Meet Es.

The future of managing team sports.

I worked for SPRYT, a SportTech startup that aims to innovate amateur sports team management. Es is a chatbot, or I like to call it, a virtual general manager. It helps team captains manage their teams, offloading some of their responsibilities through their messaging app, allowing them to focus and enjoy the game.

About SPRYT

SPRYT is a SportTech startup that brings sports enthusiasts together and create games. It started in summer 2017, first launching a web then native app. The initial release garnered 3000 monthly average users, however, they soon discovered that people swapped phone numbers to communicate or arrange games via text after connecting on the app.

 

SPRYT needed a way to regain users and further their efforts with amateur team management. They target their unique selling proposition efforts at the UK’s 5-a-side football market, which boasts around 1.5mil weekly average users. If successful, SPRYT intends to expand its service offering into other team sports.

 

The way amateur 5-a-side football teams are run have transitioned from a community-led, not-for-profit model, to a one-man job, which usually resides to the team captain.

Research

User Interviews

Before starting on design work, I spoke with sports enthusiasts and team captains who are part of amateur teams, to better understand their team’s current situation with management, the positives, negatives, motivation and frustrations.

 

“I tend to get frustrated with managing payments because some will pay in cash, some want to transfer”

Ivan, intra-mural basketball team captain

 

I spoke to people who played different sports, such as karate, basketball, tennis, in addition to football. The research was consolidated through Affinity Mapping, and I picked out trends from what the interviewees said.

 

It became apparent that the management process and friction football team captains face is similarly prevalent in other sports too. Speaking to people gave me three key takeaways:

 

1. Motivation to participate is normally high, people treat it as their opportunity to improve, or just get some exercise,

“It’s more upsetting for the person who can’t come”

Jayson, basketball team captain

 

2. Communication occurs mostly through WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger,

most of the “teams would organise themselves on WhatsApp.”

Tim, 5-a-side footballer

 

3. Chasing up payments can often be a source of frustration

“One or two guys pay £400 upfront and everyone pays them back”

Tim, 5-a-side footballer

 

“I tend to get frustrated with managing payments because some will pay in cash, some want to transfer”

Chloe, tennis group organiser

 

“I’ll only know if they’ve given me cash or told me they transferred it”

Ivan, intra-mural basketball team captain

Experience Mapping

I consolidated the interviews and created an experience map that emphasises the pain points team organisers have pre and post-game. A lot of the frustration come from finding players, especially if people drop out in short-notice, and chasing up payments where some people may want to transfer and some pay cash.

2. Find Players

The 2nd stage is when team captains receives Yes/No on playing the match, s/he may have to chase up people individually. The painpoint originates from not being able to find enough people for game despite asking on group chat, then individually messaging team members, or even asking league operator

5. Post-game

The last stage of the experience when there may be a quick discussion on the positives and negatives of the match. Captains may have to also chase up payments by bank transfer or cash. The painpoint comes from having to sort payments involve many touchpoints: group chat bank details; spreadsheet; then banking app to confirm payment; or even change for cash.

 

It became clear that the two points of frustration had to be tackled by Es. It needs to integrate team management and payments together. A more integrated platform will allow team captains sort out finding players and payments, but not from a separate app, but right from the messaging app they commonly use, further removing friction in the process.

 

Ultimately, what Tom said summarises how Es should be for team captains:

“I would want it to do everything a website could do, but better and more conveniently.”

Design

Wireframing

The initial design started with wireframing in text message-based interfaces. This was initially for 5-a-side football leagues. This was where I had to adhere to the UI guidelines set by the messaging app, in this case facebook messenger, then in the future WhatsApp.

High Fidelity

Moving to high fidelity, I incorporated colour and pre/post-game graphics for the four main processes of design development. You can see some of the features and prompts utilise on FB messenger’s existing features, creating a minimal-typing experience, featuring ping-pong interactions through just tapping.

If team captains need help with finding a player, they can just tell Es, and it make it as effortless as possible. Payment requested are also automatically generated before each game, and they’re all paid via the chat which hands the money directly to the league operator - much easier!

UI Concepts and in-situ

A key part to prototype development was looking at chatbot and graphic precedents. There was some user feedback on livening the Es with emojis and GIFs, which is existent in many chatbots such as Cleo and KLM. It seemed they were used indiscriminately, which may not be as suitable for Es. Hence, I only incorporated emojis into congratulatory parts of a conversation, e.g. when the team wins a match.

The interface will exist within existing messaging apps and incorporate each OS’ corresponding brand guidelines. Colours used for graphics are according to the football league’s brand identity. In this example, the graphics are designed for teams based at the Nine Elms Powerleague club, hence the colours from the Nine Elms crest is used.

Feedback has been very positive for football players, incorporating graphics livens up the whole experience that is mainly tapping responses on the screen.

 

“Starting V graphic is cool. For a lot of people, I think seeing their name on a formation like that, in their kit colours, would be quite appealing.”

 

An UI concept is also created. This introduces Es on the SPRYT website, so it can be known to people who play other sports, or are not part of the football leagues. It features a lot of real estate for the interface, accompanied by quick and brief copywrite that showcases Es’ features.

© 2019 by Alvin Chan