We’ve been working on the Lockeroom project for about 6 weeks now I think, so for a few reasons I figured it was time to chronicle some of that story. Those reasons, so far as I can understand them:
- I don’t have to try and remember it all
- Doubles as a learnings archive
- People can read about what we’re doing, now or later
As this is the first blog post, there’s gonna have to be some background maybe… I’ll see how it goes, but brevity is the aim of this game :)
Problem to solve 🤔
I’ve always played team sports, ever since the older kids would let me join in.
One ‘ceremony’ which I have seen repeated across many different teams (in the UK at least) is ‘Man*-of-the-match’ — an anonymous vote which takes place after every match. Everyone writes a short paragraph declaring their best and worst player, and the reasons why. These votes are then pooled and read out to the group, normally with the aim of recognising the performance of a team mate, whilst having a laugh.
Man-of-the-match (Mom) voting normally involves a few annoying chores:
- someone brings pen and paper to the match in their bag (or you beg some paper from the barperson)
- everyone shares a pen or 3 (or you beg from the barperson)
- people who have to leave straight away can’t vote except via messaging the captain or whomever
- the team captain has to document the votes & result for later reference
As you can tell, all of this happens with pen and paper. I’m a person who likes to make stuff, so I thought maybe we could make it a bit easier if it was digital. Even if it just saved people having to bring pen and paper (and keep it dry… it’s the UK after all). That would be something.
Team First 🙌
Some engineer friends, Harry and Jarryd, were willing to let me buy them a beer and pitch them. They both play sports themselves, so I hoped they would be able to relate more easily to the problems I wanted to solve. Happily, they were both keen to try a few things out.
So, with our own small squad established, we started thinking about we could put a minimalist gadget together, with minimum effort.
Functional Prototype 🏗️
We realised pretty quickly that we’d struggle to have anything ready any time soon — part-timing a project is hard. So we tried to work out ways to get feedback in the meantime.
We hacked together a functional prototype, using google forms, spreadsheets and whatsapp, which meant we had a real sports team using something functional on week 1. This provided some awesome early insight into what users liked and disliked, plus some opportunities for simple experimentation.
Where we’ve got to 🗺️
- The product is being used weekly by 6 teams and occasionally by 2 more teams
- 3 of those teams were recruited directly — the remaining 5 all requested access unprompted
- We have approximately 90–100 voters on a normal week
- We have migrated 1 team over to our first in-house build after some user acceptance testing
- We are aiming to migrate over a further 3 teams this weekend
What we’ve learned 💡
- There’s virtually no high-end tech for casual sports teams — but many hack their own solutions using tools like Doodle and Whatsapp
- There are some positive emotions attached to voting with pen and paper — it feels more authentic and human
- The vote-reading event is seen very much as a ‘camp-fire, story-telling’ session
- Players often structure their votes into a short story
- During the ceremony, players don’t care much about the opposition
- A slightly sweary tone does add some value in the form of amusement, albeit hard to quantify — some users were caught off-guard, but not offended
- Some team captains really value collecting data about their team, even things which are just for fun. They will gently push their teams to use tools which make this easier, provided the effort increase is not too great
- Players show some interest in high level stats, but don’t necessarily want to engage with them regularly
- In contrast, players are very interested in the content of votes, particularly for players they know personally
- Ladies’ and mens’ teams show very different approaches to recognising each other’s performance
Pain points 🚧
The main obstacle we’ve immediately run into is a lack of spare time. Two of us have full time jobs, so even with a good idea of what to build, we didn’t get chance to put a free day on the project until 4 weeks in.
This continues to be our biggest challenge. We believe strongly in having healthy work-life balance and refuse to compromise on this, so we’ll keep going as we are for now but try to figure this out. Fitting in a project around this and full-time job is hard.
Where to next 🔮
We know captains like the ease and convenience Lockeroom offers them, but we also know players don’t yet value the product… it doesn’t really solve any problems for them. On top of this, there are several areas of unnecessary friction in their experience.
So, as we roll out the first home-baked version, we’ll be digging into:
- More value to players — automatic vote counting for matches
- Ease of use — make several areas of the journey simpler to understand and navigate
- Upgrading the visuals — we’ve used grey and white wires whilst we have validated functionality, but now it’s time to add more colour to the mix
That’s all for now, hopefully we’ll have another update for you in a month so watch this space 🗞️
Harry, Jarryd & Ollie
*We fully acknowledge that ‘Man-of-the-match’ / ‘MoM’ is male-centric — as I understand it the only reason this convention has survived is because it provides a simple abbreviation. We fully intend to address this, and I’ll follow up on the gender-specific context in a subsequent post. I’ll try to remember to come back here and add a link to it, but if I forgot, please feel free to poke me 👈