Because of growing up in Argentina soccer has always been a big part of my life. So when I got to Vancouver I was lucky to find a club that was based out of my university. Throughout my time in the club, I’ve volunteered as a coach for multiple years. During this time, the club manager and I have experienced our share of pains trying to stay organized, plan and coordinate people.

Ballhop was our answer to help me and other soccer coaches save their sanity.


Process

Our process followed a user-centered approach combined with Lean startup principles. We tried to learn as much as possible from the market through user interviews, market research and reviews. Our process is always centered around understanding our user’s needs, problems and goals.


Problems

Our app set out to solve 3 particular problems that we came up with through our own experience. Later, we conducted user interviews to ensure that these problems resonated with other soccer managers. 


1. Collecting fees is a tough job and not pleasant
Collecting fees is a tough, very involved job that no one likes to do. Most teams don’t collect all their team fees and are still collecting at the end of the season

2. Communicating with the team is tedious and time-consuming Checking multiple sites, communicating updates and league/​field changes is very tedious. 

3. Hard to know who will be available to play and always scrambling to find replacements at the last minute
Also trying to find rides for people last minute was a big headache. Hard to get people to commit to games/​practices. Hard to get people engaged.


Design Challenges

  • How might we facilitate payment collections for the managers so that 95% of players pay on time and in full?

  • How might we decrease coordination and management time?

  • How might we increase engagement from players, accountability and commitment? How do we do it without the coaching chasing them? 



Proto Persona

Based on our experience and research, we created a persona to guide our designs. The proto-persona is a description of the target user of a product based on our assumptions. Creating this allowed us to begin designing immediately without getting overly bogged down with all details. Although the problem is common across different levels and ages of soccer leagues we focused on Adult teams. 


Problem Interviews

We conducted user interviews in order to get more insights into a better understanding of the problem. The interview took approximately 10 – 15 minutes and included topics to get to the core of what users are trying to do and what their problems are. We conducted about 10 interviews with existing team managers and players. To do this, we reached out to local teams explaining our vision and asking them to see if they were open to having a short chat. We wanted to learn directly from players how they would like to be communicated with and what inspired them. After all, if not all the players used the app then the coach would lose faith and abandon the app.


Key Findings

Some of the problems they encountered included:

  • Lots of manual, tedious processes

  • Teams with younger players prefer messaging apps instead of email

  • Collecting fees is hard for all teams

We wanted to know how people were dealing with these problems at the time. 

  • Using competitors: Teamsnap, Benchapp

  • Existing communication apps: Facebook Group, Whatsapp for group communication, banter and accountability

  • Email is still used with text messaging

  • Collect fees via cash, e‑transfer. Some allow for payment plans.


Sketches

I like sketching because it enables me to come up with a bunch of different ideas very quickly before moving onto wireframes. It allows me to force myself to think outside the box and come up with various ways to organize content.

My chicken scratches 😛. Going through the sketching exercise is very helpful to think through workflows and ideas in very little time.

Wireframes

Why? Designing low fidelity wireframes before finalizing the design and starting to develop the app was a good idea as it saved a lot of the development times by giving a clear picture of how the screens looked and revealing design flaws early in the process.

Mockups

User Testing

We conducted various rounds of user testing as we tweaked the app and interface. We started testing the key elements of the app such as creating a schedule and in later rounds we focused on testing specific parts of the app such as fee tracking. 

Key findings

  • Order of input fields matters

  • Introducing new patterns can be confusing

  • Steps in a workflow are important

  • We got feedback for new potential features
    • Game in feature

    • Show other details 

  • Picking the right labels is key to not confuse people

  • Managers like to input the entire schedule all at once yet they don’t want players to be able to reply ahead of time. 

  • Players like to see the upcoming schedule even if they can’t RSVP


Branding

We wanted our app to have some personality and thought we could differentiate ourselves through branding. At the time, the competitors didn’t great branding or user experience so our goal was to make an app that made the coaches and players enjoy using the app. 

Learnings

Design: Familiarity is key

Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Stick to what people are familiar with e.g. Plattform guidelines. People spend the majority of their time using a few main apps and they expect other apps to behave the same way. Don’t make them learn a new thing!

User-Testing: Guide and ask

Keep asking questions and bring focus to what is important to test

User-Testing: Good Instructions

The script can make or break your test. How you phrase instructions are equally important as what you are testing