Mapping the fan experience

Article by

Karl Randay
Design Principal

Karl Randay

Karl Randay

Design Principal

In December we spent a day working with several football clubs as a way of taking them on a journey towards improving their fan experiences.

We decided to take them through the process of Human Centred Design, a process that’s integral to how we work here and something we think gets to the heart of problem-solving for users’ needs.

Thinking about real people

At 383, the first step in the design process is about trying to help our clients understand the audience as much as they can, so that we can get to their root problems and the challenges they face.

A large part of early project workshops is also dedicated to revealing and exhausting any assumptions an organisation might have; the aim of this is to gradually change their perspective so they can see through the eyes of their customers.

To get the clubs to understand their fans we took them through a series of simple exercises, designed to quickly separate out the range of different fans they might have within their club, but to also quickly add texture and colour to them.

While it’s quite fun to develop quick proto personas like this, it’s also an important part of the process. They’re a critical reference tool for what needs to be done later on, so ensuring proto personas are objective and have a clear route to validation is important.

It’s less about how many times a day a particular person walks their dog and more about what their social situation might look like, what their goals are and what motivates them.

After developing a set of proto personas, the next step in the process is thinking about what a particular experience might look like for each one. There are different experiences that can surround a football event, so it was important to make sure that these journeys would fit well with each proto persona. This is where having a solid understanding of their basic behaviours really helped in figuring out the kind of match experience each persona would be more likely to select.

This exercise fleshed out what each stage of their journey looked like; the kind of activities each fan would perform and the typical touchpoints they interacted with in the run up to a match, during the match and what they would do afterwards.

An important part of defining each journey was to consider the goals each fan had in mind during each phase of their individual experience. These goals can then be stacked up against a typical experience to understand where frictions might happen, creating barriers for the fan.

Understanding where and how often frictions occur is important for further along in the process, but it was a nice opportunity for each of the clubs to step back from their own fan journeys to discuss where they see patterns, common problems and challenges happening.

We’re big fans of job stories at 383, so it was really useful to get each club to break down their journeys and start thinking about how to write objective stories for each major step, considering not only what the fan is trying to do, but what they expect to get out of it. This was the point in the process where each club began to feel much closer to looking at the journey through the eyes of the fan, as opposed to using a business perspective.

Technology for users’ sake

Then we began to shift the focus to using technology as a means to an end, not an end to a means.

We see technology as an enabler to create better fan experiences; organisations should put people first and technology second.

User experiences are easily driven and therefore controlled by technology for many reasons, with decisions around those experiences having to be made often by IT departments. Technology is great, but unless you put people at the heart of your decisions then the experiences that you originally set out to create will invariably feel mechanical, completely miss the needs of your users entirely, or potentially overcomplicate the whole thing.

Disney wanted to reimagine their guest experience and find a way to tackle the major frictions at the Walt Disney World Resort; accessing the resorts easily, and guests always having to have their wallets on them. The result was the launch of MagicBand, a wristband that’s designed to replace your wallet, your hotel key, and ensure a more personal approach to reservations. They’ve taken what’s typically a painful, complicated process, put the customer at the centre of the decision-making process and created a focused, simplified journey for them.

Tackling invention and keeping users at the heart of the process

This is where we challenged each of the clubs to tackle the concept of invention. Now that they had successfully managed to gain the perspective of their fans, we set a task to see if they could think of simple ways in which enabling technology could provide a simple or unified solution to some of the frictions and challenges we had identified in the early stages of the workshop.

With a quick deadline and a short elevator pitch to help keep things simple, each club set about detailing how their concepts would work. Ultimately though, the larger value was in the effort undertaken to explain the real world benefit to the fan and how their idea could co-exist in the club ecosystem.

The Human Centred Design process enables us to help our clients step outside of business-led goals and assumptions about their customers to fully understand what the experience looks like from the ground up.

By being able to break the process down into a series of simple and fun exercises, it gives both us and the client an invaluable look into how we can work together, collaborating on creating effective solutions, but also how we can scale these, testing and iterating on each idea to make sure it fits within user needs as the project grows.