrand & Martial, 2001, p. 74).

The importance of a well-constructed interface is widely recognized, yet the literature on user interfaces for digital games is scarce (Kellner, 2008). To establish guidelines for the creation of a GEGS interface, we relied primarily on studies in ergonomics for web environments (e.g., Dufresne, 2009; Livet, 2007; Millerand & Martial, 200; Nielson, 2000). For the GEGS interface to be efficient, it must meet two criteria: it must be useful—that is, adapted to user needs and preferences—and usable, that is, easy to teach and to use. Since the target users of the GEGS are young students, the organization of the GEGS should be linear and logical, consistent with the educational process of creating the elements of a game. According to Millerand and Martial (2001), this organization is well-suited for web-based educational sites or tutorials.

In this chapter, we examine media usability rules that helped us to avoid deficiencies in the Parcheesi GEGS user interface, notably regarding visual, textual, and sound design. These media rulesi served as a guide for the web layout of the GEGS and the games it generates. The first section of the chapter deals with the screen, text, color, windows, images, video, and sound. The final section discusses some errors to be avoided in the interface design for a GEGS.

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