Increase efficiency through cross-functional collaboration
Maintain a consistent look-and-feel within and across games
Make games more enjoyable and accessible for diverse audiences
Constantly evolve games to keep audiences interested for years
Streamline workflows across Adobe Creative Cloud apps for UX teams
Keep teams aligned with shared design assets in Adobe Creative Cloud Libraries
Connects King.com to valuable feedback by testing Adobe XD prototypes with players
Creates more accessible gaming experiences by quickly iterating on designs with Adobe XD
Pioneers in game design and player experiences
Emilio Jéldrez has worked in user experience (UX) design for almost a decade and, during that time, he has seen the industry undergo tremendous change. For one thing, everything now has mobile — even blockbuster console games offer freemium mobile versions. Players are more diverse, spanning all regions, cultures, abilities, genders, and ages. And UX designers are learning the importance of making their games more accessible and inclusive to audiences, on web, mobile, and social platforms, and on any device.
As Senior UX Designer at King.com, Jéldrez sees the changes unfold daily as he navigates UX design at a top game company. King is the interactive entertainment company behind Candy Crush, one of the world’s most popular mobile game franchises. Over 74 million kilometres have been swiped in Candy Crush Saga in 2020 alone. That’s the equivalent of travelling around the Sun almost 17 times. All told, its games attract a staggering 258 million active players worldwide every month as of Q1 2021. For Jéldrez and his team, the challenge is to create fantastic experiences for every player.
“No matter where they are or their background, players have to feel like the game was designed for them. That’s the hardest part of this job,” says Jéldrez. “Fortunately, we have a diverse team that brings many perspectives to our design process.”
King has developed more than 200 game titles and is always looking to bring moments of magic to players. Doing so requires a culture of collaboration and experimentation — not only among UX designers like Jéldrez but also across the larger team of UX writers, artists, testers, researchers, and accessibility experts. Teams at King are cross-functional and take a human-centered design approach, which keeps them focused on the people they’re designing for — players. The choice of tools, though important, is secondary.
“In game design and development, nobody really cares what tool you use,” says Jéldrez. “You’re open to choose whatever you prefer, which is incredibly liberating. Personally, I’ve used Adobe tools all my life, ever since I started working with computers.”
Jéldrez is not alone. His team uses a variety of tools, but Adobe Creative Cloud is central to how they create and collaborate, providing a shared platform for design assets, wireframes, and working prototypes. That’s crucial as UX design teams explore and validate ideas for innovative, crowd-pleasing new features and games.
Cross-functional collaboration with a shared source of truth
Adobe Creative Cloud Libraries saves an enormous amount of time for everyone at King, not just designers. For example, Jéldrez works closely with UI artists, many of whom use Photoshop to create assets such as menus, buttons, icons, animations, and illustrations. In Candy Crush Friends Saga, for example, that might include the colorful candy elements that wiggle and explode and the playful characters that hover around the edges, as well as call-to action buttons and graphical text elements that appear on the screen.
With everything saved in a shared Creative Cloud Library, those essential game building blocks are available to everyone involved in creating the user experience. As for Jéldrez, he frequently accesses assets through Adobe XD, knowing he has the latest design elements with which to build prototypes. With a single source of truth in the cloud, there’s no confusion over which version of an icon or animation to use. In the end, that means fewer mistakes, less rework, and a lot less time spent sending files to each other.
“It’s easy to replace files with the latest version in Creative Cloud Libraries, which improves the flow and helps us iterate more efficiently. No more PSD files that have been renamed several times with ‘_final_final_final’ at the end,” Jéldrez explains. “In the past, we had to send large files back and forth, which was a slow process. Libraries break down siloes between teams so that we can iterate faster and earlier in the creative process.”
The shared libraries are invaluable in helping the team stick to a consistent creative direction, both within games and across King’s full portfolio of games. Libraries keep the diverse team on the same page no matter which Adobe Creative Cloud app they work with or what role they play — whether they’re an artist iterating on pop icons or a member of the Globalization team that makes sure the game text, graphics, and gameplay translate to different cultures around the world.
“It’s easy to replace files with the latest version in Creative Cloud Libraries, which improves the flow and helps us iterate more efficiently. No more PSD files that have been renamed several times with ‘_final_final_final’ at the end.”
Senior UX Designer, King.com
Feedback from King’s most important stakeholders — the players
Prototyping helps ensure the team gets feedback from players and internal stakeholders early in the design process. And in gaming, it’s all about getting the interactions right.
“Attention to detail really matters, and even micro-interactions and microcopy are very important,” Jéldrez points out. “But it can be challenging to show how events and interactions flow into one another — and how they all work together in a cohesive game experience. With Adobe XD, we can share an interactive prototype and even build user flow diagrams with the Overflow plugin, which significantly improves our communication.”
Prototyping is also essential for user research and testing. Jéldrez builds his prototypes in just one or two hours, then uploads the XD link to remote research platform PlaytestCloud, where players can try it out on their own devices. Within just a couple of hours, he receives feedback from a few dozen players across multiple audience segments. Based on their input, the team iterates and uploads a new version. It’s as effortless as it is valuable.
Candid feedback is vital to evolving the game and creating timeless features that might remain in the game for years to come. The testing process also provides valuable insights into the motivations and abilities of the players, which has a wide age range from 70-year-old grandfathers to everyone in between.
It’s the company’s goal to make its games fun and accessible for all of them, no matter who they are. With rapid prototyping and iterating, UX and UI designers can see game features and interactions from the players’ perspectives and focus on creating a game experience that works for everyone. Some players, for example, might have impairments, which can turn into accessibility issues.
“Getting into accessibility has been an eye-opener for me,” Jéldrez says. “Understanding players’ abilities has become a big priority when designing new features for games. For example, arthritis and low vision can be challenges for some players. Scrolling can become painful, and we’re adding features to address this and make it easier for these players to navigate the experience. In Farm Heroes, for example, you can just use your keyboard to type the level number and don’t need to scroll anymore.”
“With Adobe XD, we can share an interactive prototype and even build user flow diagrams with the Overflow plugin, which significantly improves our communication.”
Senior UX Designer, King.com
Choice and inclusion are future of game design
Jéldrez has used Adobe XD since it was in beta, and he sees it as a powerful tool for the prototyping work he does, thanks in no small part to its integration with other Adobe Creative Cloud tools. The seamless functionality across apps and shared libraries makes a significant difference to his team, helping them work faster and more efficiently. He’s hopeful that design tools from various vendors become increasingly open and cross-functional, with files that are easy to open and share. Ultimately, it’s all about giving people choices.
That philosophy goes beyond UX design teams — it applies to King’s players as well. Everyone has their own preferences and limitations. King’s design teams want to be known for creating highly inclusive games that reach more people — no matter what their age, what their playstyle, or whether they want to play on a mobile device, a game console, or a laptop. For Jéldrez, that’s the future of game design — seamless and intuitive, with a user experience that feels like it was designed just for you.