World of Warcraft: A quest into UX Design

By Ed Vinicombe on Jul 26th, 2016

Shortly after the release of World of Warcraft: The beginning, I was intrigued to play the infamous online Blizzard epic, WOW (World of Warcraft) to see what all the fuss was about.

I remember friends of mine playing this game years ago when it first came out in 2004. I barely saw those guys for about a year. Locked away in their bedrooms for months. At the time I wondered what on earth was so special that kept them playing this game!?

What is WOW?

WOW is an online MMORPG (Massively multiplayer online role playing game) where you create a character to level up through questing, raids, player vs player fights and more in the world of Azeroth!

Why was/is WOW so popular?

Having only experimented with the game it’s tough to be able to comment fully on why the game became so popular.

An obvious link is one of escapism for the player. The WOW is immersive, exciting and unbelievably expansive. Inside you are a different person and can live an alter ego almost.

The UX teardown

The most fascinating aspect of World of Warcraft is the user experience. It's an incredible way to learn UX design. Onboarding new users into the game can be both frustrating and incredibly inspirational.

Let’s take a look at some of the amazing ways WOW uses key principles of UX

Getting started (1/4)

Having searched Google for World of Warcraft the first thing I see is dedicated URL to get the user signed up quickly.

Getting Started   WoW.jpg

I love this!

“You were meant for this world” is a great pull on the users emotions and get’s them thinking that this is more than just a game - it’s an endless world of adventure and excitement.

The call to action is simple and immediately tells the user that it’s free to play.

Creating an account (2/4) Account.jpg

Next, we’re creating our account and the form is pretty lengthy.

Before you sign up, however, they drop in a great incentive for new users by informing them that you can level up to level 20 for free.

By the time the user reaches that level there is no argument that they are emotionaly invested into the game and you would be more likely to convert them. The ol’ freemium gaming model at it’s very best.

No new ground breaking methods here but a great, simple and easy way for them to snare the users into the franchise.

Download it and start playing! (3/4)

Instead of a flat file download, WOW require that you download the desktop app. This is where you will update all aspects of the game and spend money on virtual pets in the store (yes this really happens).


The download is roughly 40GB yet you are able to play once the download hits roughly 5GB-10Gb. The rest of the content downloads in game whilst you’re playing to not hold you up from your questing!

It’s nothing that hasn’t been done before but it’s a great way to get the user to where they can spend money and convert quicker.

Learning to play WOW (4/4) Getting to grips with the World of Warcraft UI can be tricky. Below is a screeny of the base UI that most users will encounter the first time they launch WOW. It's clean and quite easy to understand.


There are numerous plugins and addons available to the user to help clear up the UI but for new players you get what you're given.


When physically playing the game it can be really hard to get to all the UI in time to do everything you want.

Playing WOW on your laptop is really hard. If you want to be able to get to everything quickly, you'll need a proper gaming keyboard and mouse.

Updating the game

This has probably got to be the worst part of the game.

The updates take the user hours to download and the experience can be extremely buggy and full of errors.

I had only been playing the game for a day or two and I needed to download a 52GB update.


Finding help and support from the community

For new users wanting to understand a little more about the game and connect with people in the community it doesn't come much better than WOW.

The community has been built over several years and there is a plethora of information available via their forum to the user to help guide them through the game.

WOW UX Takeaways

  1. Low barriers to entry (creating an account is easy!) help users get playing quicker.
  2. Clever use of hooks (using value/rewards) early on in the users experience with their character.
  3. Insane amount of UI overloads the users grasp on how to play the game and could put them off.
  4. Downloading patches and fixes can be an extremely long and painful task for the user.
  5. Incredible community support and gateways for the user to share their experiences.


I've always wanted to give WOW a try and I gotta say i'm impressed. It is pretty damn addictive!

Now it's your turn to be a part of the world of Azeroth!

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