A common complaint from those involved in the online casino space is the degree of ‘me-tooism’ visible in the many of the leading offerings, extending from the games available to the basic design.
It is evidence of an understandable gravitation towards the mean – what works elsewhere is felt instinctively to be what all should be aiming at – and it is particularly prevalent in online gambling where ‘gut feel’ is often a central plank of many site builds.
I’m sure many other website and app designers have encountered this and I have certainly come across it in my interactions with the online gambling industry. Designing websites is a very personal thing – we each of us use so many of them in our daily lives that we feel we know what works and what doesn’t.
But design by gut feel truly becomes a problem when it is translated into large organisations where a huge array of stakeholders will have an opinion on a new website design. Although I wouldn’t advocate a complete revolution in how online casino sites present themselves, I do feel that an evolution is needed.
In the instance of online casinos, far too many of them have very similar UXs. This maybe cannot be helped when it comes to the games that they display, though I do feel that the constant repetition of certain key themes among the games is an inhibitor to innovation.
But I certainly think that more can be done to improve and enhance the UX of the pages that provide the first introduction to the consumer. I cite the evidence from Degree 53’s first-ever ‘Casino Lobby report’ which I feel gives us a very good overview of the issues the industry has in coming up with original UX thinking.
Where I think the industry suffers is that often decisions regarding what a site looks like will not be driven by best practice. Instead, it will often be decided by one or two stakeholders who will, to coin a phrase, like what they know and know what they like.
I truly believe that an understanding of UX best practice is absolutely vital if casino lobbies are to deliver the wants and needs of the gambling consumer. First impressions count, and I would argue particularly so in gambling. We are all aware of the money that is spent in marketing to grab the attention of customers and incentivise them to play. This is especially relevant right now given the ongoing debate around the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) enquiry into bonus and free bet terms and conditions.
Of immediate interest to me – and I have to admit to a degree of subjectivity here – is the design of online forms. The ease with which sites can lose a customer with a badly-designed form is alarming. So it was interesting to see the wide disparity on display in the sites we covered in our review.
The registration process will have a massive impact on a site’s metrics, so it pays to get it right. And while some that we looked at were good – Unibet fared particularly well in this area – there were also instances where the process was simply not good enough.
In the wider world of online website design, fit-for-purpose forms are part of the extensive best-practice literature available to the designers. Iterations stretching into their thousands have been implemented, built upon and adapted.
The same goes for basics of any site such as search functionality, user-feedback, site optimisation and many others. Best practice stretches to every element of a website and I would argue that an understanding of it is vital if we are to replace the gut-feeling instincts that can often provide obstacles on the route to good website design.
Pleasingly, the feedback we have received so far on the review has been very positive with various contacts suggesting they were pleased that we have reviewed and rated features that they were considering introducing. The industry knows it is behind the curve with regard to online casino provision.
But evolution will be the key to the work going forward and from the conversations we have had, that would certainly appear to be how the industry see it as well.
It gives us confidence to move onto our next project which will be to conduct a review of mobile casino lobbies. As is obvious from all the available data, in the gambling sphere as with many other areas of our lives the mobile is taking over from the desktop/laptop as the dominant form of online interaction with the consumer.
It means it is an area where no serious operator can afford to be less than fully optimised. With mobile the casino lobby becomes a very different form of UX and I will be very interested to discover how the online casino are responding to the challenge.
By Jade Sahota, head of design at Degree 53