As many of you have discussed about, ease of use is very important for a toolkit. A nice reallife example for this comes from the games industry. Valve, creator of the very popular game Portal 2, released a toolkit that allows the players of this game to make their own maps and share them among their friends and in the community.
This toolkit is called a “map editor” in the games industry, and is far from a new concept. However, creating map editors for games starts getting more tricky as games get more complicated. This is why the programmers had to step in and create a nice tool that simplifies the whole experience and allows people to create an infinity of content. This keeps the game fun for a long time.
The reason why I mention this example in this blog is this: Valve made a big introduction with launching this new map editor, but the weird thing is that Valve already had a map editor. This previous toolkit was so very complicated, that the community only managed to create about 400 maps since the game released a year ago. The only thing Valve did, was create a new toolkit that drastically simplified map creation, removing requirements for programming and standardizing many objects and surroundings.
The new toolkit has been used to create thousands of new maps in only a few days. Looking at these numbers, which are 400 in a year versus thousands in a few days, you could say the new toolkit definately was a succes. Still, I think it’s important to realise that standardising the toolkit means that a large part of the consumer input is also standardised. The 400 previously created maps had much more input from the individual consumers, as it took a lot more effort to make. This makes the maps much more diversified and unique. With the new toolkit there is much more choice, but this does not always create a better experience for users playing other consumers maps. To quote a forum user about the new maps that we’re made by consumers: “Most of them are crap.”
This leads me to believe that companies have to really think about the simplicity of their toolbox. They need to be designed in a way, which keeps the main goal of the consumer input in mind. For Valve’s game this was entertainment for both user and consumer. Since creating a map and having you friend play it is fun for the creator, the toolkit is succesfull. If the goal of the toolkit is to use consumer inputs for marketing and product development purposes however, the developers need to keep in mind that making too simple, standardized toolkits will give them less valueble consumer input.
By Martijn Roest, 323762