The Sims 3 Online Portal

EA - Maxis Studio | 2012



The Community Page is the landing page for all social activity for The Sims 3 Community, and is therefore an actively used and updated page of Many EA stakeholders required screenspace here and being able to adapt to their needs (and the constantly changing needs of the social arena) became the catalyst behind redesigning the Community Page.

This redesign not only modernized the look and feel of the portal to modern standards (as of 2012), it also made updating the system more flexible to the varying requirements of its stakeholders.

Key Highlights

  • Streamlined the UI so the important content is always kept above the fold
  • Allowed quick customization through CMS so territory managers could have area-specific targeted messaging and content for the consumers
  • Customizable modules allow the territory managers to add or remove whole sections as new social channels and content trend
  • Automated certain feeds to reduce the community managers' workload

About EA Maxis

Electronic Arts (EA) acquired Maxis in 1997, rebranding it into the internal studio, EA Maxis (now part of EA Mobile). EA Maxis is best known for its simulation-style games, such as The Sims, SimCity, and Spore.

About The Sims 3

The Sims 3, released in 2009, is a simulation game that allows players to play with life by controlling Sims (in-game people) and manipulating their relationships and environments. With the addition of purchased Expansion Packs, players can expand their gameplay with new features, such as seasonal weather (The Sims 3 Expansion Pack: Seasons) or scuba diving in the ocean (The Sims 3 Expansion Pack: Island Paradise).

Process was primarily used by the Community Managers, but had components owned by different groups within EA. Any changes to the site required a process of design iterations and approvals between its international team of stakeholders.

First steps were to gather all the requests from the different departments and prioritize.

5 different categories of stakeholders with their own demands

Stakeholders included game teams, marketing, digital store, and our global team of community managers

At the time, I was functioning as a hybrid producer (EA's version of a product owner / project manager) and UX designer. I gathered requirements and listed out the various components needed within this page and worked with the developers to determine what could be automated and what needed to be manually updated by the community managers.

Components like the News Feed, latest Facebook post, and featured forum threads could be pulled directly from those resources. Other components like featured Exchange items (uploaded user-generated content from The Sims 3) needed to be marked manually by the community manager and made unique to each managed region.

Additionally, different regions had different components. For instance, some regions don’t have access to Youtube, so having that component on that region’s community page was meaningless. Therefore it was important to make sure that components could be included or excluded as deemed necessary by the respective region’s community manager. This allowed the community page to maintain a consistent appearance but allow a high level of customizability for our needs.

With these specs, I worked with our graphic designer, who created a stunning set of visuals and UI. With her visuals, I then worked with the developers and QA to define a modular CMS-driven system with automated toggle-able components.

screenshot of the community portal webpage

The Sims 3 community page

the community portal webpage marked up with notes

Breakdown of the components for the community page

juxtaposed clippings depicting a module being moved and replaced

Breakdown of the modules section. Modules were primarily for community managers and could be customized as needed. Each locale could also show a unique set of modules

The Sims 3 Community Page was planned for a 3-iteration development cycle and released In 2012.