You may not love Sid Meier’s Civilization games but I do- have for years. So when I saw this I knew I had to mention it. Sid talks about the psychology of game design and I’ll summarize his points from this article.

  1. Recognize that the player is an egomaniac- the game has to be winnable by the player
  2. Too much randomness in the game will make the player paranoid- the player has to know they are in control
  3. Protect players from themselves- too many options kill the enjoyability
  4. Listen to players- not just to what they say but to what they’re really getting at

Which I will regurgitate as advice for app developers:

  1. Recognize that the user is an egomaniac- he expects that he is exactly the one you made the app for and it should easily work for him and his unique computer setup
  2. Too many bugs or unexplained quirks in the app will make the user paranoid- even if you made it work a certain way for a good reason, if the user doesn’t understand what’s going on, he won’t trust the app enough to really use it
  3. Protect users from themselves- too many options and GUI elements will make the user unsure whether they can actually use the app or potentially lead to a group of custom settings by the user that makes the app useless. Don’t try to make it infinitely customizable- that will just take an infinite amount of time for you to make and an infinite amount of time for the user to set up. Use reasonable defaults with only a couple of options.
  4. Listen to users- not just to what they say but to what they’re really getting at