Electronic Arts | 2014

Origin Chat

6 months
My Role
Lead designer
Additional help
1 visual designer, 1 researcher

What is it?

Origin’s chat service, which supports in and out of game communication between friends.
The problem to be solved
Many of the most popular games on Origin are multiplayer focused. However, the platform did not support the users with these experiences. It lacked voice communication, group chatting, and needed to be easier to join a game as a group.
Key outcome
Significant increase in use of social features, average revenue per user, daily active users, and time on the platform.


Improve Origin's social features to support how our users play games with each other and increase connections between players.
Why social features are important to the business
Internal data showed that more socially engaged a user was, the more content they would purchase to play with friends.
  • Make it easy for multiple friends to chat together
  • Encourage friends to play together
  • Add voice chat so friends can talk to each other in and out of game

Researching the space

How people were playing together already
To better understand how our user's gamed with their friends, I observed streamers on Twitch.tv. I also ran competitive analysis’s on other tools that gamers used while playing our games to chat with their friends to understand why they used them.
Through my research, I verified three key assumptions.
  • Users typically play with 1-3 friends
  • They discuss as a group what to play; they want to find something they all own and can enjoy together
  • Getting all friends into a game was not always easy since many popular chat services were not integrated into games
Competitive analysis of other tools our users were using while playing games
  • Free to use
  • User friendly
  • Low quality audio
  • Users used it because they have a lot of friends on the Steam platform
  • Can see what friends are playing and join their games
  • Monthly fee per server
  • Not user friendly
  • High quality audio
  • Friends had to be invited to individual servers, which caused fracturing between your friend groups
  • No way to join a game from here
  • Monthly fee per server
  • Not user friendly
  • High quality audio
  • Friends had to be invited to individual servers, which caused fracturing between your friend groups
  • No way to join a game from here

Design phase

Multi-user chats

To support the existing user behavior, I created multi-user chats instead of utilizing chat rooms
Since my research showed that many users play in small, ad-hoc groups, I decided to optimize for speed and ease of use.
To do this, I updated the chat window with an option to invite other friends to that chat. Once invited, a chat window would appear for the invitee and they would be in this multi-user chat until they closed the window.

Encouraging group play

Make it easy for chat members to join the same game
Once a group of friends are in a multi-user chat, I wanted to make it as easy as possible to join a game together. I made sure that the system would actively promote this desired behavior. This could be done through clear callouts to join a game, which already existing in the 1-on-1 chats, but would not work for groups.
The previous join game callout would not work for a multi-user chat
Previously, the chat had a clear “Join Game” call to action, but this doesn’t work in a group when different games are being played. Another approach was needed for group chats.
Rethinking how to join a game in a group setting
When redesigning the interaction on how to get friends to play together, I considered the following.
  • How to inform chat members when a game becomes joinable
  • Provide a way to join that game
  • Show friends playing different games
In order to address this, I created a system of actionable inline notifications along with statuses in the sidebar.
Actionable inline notifications
A wireframe of a multi-user chat with an actionable inline notification.

Voice chat

Leveraging these notifications for voice chat
The actionable inline notifications also provided a way for us to encourage chat members to join a voice chat. Once in a voice chat, the user would not see those actionable inline notifications as the user is not being guided to take an action.

Desktop notifications

Desktop notifications mirror actionable inline notifications
Since chat would not always be in focus, the behavior and messaging for the actionable inline notifications were also duplicated at the system level.

User testing

Continuous testing through the project
Throughout the project, we routinely tested these features to make sure that they were easy to use. I worked with the user researchers to come up with scripts based off of what I wanted to test and observed all user testing.

Final design

Wrap up

Combining the ability to chat with multiple friends, utilizing inline actionable notifications to promote joining game explicitly, and supporting gameplay through the addition of voice chat helped us deliver a great update for our users and drove significant increases across all business metrics that we expected chat to impact.
  • Significant increase in average revenue per user, daily active users, and time on the platform
  • 70% increase usage of chat
  • 90% increase in friends joining games of another friend
  • 200% increase in the average number of friends, from 1.5 friends to 4.5 friends
What I learned from this project
  • Good social features can drive a lot of user engagement
  • Learned a lot about chat systems and how deep they can potentially be
  • Realized that it was best to think in systems that work together instead of individual solutions