DESIGNING A MOBILE NATIVE GAME DAY COMPANION
BUILDING SOCIAL CURRENCY
Every NFL Sunday matters. Bragging rights, playoff hopes, and fantasy football games are all at stake. At the core of these behaviors is video. The big plays on television that cause fans to jump out of their seats is the first point of engagement, but the second almost immediate next step is going online to re-watch that moment, and to share and discuss with friends. The question that started our project was:
- How can we socialize the touchdown?
BUSINESS OBJECTIVES AND DESIGN STRATEGY
We often hear that mobile and social content is where advertisers want to spend their budget. They also want new assets to sponsor. Our overall objective was to create a new sponsor-worthy asset for the media group, while providing value to our fans using our most popular content, NFL highlights. We defined our objectives as follows:
- Optimize our video
- Drive video views
- Use our highlights different than our partners
- Reduce “the search cost” (Make it easy to find the best videos)
- Lift social referrals to NFL.com and reach
- Get fans to deliver our content for us
The below chart is from a MFA Interaction Design class I took called Strategic Innovation in Product/Service Design. I refer to it often as a reminder that the opportunity for innovation requires thoughtful, strategic research.
Going into this project we knew that insights into behavior would be critical to creating this experience. It was important to us that we went beyond existing examples of social video and sports to uncover a unique opportunity.Our research plan:
- Understand how the NFL social team works during games
- Understand how fans engage with their friends, favorite team, and NFL via social on game day
- Uncover motivations for sharing NFL content
- Uncover opportunities to enhance a fan’s game day experience
The first step in our research was to talk to the closest team to our fans, the NFL social team. The team explained: (1) what happened when a big play occurred, (2) how they engage with fans, and (3) how they shared videos. We learned:
- There are signature moments that define the day (Unbelievable Play or Non-Game Moment)
- There are two types of touchdowns (Oh S$it! and Run of the Mill)
- Fans want to know how does this affect me? (Fantasy/Team Affiliation)
- They revisit early games because fans know that they miss stuff because all the games are happening at the same time
We also observed the social team on Sunday and learned:
- They look for big events not just scores
- Touchdowns happen every ten minutes during Sunday's early games and every 15 minutes in the afternoon
- It is best to capitalize off moments of uncertainty (2 min drills, comebacks)
- Conversations vary when only 1 game (MNF, TNF) is on television vs. multiple games
- If something trends on Twitter they know it will perform well on Facebook
Next, we talked to fans on Sunday at local bars and learned:
- They amplify the messages they agree with.
- More people associate with teams than players in social media
- Many users would rather retweet and/or reply than create their own message
- Users don’t mind posting when their teams losing or has lost
- Social conversation tends to be shared within their bubble of friends
- Terms that interviewees liked for big plays: Clutch, Epic, Sick, Brilliant (all very emotional)
Our key findings:
- Fans communicate within a bubble
- Fans follow teams and the game more than players when it comes to big plays
- Social currency is huge, giving fans agency in the application is key
- Simplicity and touchable flat design aesthetics are pleasing and advocate for mobile use
- Fans want help with what to say and how to reach out to their network about the NFL
INSIGHTS AND FRAMEWORKS
Out of our interviews and observations we uncovered an opportunity to deliver a game day companion driven by the fan and big play moments. We mapped out how we could add value to the highlights and this framework became the outline for our game day companion.
We also put together a list of potential fans (users) of our product. We identified the Impulsive Re-Twitter as our target fan.
From our research we developed the following design principles to provide direction for our vendor.
- Make it feel live
- Accessible, contextual - Speak in their (the fan) language
- Make it easy to share and be a part of the conversation
- Mobile Native
- Complete the feedback loop - watch/react/share/repeat
- Be a brand ambassador to the fan
USER JOURNEYWe also created a sketch of the Spiral story. I find that artifacts like this can help us realize the desired outcomes of the product. It also starts to make the project feel tangible.
NFL Spiral curates videos of the most popular NFL plays in real-time based on social shares. Fans participate by sharing videos of big plays complete with contextualized messages to share with their friends and followers.
Spiral is only for the best highlights from game day. A home for the big moments that define the day.
Fans can easily view, watch and share highlights from their favorite teams and players with their social networks.
Fans are provided with tweet options so that they don't have to think about what to say about a play they want to share.
In addition to featuring the top weekly plays Spiral can hold custom playlists featuring a single theme, player or event. This is an opportunity for sponsors to feature a weekly or ongoing playlist that aligns with their campaign.
Our working name when we started this project was Touchdown Social. After we completed our research we used our insights to inspire thinking on a new name. We thought of ways football and social were similar. Kinetic, unpredictable, fast paced. We looked at football terms, but wanted an action word that could fit with the experience. Spiral illustrates both in a way that feels energetic and emotional. Juxt, our vendor for the project, developed the logo.
We initially sketched three different views of big plays: (1) Big Plays - list of the top plays, (2) What Just Happened? - a list of the most recent play or plays , and (3) What's Everyone Talking About? - a list of big plays based on the social conversation.
We quickly realized that number two and three were unnecessary. We only needed one view to achieve a social, contextual game day experience; the curated list of big plays.
Our design strategy also included a feedback look for Spiral. I love thinking in systems because it requires me to think through every step of the product. Since we simplified the experience the system seemed accessible and easy to use.
NOT AN APP
We made a conscious decision not to build a mobile app. To prove out the MVP we wanted to make it easy for fans to jump into the experience and engage with the content. We felt that requiring fans to download an app would be a big barrier to entry.
IN THE REAL WORLD
Spiral launched at the beginning of the 2015 NFL Season. The coolest part of the project was seeing NFL fans interact with the platform and share plays.
I partnered with Jennings Hanna on Spiral from idea to implementation. Juxt handled visual design and development.
We developed frameworks for defining the overall experience. These frameworks were used as design principles to inform information architecture, visual design, branding, development and content strategy.
We developed the business and functional requirements for the product. We also outlined the interaction design of the product and the user experience.
RESEARCH & INSIGHTS
We performed competitive and internal research. We worked together to synthesize research into insights.
I oversaw the visual direction and logo design giving feedback to the vendor throughout the process.
I developed the content presentation, the elements on the detail page and process for getting the assets into Spiral.
EDITORIAL & CURATION
On Sundays during the NFL season I worked with one of my features editors to program the site. This included identifying the right highlights for Spiral and the titles and captions for each.