Words with Friends | Zynga

From July 2021 to August 2022, I was a UX designer on one of the most popular words game, designing solutions for the mobile, Facebook and web platforms. I produced a number of features from ideation to launch that focused on increasing player engagement and retention, ultimately lifting revenue.

Edit Played Languages

The Words with Friends UX team works on UX clarity action items on top of feature projects. Derived from customer tickets and internal feedback, these action items strive to improve user flow and experience.

One of the tasks featured the Edit Played Languages screen. As an international words game, it's crucial to create a seamless way to choose multiple languages and select a default language.

Understand the underlying issue

Players have the option to choose multiple languages, allowing them to play games in different languages if desired. They also are able to change their default language. Not only was that information poorly communicated but also the steps to do so were unclear.  In order to better understand the problem, I unpacked the existing feature flow and mapped it out.

Redefine the problem space

The dialog copy and CTA labels are confusing (Problem #1). In addition, the Edit Languages screen can be exited without having a default language selected even though there's an error dialog (Problem #2).


Unclear labels

Dialog copy needs more clarity in terms of the CTA


Faulty flow

Players can deselect all languages and continue playing even without a default language selected

Problem 1 is a quick fix (cheap solution) while Problem 2 is a long-term one (expensive solution).

The cheap solution doesn’t involve any redesign; it is only a way for the team to easily solve this problem first and revisit this task to implement the expensive solution when there will be more engineer support.


Dialog copy changes options


It was important to firstly remove the possibility that players can continue playing without having a default language selected. This confirmation screen gave players the option to return to the Edit Languages screen or exit with their previous default language. It was similar to the original dialog with minor copy changes and functionality.

Designing a better, more intuitive experience

I delivered different proposals regarding the feature flow as well as the corresponding flow for when the player wishes to change the default language.

The team decided to go with Proposed Feature Flow 1 since it clearly communicates to the player that they have to select a language before returning to the Settings screen. In addition, it also eliminates the need for the dialog – the dialog is not only confusing even with the updated copy but also proves to be a hindrance and disrupts the flow.


Streamlining the top and bottom modules

Currently, the top module (select language) and bottom module (default language) are trying to accomplish the same things in regards to picking one language to be the primary: the first is in icon format while the latter is in a list.

Create a prototype to test the module explorations

Internal testing amongst the team directed us to a clear solution.

Key Considerations:
1. Changing default language is important, but is it the focus and/or priority of the screen?
2. Is selecting their secondary languages intuitive for users?

Flow A: Rectangle Select State

Flow B: Set Default Button

Flow C: Separate Sections

Flow D: Select Default Second

Flow B was the favorite – it clearly communicated how to change the default language and differentiated the default from the secondaries. It also felt more seamless to combine the two modules into one, which allowed space for the language components to scale up.

Edit Played Languages

Intuitive Experience

We adjusted the layout to clearly differentiate between default and secondary languages.

Dynamic Tooltip

A tooltip surfaces to remind players that they must play with at least one language selected.

Friendly Face Off

There is a dearth of short-term event content in the game, especially ones with rewards that are proven valuable to our players. In Friendly Face Off, these rewards can be earned relatively quickly as long as they are continuously engaging with the event. The goal was to increase game liquidity on an ad-hoc basis and create an event base for marketing and co-branding partnerships.


Friendly Face Off is a dynamically themed event where players would compete against a celebrity-themed bot to win. We developed this with the ability to quickly thematize and the flexibility to construct it in any one of these formats:

Moves Constrained

Players needs to complete the challenge within X moves.

Eg: Defeat Shakespeare in 10 moves. 


Player needs to complete each turn/match within a timer.

Eg: Win 10 timed matches against Shakespeare. 

Cooldown Constrained

Players needs to wait X hours between matches.

Eg: Win 10 matches against Shakespeare, with a 1 hour cooldown between matches.


The two intial tech tests proved to drive high engagement and monetization (both IAP and Ad revenue). Overall, there was an increased engagement with Words with Friends classic games as entry retention, days played and total moves were statistically significant up. On average, 35% of players engaged with the feature, and 150,000 of them earned the profile frame.


Total Moves

Ad Revenue

Since launch, we've done 6 different themes, one even featuring Sean Astin where you can read more about it here. We've also A/B tested 2 versus 3 wins and event duration to find the best performing combination. As a result, game completion rate was up +6%.

VIP Program

We wanted to launch a VIP program to help bridge the gap between us and the players. In this program, a VIP account manager would call certain players and talk to them about anything regarding the game. Initiating those conversations will cause those players to be more likely to continue playing and spend money within Words with Friends.

In order to call those players, we will need their phone numbers. In order to get those numbers, we need to build a way to ask certain players for them and record that information.


Having a VIP program will be good for retention and IAP

Engage Valued Players

60% of lapsed VIPs return to the game when VIP team calls them

Increase Revenue

VIPs will be more receptive to special promotions and offers

Create Personal Connection

VIPs will feel comfortable giving information and feedback


VIP feature will be surfaced to players based on lifetime spend. Qualifying players can then sign up to be a VIP using their phone number.

In order to not overwhelm our VIP team, we have been slowly releasing this feature as needed. Around 25% of players who are eligible have submitted their numbers.