Grit Iron started from a frustration with the lack of quality scouting tools. During discussions with talent finders in the US, my client realized that they couldn't rely on data from other tools. Scouts also had to travel to meet players who turned out to be poor candidates at the end of the day. It was too easy for players to advertise better performances than in the reality.
I shaped the concept and design. The client and I worked closely to create the go-to search engine for American football scouts.
College scouts who need to find talent worth drafting while on a tight budget need this tool. Scouts need to trust the player's advertised performances. This means they don't travel to watch poor players anymore. For the colleges, Grit Iron means better players drafted, less money spent on traveling, and a more effective scouting process.
After understanding what the business needs were, I conducted interviews with American college scouts to understand what their daily routine looks like. It became clear that travelling plays a big part in their roles. Travelling to see players who don't live up to the expectations is happens quite often. "It's part of spotting talent," one of the scouts told me. I downloaded all the information and created Jerry, our persona.
With Jerry in mind, it became clear 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, so creating one made a lot of sense. By moving their workflow from spreadsheets to an online tool, we ensured that teams can collaborate and communicate much easier than before.
When watching players on the field, comparing them comes natural to talent spotters. They try to emulate this with spreadsheets, but it rarely works. Spreadsheets lack the engagement of seeing someone run a dash. Grit Iron needed to take the capabilities in their current tools and solve the pain points by adding some type of engagement.
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 on the interviews. This would become very important a bit later.
It was important for scouts to be able to validate players' performances. As named before, this was one of the main differences compared to other tools. That's why the client and I decided that player profiles will not be visible to scouts right away. Players have to upload videos for important attributes: vertical jump, shuttle, 40-yard dash and power toss. These four qualities are crucial for scouts to understand a player's potential.
Scouts keep track of players they have watched in a spreadsheet, then share this by email with the team. To make this easier, I added a shortlist feature. It would replicate the same spreadsheet functionality, only this time it would be online all the time. The shortlist could also be used while travelling. We understoot that scouts, although comfortable on the go, still prefer 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 in 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 are avid internet users. It was their main source of information. In order to create a better, more advanced search engine, I added a feature for the power users: natural language. Scouts could 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 top bar. During this time I also decided to start educating the users about the advanced capabilities of the search engine. Therefore, I added a link with search examples on the home page that gives people a quick understanding of natural language search.
After usability testing I went through several iterations that shaped the final product. During these iterations, the sidebar became a top bar, to make better use of the vertical space. I also added a "similar players" functionality and results sorting options. In the end, all these contributed towards the business objectives: better players drafted, less money spent on traveling, and a more effective scouting process.
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 allows the user to do the thing she came there for: search, find, and 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 the grass pitches.
The client's main concern was presenting the search results in a useful way, 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. An update is due soon.