Activities / Games to teach User-Centered Design?

23 Mar 2013 - 11:09pm
3 years ago
5 replies
4848 reads

I am building a workshop to teach User-Centered Design. The target audience is people who want to integrate UCD into their software development process.

What I am looking for is activities and games to teach different aspects of UCD so that they can really "feel" the difference UCD makes, the before and after.

My workshop focuses on three areas:

- User Research (Contextual Inquiry, Interviews, Analyzing the data, establishing goals, creating personas, etc...)

- Prototype Design (Information Architecture, IxD topics (Affordances, Visibility, Modeless operation, etc...), some light graphic design concepts)

- User Tests (Creating a test, How to perform a user test, A/B testing, analyzing the results, etc...)

For example:

- In Scott Klemmer's online HCI classes at Stanford, he shows how you can play a game by going back and forth with a partner, choosing 3 numbers, from 1 through 9, to total up to 15. This game is complicated and requires a lot of remembering numbers. Then, he talks about the simplicity of Tic-Tac-Toe. Finally, he shows how you can use a magic square to play the same game without having to think, since everything adds up to 15 in a Magic Square (the After). ( This is a great example of Information Architecture, amongst other things.

- I took a "Toyota Lean Production System" workshop once, and the teacher set the group up into a pipeline, producing widgets (pieces of folded paper with writing on them). We did the exercise one way with a bunch of obvious shortcomings (lots of walking between stations, inefficient processes: fold unfold write fold unfold) We analyzed the pipeline, suggested some optimizations, and ran the exercise again with much higher production volume and quality.

My question is:

Are there any books, websites, blogs, etc... that you can recommend (and even better, link to!) that have activities / games like this?

Thank you!


24 Mar 2013 - 12:17pm


that's an interesting idea to use games to show differences in "good" and "bad" usability.

I don't know about any specific websites or books that would cover that topic - but I can recommend a very good book with lots of ideas for games that can be used for workshop/ creativity exercises. So maybe you'll find some inspiration there and come up with your own conclusions for UCD examples.

The book is called Gamestorming:

And there is a great website to that book as well: 



24 Mar 2013 - 7:35pm

Thank you for the reply, Frauke! I took a look at the book and the website, and there are a lot of useful ideas in there.

Something else I can add to clarify my question:

One of the issues I have is explaining the importance of UX to programmers. So I'm also looking for games to help them FEEL the difference good UX makes, such as:

- To explain the importance of consistent color choices in the interface: Try to find a specific variable in some code, with and without color syntax.

- To explain the importance of undo / redo for a content creation application: Try to draw a diagram, with changing requirements, under time pressure... without an eraser.

- To explain the importance of IA / chunking: Try to memorize a series of letters and numbers that are organized randomly... then, the same letters and numbers organized into recognizable acronyms (CIA, KGB, FBI, etc...) and see how many more you can remember.

Any other ideas?


16 Apr 2013 - 10:54am

Sounds more like "cognitive science" stuff. Here's a few humble thoughts:

(1) Explaining the importance of UX to programmers might be too broad a concept. It's only clear that the target is programmer. Maybe it's a good idea to kind of further elaborate the certain issues you want to address regarding the "importance of UX" The tricky thing is that, UX can probably only be either measured or actually experienced for people to really "FEEL" the pros (and cons). Thus it might be better to have more detailed "issues" laid out and think about specific ways for each to demonstrate that through game-like acivities (exactly like what you mentioned: colors, undo/redo, IA, etc. probably a good idea to lay out all the issues first and then think about ways to deal with them).

(2) In my experience, advocating the importance of UX might seem rather annoying to them. Basically it's a little bit like telling a programmer "what really matters is this designer stuff, not your coding stuff", which may sound rather irritating to programmers. Thus it's subtle to handle that kind of communication. Maybe it'd be more confortable to think along the line of "how UX can help in a bigger context (which implies improving or enhancing what's being done)".

(3) Another thing that I find tricky is about what is supposed to be taught. E.g. for undo/redo, there's already best practices and UI guidelines for it, thus in its case, what's supposed to be taught -- to explain why it's supposed to be so (the quantitative data that supports it and/or the general idea of it, etc.) ?

16 Apr 2013 - 4:06pm
Adi Tedjasaputra

If you are into learning the application of game elements and digital game design techniques to non-game problems, such as business and social impact challenges, you may want to take a free online course of Gamification by

22 Apr 2013 - 12:55pm

This isn't really an answer to your question, but rather a resource that I found very helpful in building a similar workshop. Stanford publishes a workbook and facilitator's guide for a one hour design thinking workshop. I modified things a bit, added in some of my favorite exercises, and ended up with a four hour version for my company.


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