My 8-year-old son Gus just had a nice day recovering from a great gymnastics meet by staying in his pajamas all day and alternating make-up homework (he was sick most of last week) with lengthy rounds of Need for Speed: Most Wanted, his new game for the XBox.
Gus takes his racing games very seriously … he’ll sometimes spend an hour or more customizing a car with wheels, parts, and decals (it’s kinda like photoshop – I think he’s learning design skills from this). When he’s having trouble overcoming a specific racing challenge … well, let’s just say it gives us all an opportunity to work on anger management principles.
So after a great day of racing and customizing his new game, he turned off the console and then looked horrified. “I forgot to save!” He was crushed. All his “work” from today was lost.
I thought for sure it was a mistake – doesn’t it just save as it goes along? I had him turn the game back on, but sure enough, it was back to where he started the day. Unbelievable.
I did an Internet search to be sure his work wasn’t lost and eventually discovered that you have to go through multiple menu levels to enable “autosave.” Obviously, I did this – if it didn’t have autosave, that game was going in the trash – but what planet were they on when they didn’t enable this by default?
You don’t have to guess what your users prefer … you can measure their behavior patterns. I don’t know if there’s an easy way to get telemetry data for XBox games, but there are various toolkits to measure users’ actions for web, Windows, and phone applications. When choosing default settings, I would tend to err on the side of NOT losing any data and only change that default if my measurements showed a vast majority of users bothered to go into a menu to turn OFF something like autosave. It’s possible EA did the research that proved most users didn’t want autosave on and Gus is an anomaly … but somehow, I doubt it.
I remember my friend Rory repeating his rant that the stupidest question in all of computing is “Do you want to save?” Of course I want to save! Why are you asking me that? Worse – how is it possible to forget asking me that??? Just save it and allow me to revert if necessary.
If you’re a developer, please – PLEASE – make it harder for your users to throw information away than to keep it.