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Pokémon Go is amazing. Everywhere in the world, millions of people go outside, explore their surroundings and meet like-minded monster hunters. It’s the first time augmented reality has been applied to create a succesful, lasting and engaging experience. It’s like nothing else! Unfortunately, its UX design could definitely be better. No worries, we have some ideas!

Onboarding

Wow, first-time usage is pretty tough. What do I need stardust for? Why would I use that transfer button? Oh, so I can throw Pokéballs with a curve? As a new Pokémon trainer you have to find out a lot of important stuff by yourself. Wouldn’t it be nice to get a little help?

Screenshot of Pokemon Go Squirtle

Sure, you get some help when you start playing the game. Below are some screenshots of Professor Willow, the guy that sends you on your quest. Having a character helping you to get familiar with the game is a classic approach. This way, the learning is part of the narrative and you get sucked right into the story. Too bad that Pokémon Go turns this into a long boring sequence of screens:

Professor Willow dialog
Professor Willow dialog continueing

UX FIX: Explain all mechanics and features in the right context, while playing the game. Provide players with tips and tricks (‘Did you know you can throw a curveball?’ You’ll receive more XP!’) when they’re up for learning something new. Read all about how Duolingo does this. They integrate their little green teaching owl seamlessly into the first-time usage of their language learning app.

Usability

Definitely some room for improvement here. We won’t bore you with all the small interaction-level issues, let’s just focus on a single usecase.

The transfer problem

By using the transfer option you can send (weaker) Pokémon back to the professor’. You then earn extra candies, which you can use to make your Pokémon more powerful. Anyway, once you figured this out, you find yourself transferring a lot of Pokémon, and unfortunately you can only do this one at a time. So, you captured 182 Magikarps. Now you got to transfer them one by one? You don’t have time for that!

UX FIX: Provide players with a bulk action. How about this:

Transferring pokemon screenshot

Collaboration

Pokémon Go is a very social game. Players roam the streets together, looking for Pokéstops (places that provide players with valuable items) and gyms (where you fight other trainers). The game makes you meet other people! Also, we like the team concept (every trainer gets assigned to one of three teams).

Still, these collaborative aspects could be a lot more interesting. You can only actively involve your team members while taking over gyms (which basically comes down to tapping your screen like a maniac). Having more team-related options would definitely strenghten the social aspect of the game and create even more commitment.

UX Fix: Make it possible to fight trainers from other teams, or even have team battles or tournaments. Enable players from the same team to trade Pokémon, items and interesting locations.

Screenshot initiation trainer battle

Safety

People have walked off a cliff while playing this game. Someone has crashed into a cop car. Criminals have used the app to rob players. A lot has been written about this. Yes, there are some safety issues.

UX FIX: Apply Pokémon-free zones. The map should explicitly show which zones are no-go areas. These zones, possibly highlighted in a different color, obviously shouldn’t include any gyms or Pokestops either. A nice place to start would probably be the Fukushima nuclear exclusion zone.

Recap

Pokémon Go provides us with a totally new way of interacting with the world. It has quickly become one of the most viral mobile applications of all time, topping Twitter’s daily users and seeing more engagement than Facebook.

Still, it has a long way to go before it’s perfect. Adding new features and optimizing the current user experience will attract new players and keep people that are already playing it interested in the game.

Need any help with your UX? Talk to us! there’s a Charizard at our office!

  • Lars van der Meulen
  • Marijke Dekker