The UX Review
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The UX Review

“Inclusive Design is designing for everyone” — Interview with Emilio Jéldrez, Senior UX Designer at King

Candy Crush has been one of the biggest hits in mobile games. Emilio is currently leading a team to train Kingsters on accessibility at King’s mobile games. In this interview, Emilio told us the benefits of Inclusive Design for all players and his team’s journey of UX and Inclusive Design evangelism. Enjoy!👫

Emilio Jéldrez, Senior UX Designer at King

What do you care about most when you design popular mobile games like Candy Crush?

Understanding different motivations of 249 million monthly players (Q3 2020) is very important to consider when designing a popular mobile game like Candy Crush.

Despite having studied graphic design at university, which has a user centric core, I knew very little about UX as there were no specific subjects about that at that time. This issue only came to my mind while I was working as a UI designer and someone asked me about UX and that I should look at it since it was a major part of my job. I immediately then started reading the basics such as ‘The Elements of User Experience’, by Jesse James Garret, and ‘The Design of Everyday Things’, by Don Norman. It blew my mind as it was a whole new craft to learn!

Classic books Emilio read to learn UX Design

Right now, there’s a UX boom because companies everywhere are interested in having a user-centric approach to their products. I think everyone in a company should be thinking about their users as any decision will impact their experience. UX designers should be leading this transition of mindset. This is one of the biggest challenges as a designer, but companies are starting to see the value in it.

Everyone in a company should be thinking about their users as any decision will impact their experience.

The audience for mobile games is massive compared to other games. We have 249 million monthly active users (as of Q3 2020) playing our games. That’s when you have to add ad-hoc things like personas — but how can you have 249 million of them? Right now, researchers work with the motivations of our players. For example, we have people from different age groups playing and they have the same motivations -to relax and have fun- while other players are more competitive. These are important issues to consider when designing a game.

At King they work with players’ different motivations to understand who they are designing for.

How do you teach everyone to think like UX designers?

We invite designers to the lab, so that they can actually see how players interact with what they have built.

That’s part of the UX evangelism. One of the biggest challenges is that everyone developing games thinks they are the player. A lot of King designers are also King gamers, but not everyone intuitively ‘gets’ the game the same way they do. A new player may not ‘get’ it. In King’s office, we have a lab where we can conduct user tests. We invite designers to the lab, so that they can actually see how players interact with what they have built. Sometimes they are surprised that players struggle with something that designers didn’t expect. This is a good reminder that they are not the players.

Someone once told me that any instruction on an electronic device should be understandable for a 6-year-old child. That’s similar to a game. If you can download a game, you should be able to understand how to play it. In free-to-play games, if something isn’t understood quickly, the user will just delete your game and download another one. That’s why it’s important to make sure that everyone can understand and have fun with your game from the beginning.

Inviting stakeholders to a lab and it helps remind them that they are not players.

You recently introduced the accessibility setting in Candy Crush Friends. What was the journey like to introduce accessibility in a mobile game?

The accessibility features we had added to our games make the game available for more players, so it is good business too.

In May, we asked players what accessibility features they would like to have. We collected the feedback and used it as a base to create the Accessibility Menu. One of the most concerning things was the flashy images. It’s not dangerous, but it could be annoying for some players, so we give them the option to turn it off, as we also do with some animations. The idea is that this menu will keep growing in the future.

We also added the feedback button, which may not seem like a big deal, but having open channels to listen to our players is very useful for us. I am glad the feedback has been positive.

Accessibility Menu is shown on the same page as the Play button. You can customise the game setting.

As another example, in Farm Heroes Saga we have more than 3,000 levels, so on the map there is a lot of scrolling to do. And scrolling can be a challenge for players with arthritis; it can be painful for them. So, we introduced an option to skip levels with a search bar to make things easier. And this feature benefits all players!

In Farm Heroes Saga, you can jump by typing in a number of levels in the ‘Go to level’ box.

The accessibility features we had added to our games make the game available for more players, so it is good business too.

How did you raise Inclusive Design’s maturity at King?

We are training Kingsters on accessibility at the moment and are pushing the reasons why it’s important to have it at the start of the design process.

Inclusive design is designing for everyone and there are many accessibility features in games that people may not even be aware of. A lot of new games are using subtitles by default now, for those who play games in noisy spaces or second-language speakers, and only a small percentage of players turn them off.

We’re training Kingsters on accessibility now and trying to start as early as possible to think about it in the process. Some accessibility options are also related to players’ preferences, such as using either a mouse or a gamepad to play a game. There are many challenges, but the future looks bright.

Some accessibility options are also related to players’ preferences, such as using either a mouse or a gamepad to play a game.

Which game is doing well with UX design and inclusivity?

The best thing is that game companies are providing more options to play games comfortably for every player with different needs.

On mobile, Candy Crush Friends is doing a great job and, of course, I’m biased.

In gaming in general, The Last of Us II is a good example. I played it with a lot of accessibility features turned on which allows me to enjoy the game much more, like changing the scary bits with plain textures. Audio cues and magnification in the game are great additions to the gameplay. The best thing is that game companies are providing more options to play games comfortably for every player with different needs.

Players can play games with different colour settings — high-contrast. Image Source: BBC https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-53093613

Interviewed by Misato Ehara
Transcribed and edited by Misato Ehara, Laura Cooper and Emilio Jéldrez
Illustrations by Blush
Edited with Google docs
Published on 5 Feb 2021

Interviewee:
Emilio is a Senior Game UX Designer working on video-games for almost 10 years. He is a Certified Accessible Player Experience Practitioner, pushing accessibility in video-games. And currently leading UX in Farm Heroes Saga at King.

Interviewer:
Misato Ehara is the founder of The UX Review, former design Strategist at Gensler. She has just completed a Masters in Curating Contemporary Design and currently working as a User Researcher at Honest Research.

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