Jonathan had a little chat with William, who designed the new Let's Role user interface.
Hello William ! Let’s start with the basics, your artistic background, how did you become an art director ?
I’ve had the chance to start very young. Back in the olden days of The Fourth Coming, I modified screenshots for roleplay purposes. That’s how I familiarized myself with Photoshop, thanks to a game younger people might have never heard about. Then I made a couplde of websites for my favourite bands at the time and I joined an art school to get a formal recognition of my craft. Right after that I started working on various projects, including the remodeling of Gamekult and that’s how I met both you and ExServ. (T.N : Gamekult is a french video game website)
What would you say were you main inspirations for the Let’s Role design ?
The early user interface was pretty solid already, so you did a good job there, thanks to the testers feedbacks as well. This helped me a lot to focus mainly on user experience while keeping in mind all the constraints. The most important thing is that I wanted to make it easy to use and attractive, while making sure it could evoke various universes, not only heroic fantasy.
Keeping that in mind, I tried to mix a lot of my own references to achieve it. For example, the chat is inspired by modern instant messengers apps while the quickbar is meant to evoke a MMORPG skill bar. As for the drawing tool, it looks like it could be a distant cousin of Photoshop. For me, making a good user interface doesn’t require to reinvent the wheel, on the contrary. We browse the web and use app all the time, we might as well keep a familiar feeling for Let’s Role.
What made this project special to me is that we kept discussing during the whole process, even when we disagreed on something, we could argue and try to move forward. Both of you were open to my ideas and feedbacks, which is something I don’t always experiment in this line of work. Thanks for that.
Moving the graphical part, it’s a mix of skeuomorphism and flat design. The former simply means to mimic real life elements, an approach to design made widely popular by one Steve Jobs. Even though it’s a little bit out of fashion, I believe it helps bring character and provide an immersive experience, hence the use of parchment for the Journal and stone for the main menu. We have to thank Google for flat design, it’s great for all purposes by keeping it simple. By mixing these two I managed to meet my objectives and the constraints.
You mentioned constraints, can you elaborate a little ?
To be fair it was not that restrictive and you wanted to me to experiment and enjoy some freedom. I had the logo and its colors and that was pretty much it. As for all the projects I’ve worked on, I’m the one adding my own set of constraints. It was my first time designing a virtual table top, however I had the chance to work on various website with millions of visitors, giving me a good understanding of user experience. There are some rules to follow and they worked as well for Let’s Role that they did for these other websites. I must confess I would have love to remodel the character sheet, but due to technical constraints I had to keep it very simple.
However, I really wanted to do something with the Quickbar and even though you rejected the pitch, I felt I needed to make a mockup to convince you. In the end, it’s one of the key element of the user interface and something that makes Let’s Role unique. Anyone familiar with the website can know recognize it at a glance and to me that’s how you make good design, either with an aesthetic element or a unique feature.
Thank you for your time ! What would you say to the Let’s Role community before we conclude ?
Well, not everything has been released yet so you can expect some more surprises. I believe that you’re in good hands with Jonathan and ExServ. Please take care of them and talk about Let’s Role to your friends because they really deserve it. The community is a central part of this project, so feel free to share your thoughts.