Gamer Security

In late 2018 I was brought on to the McAfee team as a Product Designer and began building Gamer Security with a small but focused team. The goal was to create a product that would allow gamers to enjoy faster, uninterrupted gaming without compromising on the effectiveness of our security offerings.

Why make a Security Project for Gamers?

According to research available at the time, approximately 1 billion people worldwide could be categorized as PC gamers, additionally, there are about 20 million gaming PCs.

Our own research also showed that 83% of gamers have some kind of Antivirus or Security solution for their PC, not including Windows Defender. Through this research, also discovered that gamers perceive traditional Antivirus and Security software as "bloatware" which they believed could reduce their performance during critical moments of the gameplay.

Despite this fact, a lot of gamers wanted some kind of security solution as insurance for their more expensive hardware. This, in combination with the team's other findings, is where our core problem statement for Gamer Security emerged:

How might we create a security product that doesn't impact performance, without compromising on security?

Understanding who Gamers are

This product was primarily targeted at PC gamers, but it became clear that there are so many ways to classify someone as a gamer. Gamers are a diverse group that includes people from all age ranges, genders, cultures, and comfort levels with technology.

Based on the problem statement and background research, the team identified a few key opportunities that would become foundational as we began experimenting with this product and user journey:

Lightweight Antivirus

Gamers wanted high performance but also didn't want to compromise on their PCs security.

Uninterrupted Gameplay

Gamers want to be immersed in a game and don't want interruptions during gameplay, whether that be from lag, updates, or notifications.


Gamers wanted tools to help them monitor and diagnose issues, either with performance or their PC's security so they could take action to fix them.


Gamers are a diverse group of people and they want to customize for their individual needs.

Since I personally joined the team after the discovery phase was completed, I didn't take part in analyzing or arriving at these findings. Instead, I used these insights to help guide design and product decisions, design the user experience and interface and worked with other stakeholder groups to bring this product to market.

Roles & Responsibilities

While working on Gamer Security, I had the unique opportunity to work both as an individual contributor and as a design lead closer to the initial product launch. In addition, I worked alongside a Researcher and Content Strategist for most of the product development process to generate user experience metrics, iterative testing, and improve in-app communication and messaging.

In my time as an individual contributor, I was responsible for validating and iteratively improving the experience, the design and user journey, documentation, and building the product's Design System.

Later, I also took on the responsibilities of the design lead and regularly contributed to and influenced the product's roadmap, prepared the product for launch, and managed design resources for various roles.

Getting Immersed in the Problem Space

At the outset of my time on the product, I attended various reviews and roadmap discussions to learn how the team collaborated and absorbed as much research and data as I could.

Once I had a clear understanding of our goals, constraints, and who this product was being designed for, I began familiarizing myself with the product even more.

I started by building feature-level prototypes for the team and then expanded this effort further by creating end-to-end prototypes of their existing designs to better test and document changes to the experience. These same prototypes were later used in internal and external demos with industry partners, as well as internally to help align stakeholders on key flows and interactions.

Around this point, the senior designers I worked with transitioned off the project to help support other business priorities. This left me as the sole designer and gave me the responsibility of leading the design of Gamer Security from this point onward.

Discovering Opportunities for Improvement

Shortly after I started leading the remaining team members, Gamer Security was released to a few hundred people participating in a closed beta program. The product remained largely untested in real-world scenarios so I was eager to see people use the app for the first time.

Within the first few weeks, we uncovered a few technical and usability issues. Digging into our early feedback and product analytics provided me with some very useful insights into how gamers were monitoring and adjusting their PC's performance, their behaviors around security, and how well the designs were being understood.

I compiled this feedback and worked with the Product Manager to identify a few key opportunities for improvement that I wanted to iterate on before launching Gamer Security later that year.

App Manager was Confusing

Gamers were annoyed by the App Manager, more specifically the "deprioritize" feature. Its functionality wasn't clearly communicated at all and those that were brave enough to try it without context experienced issues running various apps during gameplay.

Underwhelming Protection

Gamer Security's antivirus was designed to be lightweight and quick. However, gamers felt that the overall security offerings released in the beta were not enough to provide them with a sense of security.

Discoverability Issues

A few key features were going completely unused by gamers. Many of the features with low usage rates were either hard to discover in the app's navigation or were communicated poorly through the user interface.

Iterative Testing

Once we identified these issues, I worked with my Product Manager to create research plans to better understand why these areas of the product were either failing or causing issues.

After discussing the various pieces of feedback we could prioritize for research, we came to an agreement that the Performance and Security features were the primary areas we wanted to focus our effort on. Both of these features were foundational to the experience, but I started researching what we could do to improve our performance offerings since most of the negative feedback was focused on these capabilities.

To learn more about our user's mental model when they experience performance issues, I ran a series of surveys, interviews, and concept tests with our Beta users. Because users have varying hardware specifications that could impact performance, I specifically designed the research plan to help us determine what their gut reaction was when experiencing interruptions and performance issues.

Through this research, we were able to quickly iterate on our performance capabilities and help users better understand the impact their actions had on their gaming performance. We improved our content strategy, navigation, and feedback notifications to provide more context for users when they take action. This lead to the usage rate of these features increasing over 40% and more positive sentiments about the performance capabilities.

With the success of this iterative approach to our research, I followed a similar framework when looking to improve our Security capabilities. I ran a series of studies to better understand our user's perception and understanding of our current security offerings, and which planned features they would be most interested in.

After completing this research, we had prioritized a backlog of features that would provide the most value and a better understanding of how this audience of users approached security. With some minor changes to the interface, I was able to improve our user's understanding of what their security did as well as suggested ways to use and set up their protection.

This led to our user comprehension improving over 70% when using the new designs and content, as well as a positive increase in our user's overall sentiment towards the security offerings we had.

Launching Gamer Security

After working on improvements throughout the closed beta and preparing for an early Fall release window, Gamer Security was launched to the North American market in October 2019 and is available to download on the McAfee website.

Working towards my first product launch was an amazing experience, especially given the opportunity to lead the design team and collaborate so closely with other stakeholders. There were still some items that we could improve, like the discoverability of certain features and our data visualizations, but overall the team made amazing progress towards improving the experience prior to release.

What I learned from Gamer Security

This was the first major product that I had the opportunity to lead from a design perspective. Gamer Security taught me a lot about evolutionary projects and how to build influence with other stakeholders. The relationships I built and fostered with my Product and Engineering counterparts helped us to plan and deliver better experiences overall.

If I could redo the project, the one thing I'd put more effort into was exploring who our audience was when we were building this product. After countless interviews with gamers, I noticed that the more hardcore or experienced gamers didn't benefit from this project as much as more casual gamers.

People with low-end hardware saw significantly more value from our product because it let them squeeze out a bit more performance from their computers while also helping them stay protected. It wasn't the person who games for hours on a custom PC.

It was the mom I spoke to that wanted to connect with her child by gaming with them on weekends, or the man who gamed on his laptop because couldn't afford a high-end PC.

Those stories were significantly more powerful to me and the team, however I didn't get the chance to explore those use cases more. I would have loved the opportunity to empower these users further before I transitioned off the project, but it taught me a valuable lesson about understanding who I'm designing for much earlier in the design process.