The Digital Sports Fan — 7 Things I’ve Learnt As a UX Researcher at Pulselive

Twelve months and dozens of interviews with sports fans from all over the world.

John Dickens
Apr 24, 2020 · 5 min read

I’m John, a UX Researcher based at Pulselive. I’ve been with the company just over a year, and throughout that time, I’ve run a lot of research sessions with fans from all over the world who are interested in a whole range of different sports.

Part of the research team’s job at Pulselive is to help our design and product teams make informed decisions based on solid research. Our research takes a variety of forms — from fieldwork at World Cups to season-by-season data analysis — but the goal remains the same regardless of how we get there: how can we provide the most engaging, most informative and most accessible fan experience?

Over the past 12 months (and dozens of interviews), here are some things I’ve picked up about sports fans and designing for sport.

1. Sports fans know their stuff 🧠

In one session, a fan insisted on showing us a website he built for him and his friends to study the data and track individual performance when playing Fantasy Premier League. Our minds were blown.

2. Their love for the game is unbreakable ❤️

Most often, the biggest challenge is to get fans to speak objectively: to give critical feedback while still expressing their love for the game.

3. Many of them are born as a fan 👶

After a recent round of user interviews, one of our participants emailed us a picture of his newborn baby, still in the hospital, covered head to toe in their team’s gear. None the wiser, that baby was christened a Demons fan for life.

4. Following sports can consist of deeply embedded routines 🗓

The AFL (Australian Football League) is a great example. We heard from hundreds of fans through surveys and interviews and managed to build a consistent picture of a day-by-day routine that fits most AFL fans. This spanned from reading post-match reports at the start of the week, looking at line ups at the moment they become available on a Thursday, all the way to pre-match routines ahead of the game on the weekend.

5. Not all sports fans want the same thing 👥

A ‘rugby fan’ is not a homogenous mass. There are many levels and we’ve got to find a balance. Some sites cater to the stats-mad fan. Some cater for the total casual. This is part of the reason we conduct so much research — to help find that balance and get a picture of who our audience is.

6. Esports is real and it’s taking over 🎮

‘Traditional’ sports can learn a lot from esports. In my opinion, most of the focus should be on the broadcast experience and fan engagement that elite level esports offer. Esports is inherently positioned to offer the best in both of those components. When your source material is essentially code and data that can be manipulated or adjusted to suit your audience, it’s relatively straight forward to provide endless camera angles and customisable displays, for instance. It might be harder for traditional sports to provide this sort of experience, but there’s certainly an appetite for it.

FYI: VentureBeat did a great piece on Esports Broadcasting.

7. You are not your user, even if you are 👨🏻‍💻

It’s tempting, then, to jump to conclusions about what terminology might work or how best to display a line-up, because we know what we would want. But you’ll be constantly surprised at what you learn when you’re talking to users of your product. This is why we like to include designers, developers, product and project managers, and our clients, in live user research sessions. We find that this simple act of observation helps people step outside their own experience as a fan and into a position where all of us are better equipped to design and develop top-class digital experiences.

We’d love to see you alongside us in a research session one day. Want to get involved? We’re actively hiring for a number of roles across Pulselive. Take a look!


Creating experiences that sports fans can’t live without

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