The idea for Grit Iron started because of a frustration with the other football scouting tools on the market. During discussions with college football scouts from around the US, my client realized that they couldn't rely on data from other databases and often had to travel to take a look at players that, in the end, were not matching the profile they were looking for. It was just too easy to cheat the system for players and brag with better performances than the real ones.
I was responsible for shaping the concept and design of Grit Iron. The client and I worked together to create the ultimate go-to search engine for American football players.
This new product had to be a tool for college scouts whose job is to find talent worth drafting, while on a tight budget. By creating a product where scouts would trust what the player adds under "Performances", they wouldn't travel as much to watch less talented players. This translates into better results in terms of players drafted, less money spent on traveling and more effectiveness thanks to finally being able to only travel to watch the right type of player.
During the initial meeting wth the client, we figured out who was our main audience, but also discovered a secondary audience. In order to make sure I always kept the end user in mind, it was second nature to create a couple of personas based on some quick interviews I made with college scouts in the US.
The personas helped me in my decision-making process, because it suddenly became clear to me that Grit Iron will not be used by novice internet users. College scouting teams have used the internet to spot talent for years. They know how a search engine works very well. This is when I realized that creating a search engine, and not just a column-based database, makes sense for the end user. There's no better search engine out there than Google, so it made sense to look at them for inspiration.
Initial discussions emphasized to me that coaches should be able to compare several players at the same time. After all, the whole idea of the product was to improve the efficiency of the scouting program. Therefore, the search results should show as much information as possible for a player, without cluttering the interface too much.
Together with the client, I also created a set of tasks scouts follow on the website, based on his experience with their workflow, as well as based on the early interviews. This would become very important for two design decisions later in the process.
It was important for scouts to be able to validate the players' attributes. As mentioned in the beginning, this was one of the main differences compared to other products on the market. That's why the client and I decided that player profiles will not be visible before they upload videos for four important attributes: vertical jump, shuttle, 40-yard dash and power toss. These four qualities are crucial for scouts to understand a player's level.
Another decision was to add a feature that the client didn't have in mind at first: a shortlist. The shortlist would be useful especially when the scouts are on the go, spot an interesting player, but have no more time there and then. This is when they could shortlist a player and look at his profile later (probably from a computer). This was a decision taken after understanding that scouts, although comfortable on the go, still preferred to do most of their work in front of a computer.
Although I usually do it on paper, for Grit Iron I decided to create low-fidelity mockups using a UI kit for Sketch. It was much easier to share them online across the ocean to showcase the functionality.
I understood from the initial interviews that college scouts were avid internet users. It was their main source of information. In order to create the ultimate search engine, I've decided to add a feature for all these power users: natural language. Most would search for a quarterback or a wide receiver. Power users, however, could search for a 200lbs quarterback from Detroit with a 5.1 40-yard dash and get instant results. I was confident this would streamline their process.
Regardless of how the user searches, results are shown on the same page: a list of matching players and filtering options in a sidebar. If the user searched for something more complex, these filtering options would be adjusted accordingly, otherwise they would be untouched. During this time I've also decided to start educating all users about the fact that the search engine understands natural language. Therefore, I've added a link with search examples on the home page that gives people a quick understanding of this advanced feature.
After usability testing I went through several iterations that shaped the final product. During these iterations, the sidebar became a top bar for instance, to make better use of the vertical space, and we also added a couple of new features (similar players functionality and results sorting options), with all of these contributing towards the business objectives.
Inspiration for the search page came from Google because, in my opinion, it is the only product with a perfect user experience. It's simple, fast, it has a quick learning curve, few distractions and always allows the user to do the thing she came there for: search, find, move on.
The light color scheme would be very helpful for coaches when they travel and browse from their portable devices and the highlight color, the green, is recognized in the football world because of the color of their grass pitches. Initially, I picked a darker red as the main color, the same shade that can be found on footballs, but then I realized that red is a bit dangerous to work with and preferred to choose green instead.
The client's main concern was how to show the results, knowing this is a crucial part of the project and an important part of convincing scouts to use the product. To quote his quick feedback at the end: "Fantastic experience working with you. Your main objective was to provide the best possible user experience for my application and you delivered in a major way!!!". You know clients are pleased when they are actually excited to pay you.
This is a quite recent project, so it is currently still in development. Updates about the results will come.