The five steps we follow when designing sports apps

06.08.20

by Robbie Davies

How do we ensure our clients’ apps stand out from the crowd? What sport-specific considerations should be made? And how do we continue to refine UX once an app is live? We get the lowdown from our Creative Director, Robbie Davies

06.08.20

by Robbie Davies

How do we ensure our clients’ apps stand out from the crowd? What sport-specific considerations should be made? And how do we continue to refine UX once an app is live? We get the lowdown from our Creative Director, Robbie Davies

At Deltatre, design isn’t just about beauty. It’s about finding market relevance and delivering meaningful results. And with 75% of all mobile apps only used once after they’re downloaded, it’s essential to get it right.

So, what’s our process at Deltatre? How do we design beautiful yet functional sports apps that users want to return to? What happens behind the scenes to ensure we hit the brief – and go beyond – time and time again?

Our five-step approach when designing sports apps

Every client, every project, every sport is different. However, no matter the output, our global design team follows an insight-led approach. Read on to find out how this manifests itself in five key steps.

1 Identify: Scope and align

We always make sure this process is a collaborative effort – we’ll get into a room with our client and lead discovery workshops to ensure we’re aligned towards our common goals. Often, the client will have an idea of where they want to be, and we use our expertise to recommend the best way forward. The end goal is defining a clear shared ambition and agreeing the creative, commercial, and operational challenges and opportunities ahead.

“Every sport is different and every team has its own personality, so it’s best not to have a hard and fast rule for every sports app.”

Robbie Davies, Creative Director

2 Insight: Immersion

The world of apps changes so quickly, so a vital step in our process is gathering trends and consumer insights around UX best practice. We benchmark the current digital landscape and summarize what the key opportunities are, but we don’t doggedly stick to the sports environment – ideas can spark from anywhere. We also map competitive landscapes and market dynamics.

3 Ideas: Storytelling

At this stage, we start creating the concepts. Again, collaboration is really important here, so we tend to start putting ideas in front of clients even if they’re sketches, wires or low fidelity prototypes.

Storytelling is about taking the client on a journey, so we always provide at least two or three high-level design directions. We make sure to not prescribe to the client the solution that we think they should choose, but we work together to find the best approach.

This stage tends to take a different shape depending on the project – for example, sometimes a client will come to us with well-defined brand guidelines for us to work alongside, and at other times they’ll be looking for us to create a brand-new design system.

4 Iterate: Test and learn

There are lots of different ways you can achieve this – from guerrilla testing, to focus groups, to lab testing. There are also tools like User Testing or Hotjar where you can test a core user journey to see if it’s performing as intended or not, and then get the results in real-time.

Ultimately, a sports app is never finished – it’s an evolving asset that can only be truly successful if it continues to adapt with the times.

Robbie Davies, Creative Director

It’s difficult to place this phase in a linear journey as it doesn’t have to wait until a certain point, i.e. when you finish the build. You can test right at the beginning of the process to see whether your branding is successful, or you can test your onboarding flows, or perhaps most importantly you can test whether users can find what they need; you can test anything (and everything!). Whatever you choose to test, you’ll always find something that should be fixed or tweaked. A project can only reach its full potential when testing is carried out – and learnings listened to.

5 Impact: The big pitch and roadmap

Ultimately, a sports app is never finished – it’s an evolving asset that can only be truly successful if it continues to adapt with the times. There will often be features for inclusion within phase two, it’s about working together, consultatively with our clients to prioritize what should come next – of course, using results from testing and analytics as a guide.

01

Mobile

What are nine features of successful sports apps?

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Our design methodology

We use the Atomic Design Systems methodology to organize our designs for delivery to development teams. It’s a way of thinking and an industry-standard inspired by chemistry, meaning we see design as many different parts working together to create effective design systems.

In app building, ‘atoms’ will include all the shared components and cover anything from colors and logos to navigation bars and animation.  By thinking about design as one overarching ecosystem rather than individual entities, we prevent design silos and produce more rounded systems.

In addition to our pattern libraries and style guide, it’s important that a design system should also include the ‘why’ behind the chosen style and components.

A comprehensive design system should include:

  • Purpose and values (often brand and user related)
  • Experience principles: provide an overarching guide intended for product owners, designers, and business teams when defining and creating new experiences.

It’s a way of thinking we follow when designing sports apps and large platform UIs including the ATP Tennis TV, and Juventus FC’s Digital Ecosystem.

What sport-specific considerations must be made?

Every sport is different and every team has its own personality, so it’s best not to have a hard and fast rule for every sports app. However, in an app setting, there are important questions to ask yourself, such as:

  1. What are the most important homepage modules?
  2. What is the most important content within your navigation?
  3. What are the top five level areas within your app?

Gathering your insights will of course guide your answers to these questions – and by making popular sections more prominent, you’ll naturally aid the user experience.

Personalization

Personalization is also an increasingly important – and expected – aspect within sports app design. After all, 81% of consumers want brands to get to know them and understand when to approach them.

And it’s not just important for the user, it’s also essential for the client in terms of boosting monetization opportunities. 79% of senior marketers worldwide that exceeded revenue goals have a documented personalization strategy.

We work with our clients to identify their key personas and are then able to offer personalized experiences; something that Deltatre has recognized as being key to the future of content consumption as demonstrated by the recent launch of our mtribes product.

For example, we could design a news module differently for a user persona who likes to consume mainly news versus an armchair fan who prefers to consume snackable video content. Or, if we know someone works within football, for example, we could target them with more corporate content so their news experience would be very different to a fan who’s simply interested in a certain team. Creating a different experience for everybody can help to set a sports app apart and boost that all-important UX.

How do you continue to refine UX once an app has launched?

App technology evolves quickly – just because your app has all the latest features doesn’t mean that design and development can come to an abrupt halt. We have an ongoing relationship with our clients, so we’ll lead regular workshops with them to decide next steps and ensure strategic thinking remains at the core of the app.

This includes answering UX/UI questions during development, sharing feedback with the client and developers, and producing a post-delivery ‘inspire’ document with strategic next steps for the app’s evolution.

Throughout the journey, our goal is always to create a lasting connection with fans across the world by enhancing the current digital experience.

02

Mobile

Looking for more inspiration? Check out the eight steps for building a great mobile sports app.

Read on

Robbie Davies, Creative Director

Robbie has 15 years’ experience designing, implementing, and evolving digital platforms and services for many of the best-known brands in the world. A proven leader and mentor for UX and design teams, he is well-versed at designing cutting-edge apps for the sports industry and telcos, as well as for fields including fintech and fashion eCommerce.

Not only has he won multiple awards for his app design, he’s also a passionate sports fan with an especially avid interest in basketball and tennis.

We’d love to hear from you. To find out more about our sports app capabilities, get in touch with the team. Or join the conversation on Twitter or LinkedIn

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