A video game character clad in armor holding up a hand in victory while one foot rests on one of many animated mushrooms reminiscent of Mario video games. The outline of a mountain appears over a bright blue background.

Ready Player 2: Winning with External Tools and Integrations

Any time you add an integration to your digital product, make sure it’s supporting your users and project goals.

If you’re planning to launch a new site or app, we get it — every bit helps. Externally sourced add-ons and integrations can be a cost-effective way to add critical features and speed up your production timeline. But by adding another player to the game, you’re also adding a good degree of complexity to your project.

Any time you work with an external vendor to introduce a new component to your project, you also risk introducing a new set of problems for yourself and your users. In fact, few things spell “game over” faster than a poorly integrated add-on.

Here’s a quick walkthrough for making sure every integration improves, rather than hurts, your product’s user experience.

Set Your Objective

Have these things firmly in mind before you get to the start screen:

  • What needs are you trying to meet?
  • Are these needs critical or optional?
  • What is your budget and timeline?

Coordinate with All Players

This could be as simple as an initial meeting to determine needs or review leading candidates. But it’s crucial to make sure everyone is moving toward the same goal and with the same understanding. Even if the vendor’s work seems like it won’t have an impact on the rest of the team, all major players should be included. For example, Marketing and IT have different concerns and considerations, so they will need to define needs, evaluate products, and make choices together.

You rely on a variety of people to help you make choices based on their expertise. Give them the chance to give their perspective. Otherwise, you risk running into late-game bugs and issues that require costly patches and updates.

Tutorial? Talk to a Technical Contact

A technical contact is much more likely to know what the product can actually do and to tell the truth about its limitations. They’ll also know exactly how it integrates (servers, links, SEO considerations, etc.) and what the process will be like to get everything up and running. Having an accurate understanding of the implications and your part in the effort will help you manage expectations.

Play the Demo

You’ll need to take the time to test-drive the integration from the user’s perspective and from the admin, to see how the backend works. Test driving every aspect of the integration is the only way to know if it’ll be a good fit for your team and for your particular purposes.

Adjust the (User) Controls

Have your technical contact identify what can and can’t be customized. Limited branding or skinning options can make it hard (if not impossible) to maintain a cohesive feel, which can spawn confusion and make users less confident in your product. Be sure you understand any limitations you have to work with before moving forward.

Check the (Admin) Settings

No Demo? No Dice

Some companies do require a sales call before giving access to a demo or offering quotes, and this is a time-consuming but reasonable ask. Just know that the sales call might focus more on marketing than product quality.

Find the Accessibility Options

Ask your vendor:

  • Is your product accessible? Does it meet the latest WCAG compliance standards?
  • If so, do you offer a VPAT? (A VPAT, or Voluntary Product Accessibility Template, is a voluntary statement about the ways in which a product is — or isn’t — accessible.)

If they say yes, these are great signs that the company has at least some level of commitment to being accessible.

You’ll still need to read the VPAT to see if they’re actually claiming accessibility or if they only outline the ways they aren’t yet accessible. Also, find out how they determined their compliance status. Look for a combination of manual and automated testing completed by an impartial outside party. This gives the best odds that the vendor is actually accessible and will provide a stellar experience for everyone. (Also, remember the admin console? You might want to ask whether that’s accessible, too!)

Contact Support

Prepare for Testing

Alright: Game On

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

About truematter

After all, video games have come a long way since Pac-Man — so has UX.

Author: @trdwsn
Graphic: @djosephmachado

Online experiences don’t have to be frustrating. We’re user experience experts making digital products useful, usable, and loved. #UX #UI #userexperience #web

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store