Designing novice-friendly UX for the complicated world of betting

Wilson Fletcher
Feb 16, 2015 · 5 min read

Tips from a service designer exploring the world of the betting service.

By Sim Wishlade, Senior designer, Wilson Fletcher

Betting is big business. Since the downturn in the economy, every high street has seen more betting shops
open, and there are plethora of betting products advertised by celebrities on TV — you can’t deny having seen Ray Winstone’s massive talking head, or more recently, Mark Lawrenson being pestered for tips by a BetVictor customer while spending a penny (excuse the pun).

I rarely bet. I enjoy the occasional flutter, and it can bring additional excitement to watching sport which I love already. Being a huge sports lover, our recent project with Inspired Gaming was a fascinating piece of work for me. We were looking at Inspired’s betting kiosks, which, like any interface, demand clear UX and UI patterns. Your user only has one first-time experience with your product, and if it’s a bad one there are other products and services out there that offer the same service and probably do it better. In the competitive world of betting, this is particularly true.

With all the products and services we design we try to reduce the time that our users spending thinking or querying what they are doing: the less time they are using their cognitive power trying to do what they want to do, the more time they’ll spend on your service and therefore, the more they’ll return. This is true of all services — and especially when users are making time- sensitive, financial decisions with your services.

User experience on betting sites is a particularly interesting area and, from our research, one that many are yet to perfect. So what are some of the fundamental challenges that betting sites should be tackling?

Make it as easy as possible for new users to participate.

With nearly all betting service websites, I’m greeted with a splash screen that directs me to the betting platform I wish to use (sports/poker/casino, etc). Making this decision should be as simple as possible, but with some it’s not and I’m unsure where I should be clicking to even get into seeing the odds for sports. Even more weirdly, in one case once I’ve made that decision, I’m told that I need to upgrade my Flash plug-in before I can go any further. Tut tut.

Selecting a bet is another task that requires me to have some insight into betting terminology. Many brands refer to a home win as ‘1’, a draw as ‘x’ and an away win as ‘2’. To most novice users that means nothing. “What’s the score in the England game?” “It’s X at the moment, mate.” Understandably, on smartphones where space is limited, writing out the full description for each of these bets requires additional real-estate, but no-one mentions what these terms mean. And so it requires me to either experiment by selecting a bet, or more frustratingly move away from the screen to do some research into what the labels signify.

As you go further along the journey, there are plenty more ways of betting and terminology that need to be learned. Calling sports by their common name is a good way to reduce the time users spend thinking about what they’re looking for. Some sites refer to football as ‘soccer’, and I’d be interested in knowing what percentage of their users also call football ‘soccer’.

Sport is happening 24/7 and so there are always live events and upcoming sports to bet on, so there’s bucket load of information that can be presented to the user. On a mobile device, the content generally is refined due to the lack of real-estate, so the user is focused on a few options of what to bet on.

Websites behave differently. I’m launched into a massive overload of data and am given no clear direction on what I’m looking at. The interface becomes bloated because of the amount of data shown. It fails to serve its purpose correctly and I feel slightly out of control.

As an anonymous user, I need to feel in control. I’m on your site and I’m keen to bet. So what next? I’m lost in a sea of data, I struggle to find what I want and I rarely have the ability to search for a team to bring up the odds of the thing I’m looking for. The experience could be better.

As a logged in user, I can’t really tailor my experience. I’m still left looking at a page of information I’m not interested in. I feel like I should be able to set up some preferences, I should be able to tell you I support Southampton, you should be able to list back details on your homepage about current odds of Southampton winning the Premier League (probably evens).

Fan engagement in sport is joined up, so the betting experience should be, too.

If I enter a live poker room on WilliamHill, I’m greeted by the croupier and asked if I’d like to sit at the table rather than just watching, which was a great experience. Personalised experiences like this really keep customers loyal to a brand.

Bet365 have Ray Winstone telling me of in-match odds on television. Rather than me having to track them down by opening up the website, logging in, finding the odds, and placing money (by which time the odds have changed) could I not use a text message and place a bet that way? I also never see Ray on the site — having him there after announcing these odds would shore up this experience, too.

There are also opportunities around leveraging betting for spectators inside stadiums. William Hill recently sponsored the PDC darts at Alexandra Palace. For those who had the William Hill app installed, it would have been great to push notifications using iBeacons to give live odds or special bets for the evening adding to the excitement.

Wilson Fletcher — The Human Layer

Insight, thinking and perspective on designing successful digital businesses from the team at Wilson Fletcher

Wilson Fletcher

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A business innovation consultancy. We shape breakthrough ideas and design strategies, services and experiences to unlock potential and power new growth.

Wilson Fletcher — The Human Layer

Insight, thinking and perspective on designing successful digital businesses from the team at Wilson Fletcher