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Why we chose humans over 3D characters

Zander Whitehurst
Founder and CEO, Memorisely
6m read

We experimented with 3D characters

We used 3D characters on our landing page. At first glance, they are fun, I mean, who couldn't love a cute glossy character? Well, we discovered not everyone could relate to 3D characters, and from a usability perspective - they kinda stole the show.

The goal of Memorisely is to make learning UX/UI accessible, bringing designers around the world together to learn. With this as our goal, it was essential to champion humans vs. 3D characters. 3D characters have the immediate WOW factor and are used effectively in products like Pitch or Swile. In this article, I'm not suggesting don't use 3D characters, merely sharing my experience of experimenting with them.

pitch.com use 3D characters for their playful presentation product

Swile.co use characters to represent teams

So why use them in your product or service?

The Positives: 3D is Playful, Perfect, Flexible, Memorable

Think back to your childhood. Playing with your Transformers, Action Man or Barbie was a great time in your life. 3D characters within a product or marketing site will invoke these positive memories and create a sense of playfulness and happiness.

I mean who doesn't still love Lego?

While playing with these toys, you will have created the perfect persona for your characters. I certainly did. Action Man was strong, moral and always saved the day. He could climb trees backward and fly for days and was, in my eyes, the ideal person. This is the same for 3D characters used across marketing sites or products. They are created without blemish and a sense of perfectionism that hopefully resonates within your product. Moreover, emotion is natural to convey in a 3D character. You can exacerbate their features and replicate feelings to align with your users and experience. Colors, clothing, and expressions can be used to enhance copy and comfort users.

Pitch characters capturing their early access excitement

Think of a cartoon rabbit. Is it Bugs Bunny? Bet it is. With 3D characters, we can create memorable characters. Characters that are our mascots and will live on forever. Much like Bugs, Buzz, or Woody, 3D characters are sticky and, therefore, can be super powerful for any product or service.

The Negatives: 3D Is Non Relatable, Opaque, Superficial, Too Glossy

3D characters might be perfect, but perfectionism is not relatable. By nature, we humans are imperfect. Therefore having an ideal 3D character roaming around a marketing site is kind of like the Instagram filter effect. It all seems too good and glossy to be true. Well, most of the time, it's because it is. Although this wow-factor attracts attention, it doesn't necessarily drive loyalty, and with the expectation set so high, I'll let you plot the emotions on the journey map.

"Look and feel creates appeal, not loyalty"

by Joel Marsh

Because the characters are typically overemphasized, dominating real estate, they take away the interest from the copy and the product itself. Because of this, session duration dips with users staring at fun characters vs. digesting the copy and actions on your marketing site or product.

The characters dominate vistors attention

Do these characters genuinely reflect the product? The answer is likely no. Getting a 3D character to convey what you do is very difficult and expensive. The room for error is pretty huge when it comes to characters, and with thousands of attempts in the last year, it's likely you'll only be familiar with Pitch and a few others who've done it successfully.

3D characters are also glossy, too glossy. Kind of like a pretty Dribbble screenshot that achieves nothing but looking aesthetically pleasing, 3D characters don't evoke an awful lot of trust. Webflow named designing truth as the number one trend of this year and 3D characters, although being glossy and clean rarely tell the truth of your product or service.

We use Humans. Here's Why...

People are our product

At Memorisely our people are our product champions. We are super proud of our Memorisers and do our best to champion them at all times. If we were to turn to 3D characters, we wouldn't be genuinely reflecting our diverse tribe of UX/UI designers around the world.

We have 1650 tribe members in 87 countries

Diversity is champion

The world is such a diverse place. A variety of cultures, languages, and people exist out there. Using humans is a true reflection of the world. Because Memorisely is a community of awesome people, we need to reflect this diversity in all its glory and allow others to relate to it.

Inspiration is real

We're now adults. We've had cartoons telling us what to do and trying to inspire us since childhood. Now that we're a little older and wiser, we need real-life inspiration. For us, humans do a far better and honest job at inspiring others than 3D characters. Yes, characters have a playfulness, but when it comes down to it, a human story of why your product or service has helped is a true reflection.

Perfect imperfections

The attempt at being too perfect creates distrust. We want to be honest and relatable. What better way than to use our Memorisers? Every member of Memorisely has a journey and they're ready to share theirs with you and join you on yours.

Community rules

Memorisely is made up of a community. This community is all over the world. This means we need realism to reflect the world and the locations our Memorisers are in. No doubt we could create some decent 3D scenes in Thailand and Mongolia, but showing actual images of our members in these locations is real; a real picture taken in a real location by a real human.

Meet humans 👋

So if you want to be part of a product that is centered around the reality of the world and be in contact daily with real people, then come join us. You're certain to learn, grow and prosper with other humans around the world.

Zander Whitehurst
Founder and CEO, Memorisely

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