Experience trailers offer a flavor of the user experience

Professor Michael Twidale
Michael Twidale, Professor and MS/IM Program Director

When Nintendo introduced the Wii home video game console in 2006, the company needed to show the general public how the Wii was unlike other game consoles currently on the market. To do so, Nintendo created an experience trailer to help potential users understand how it would feel to use the Wii. Professor and MS/IM Program Director Michael Twidale and Stefan Rennick-Egglestone, a senior research fellow in the School of Health Sciences at the University of Nottingham, discuss this area of research in their article, "Experience Trailers," which was recently published in the Association for Computing Machinery journal Interactions (July-August 2018).

Experience trailers are similar to film trailers but convey a sense of the user experience, which, according to the researchers, is especially important when the experience of an application is novel or not what a person might expect. In their article, Twidale and Rennick-Egglestone examine three types of experience trailers—in the gaming industry, for wearable medical devices, and for novel interactive experiences. Experience trailers can show users what a piece of technology will look like, where it might be used, and how it might fit into their lives. Rather than a complex video showing the mechanics of a medical device, an experience trailer can provide users with a general understanding of what it would be like to use the device. 

The researchers' interest in experience trailers started over a conversation four years ago about computerized therapy services such as MoodGYM, an online cognitive behavior therapy program for depression and anxiety.

"The computerized therapy services tend to be built around an assumption that someone stays engaged for two to three months," said Rennick-Egglestone. "That's a big ask, and the evidence is that dropout rates are high. Mike and I talked about how someone might go into such an engagement just a bit more informed about what they are getting themselves in for, and that if they are a bit more informed, dropout rates might not be so high. We wondered about providing a trailer to showcase the types of interaction that might be found."

The hypothesis is that the experience trailer could result in the user engaging with therapeutic technologies over a longer period of time. Of course, the biggest challenge for researchers developing novel computer systems, interfaces, and user experiences is how to persuade people to try something totally unfamiliar.

"An experience trailer can happen by accident, like when you are at a museum and there is some computer interactive activity, and you have to wait for someone else to finish using it before you can have a go," said Twidale. "That waiting and watching is useful. It helps you decide you do want a go—even if you can’t see all the details of what they are doing while you wait a distance away."

Furthermore, experience trailers can be used to facilitate research projects. "An especially important use is to provide better informed consent for volunteers taking part in research studies with novel software," said Twidale.