Regarding Play is an online marketplace that makes connecting sports players with sports facilitators a frictionless process. They provide a service where players can search and book sports courts, coaching or casual group play in their local area digitally.
I was approached by the founder Ary to bring their dreams and ideas to life – the team had a million ideas, and wanted to bring those ideas to life through mockups of their end-to-end platform.
I spent a lot of time with the team to really understand their thoughts, motivations and vision on what they wanted their product to be.
The team had some core problems that they wanted me to focus on, some of which included
The process of finding & booking sports court online is currently hard. What does an improved digital experience look like?
What features will be absolutely critical for users to have in order for the MVP to be successful?
With a clear understanding of the team's dreams and vision, Ary and I identified a few key objectives to focus on:
- Discover the key needs of the marketplace participants, and what features would be absolutely essential to be included in the MVP
- Define a skeleton of the platform's information architecture to test and refine with the team
- Wireframe the key flows and refine these into higher fidelity mockups
- Build a fully-functional design prototype and test our assumptions with marketplace participants, and continue to refine
Before picking up any tools or starting any work, I started to focus on my first objective of understanding the problem space and the stakeholders involved!
In order to get a lay of the land, I jumped in the trenches with the founder Ary to get a first-hand experience of what was out in the wild! A few examples of what I did include:
- 🏸 Booking and playing tennis in my local area – I wanted to experience first-hand what people were going through when booking a court. The experience was typically pretty low-tech, involved making a phone call and typically required cash!
- 🖥️ Researching competitors & existing online experiences – given I could only play so much tennis in person, I put together a research document that comprehensively outlined what experiences were available in market along with their strengths and weaknesses to identify some product gaps we could hone in on
- 💬 Attending meetings with potential sporting venues & interviewing staff – to understand the economics behind a venue (i.e. their most/least lucrative revenue streams) and get a sense of what platforms are being used + any issues with those tools
- 🤾 Speaking with people who play sports or book sports activities for their kids – to see what issues they face from the consumer side of the marketplace!
I used the findings from these activities to construct user personas for both players and venue operators, as well as a research report with findings and opportunity areas to hone in on.
Some of the interesting concepts that we discovered during discovery included:
- Many venues had a website, but not many of them kept them up-to-date and users often complained that mobile websites were poor or non-functional
- Many venue owners didn't maintain their own website, and instead relied on a third party to do so – so many of their offerings never even surfaced online
- More venues than anticipated offered an online booking experience, but that experience was very poor and didn't offer modern payment options such as Apple Pay
- Players told us that while booking court hire digitally was not up to scratch, the same applied to booking things such as match play, coaching lessons or sports camps
Equipped with the outcomes of our research, I presented my findings to Ary and assessed the pros and cons of different decisions.
After some thorough debate, discussion and planning, we made a few key decisions based on the balance of the MVP being as successful as possible vs. the effort involved in building them.
An example of a few decisions included:
- Focus on "sessions" over court hire – sessions (i.e. sports camps, weekly coaching, etc) had less inventory management concerns than court hire did, they transferred better to other sports and came with a higher average order value
- Generate unique pages for each venue & session – giving venues "free" well-designed landing pages brought a great way to acquire some cheap traffic, as well as forming the base for a longer-term SEO play
- Provide a dead-simple search experience for players with social proofing – we wanted players to be able to do all of their searching on one digital property, and be able to see how popular a venue has been with players!
- Build a responsive web platform over mobile applications – the barrier to entry needed to remain low & resources were limited, so custom mobile apps were a no-go
Ideate & refine
With most of the groundwork done, I began starting to explore and ideate the structure of how the platform would come together.
I wanted to make sure we had a strong backbone in place that clearly defined the key areas of the platform, ensuring the consistent was well-organised and consistent with where people would expect to find things – with room to grow longer-term.
Here's a sneak peak of the digital version of some of our hand-drawn wireframes that we rapidly iterated on!
Refinement of mockups and design system
As I iterated on designs, I kept a design system in check to ensure that all components were reusable so that we would avoid any unnecessary development effort. This system was extensively detailed in Figma and Notion.
As I progressed through the ideation phase, I was able to deliver a clickable prototype that formed the basis for our user testing via Maze.
We asked users to complete a few key journeys, which involved them starting on the homepage and trying to:
- Book a sports camp session
- Create a new session from scratch
- Find a user's bookings area and cancel their session
From this testing, we identified a few labels that we needed to change and some re-organising of information that made better sense. This ultimately proved invaluable in making the product super easy to use!
Build & outcome
Once we were happy with the usability of the prototypes, we were confident in moving onto documenting how key features should work in preparation for development.
I was able to sketch out key product requirement documents for each key area of the platform, including:
- The public session listing pages
- The venue manager area, with corresponding "create" flows for new sessions
- The player area, where bookings could be viewed and edited
I went through each of these epics and their corresponding stories/features with the team, and passed them over for the next stages of development.
From this experience, I helped the team to:
- Win commitment from 3 potential customers by being able to see and interact with the team's prototype
- Reduced the number of features being built by 75%, keeping development needs low when resources were tight