Usability and Accessibility of Triple Town
With the capacity of today’s smartphones, it’s no wonder how people can easily have over 100 apps on their phones ranging from utilities (i.e. weather apps, maps, Google assistants) to social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter) to games. Living in New York City while waiting and taking public transportation you’ll see 70% of the travelers on their phones, either texting, watching videos, on social media, or playing games. Accessing videos or social media or even texting can get a little tricky when riding the subway — especially when you’ve hit the dead spots and you have no service. That’s why I often go to my offline games, especially the ones where I can always pick up where I left off like Triple Town — which I’ve played for years.
Triple Town is a mobile strategic single-player puzzle game created by Spry Fox released in 2012. The main goal of the game is to build a town by matching 3 or more objects (similar concept as Candy Crush or Bejeweled) in a specific configuration (i.e. putting 3 trees next to each other) as shown in the screenshots below. However, to increase the difficulty level, there are also bears that walk around the field to block access to free space to place the object. The bears take a different step each turn so that each turn they are positioned somewhere else. To “kill” the bears they must be trapped with no wear to move.
Having played Triple Town for a few years now I wondered how the mobile game holds up to usability and accessibility standards from an objective point of view. Some may think, well it’s just a simple game that just works well what is there to talk about? Well, there is quite a lot of factors that need to be taken into consideration when designing a product and we’re going to dissect it into 2 major categories: usability and accessibility.
Usability is a term that refers to the ease of use of a user interface (UI) and is defined by five broad categories for usability heuristics:
So how does Triple Town hold up to these standards?
- Learnability — How easy is the product to learn? Triple Town is a relatively simple game using a simple common match 3 concepts where you match 3 like objects to create a larger object and so on until you run out of the room. First-time users are given a step by step tutorial on how to play the game as well as helpful tips when the player completes the tutorial (which takes a few seconds) they may begin playing. Overall, I’d say it was pretty easy to learn how to play.
- Efficiency — after learning the interface, they can quickly use it? Once users have learned how the game works, it was easy to dive into the game and start playing. Even after years of playing the game and new mini-games have been added to the game, the concept remained the same.
- Memorability — good design will reduce the user’s memory load. Overall the game has remained relatively consistent throughout the years.
- Errors — user errors (error prevention vs error recovery) Who hasn’t made a mistake before? We’re human after all! If you placed a tree in the wrong location, you can easily purchase a “undo” action using the coins you’ve gained from previous games. Though there isn’t obvious error prevention or error recovery system in place in this game (such as ones placed in field boxes), because it is a free game with in-app purchase options there are purchase confirmations in place in case users didn’t mean to make a purchase.
- Satisfaction — would users recommend it? I’ve enjoyed the game and its design (why else would I have continued to play it for so long?) which is fun and simple to use. 579 users in the App Store also agree with me, giving the app a 4.6-star rating out of 5. Overall, the game is easy to use, doesn’t take much time to play, can step away from the game, can easily be pick up where I left off, and can be played offline.
Accessibility focuses on making a product accessible by providing equal access and opportunity to people with disabilities — making the product usable by anyone.
Triple Town doesn’t require much action from the user — simply place the object on the field by tapping on the screen. It also doesn’t solely rely on color but also the distinct shapes of objects to signal users that they’ve placed/matched the correct object and is rewarded by an upgraded shape (i.e. 3 trees is a small red house). Being a free app, Triple Town can also be played on a variety of mobile platforms: Androids, Apple, and Kindle Fire.
My mother taught me many lessons in life and amongst all of them: nothing in life is free — except her love (thanks mom!). Momma was right — although advertised as a free game, to thoroughly enjoy Triple Town without distractions, you’d better be ready to spend some pocket change. On its free mode, you’re given a limited number of turns when the turns are depleted you have the option to buy more (via coins earned) or wait approximately 2 hours for about 150 turns to replenish which won’t last long. If you’re impatient like me — I caved in and skipped coffee for a day to purchase the unlimited turns.
Here are the top 5 In-App Purchases:
- Unlimited Turns for TripleTown ($3.99 USD)
- 50,000 coins ($4.99 USD)
- 10,000 coins ($2.99 USD)
- 5,000 coins ($1.99 USD)
- 2,000 coins ($0.99 USD)
Overall Triple Town is a fairly simple and easy game with a good design and with usability and accessibility in mind. It has definitely helped me beat out the lonely and boring train rides in New York City — with or without wifi.