Having lived in the US for about a year now, it felt about time I started learning a little about the fundamentals of American sport. A New York brainstorm topic, ‘Enhancing sporting events through mobile’, led Mr. Corrigan to step up to the plate with an exciting germ of an idea named ‘batting scope’. A promising concept and an excuse to learn the rules of baseball? How could I not develop this idea?!
After a few initial pages of notes, I came to the realisation that creating a truly worthwhile experience would require a much deeper understanding of baseball fan culture; not just the rules. I quizzed Cameron on and off for a week or so with questions about what stats in baseball are most compelling and why particular players or rivalries are significant. I learned some key things:
- The relationship between pitcher and batter at specific times during the game has a huge impact on the outcome of a pitch. (i.e. Whether the batter will even try to hit it)
- There is no chance of getting a decent data connection at Yankee stadium.
- There are more stats available in baseball than any other sport I've seen.
- Some seats have much better visibility than others. How can the app cater to all?
- The app will need a lot of setting up before it can be useful.
- I've never used an Android phone before.
Before doing anything else, I needed to borrow a Droid for the week, install every app I could find and live as much as possible with the device. There were a ton of insights I learned in terms of UI conventions but the most significant was deciding on the orientation people would need to hold their phone. Rendering the app horizontally was crucial for visualizing the stats but this meant extra attention to detail was necessary to make the interactions feel intuitive, when the handset would be held differently from how it is during the majority of daily tasks a user performs. Inspired by the camera app in landscape mode, my plan was to make all in-game interactions controllable with just the right hand thumb. (Lefties, I apologise.)
The video below shows some interface iterations drawn on the <a href=”http://bit.ly/cdgPMd”>Android wireframe sketchsheets</a> that <a href=”http://twitter.com/#!/dresouzax>Andre</a> put together.
Making Baseball Matchup feel like a native Android app - and not an iPhone rip-off - was tricky, particularly given the volume of unconventional UI elements required in the screens explaining the concept. What made the most difference by far was the typography. Employing the Droid sans typeface instantly made the whole thing feel more consistent with the device.
The interface colour scheme was influenced by how the app would be used, mainly that it needed to avoid distracting or confusing users when held up over a large green playing field and crowds of people. I also wanted to avoid showing any allegiance to a particular team - though this could be a nice customisable element in the future - so going with the classic American red, white and blue felt like the natural choice. I quickly whipped up a logo with the intention of making the whole app feel obviously baseball and relevant to all ages and levels of fans.
Niche / Awesome
This app clearly has a pretty specific audience. A user needs to:
- Be a baseball fan.
- Be at the game.
- Own an Android phone.
- Have arms that don't tire easily, or hold hot dogs too often.
In addition, on the development side, you have all the issues regarding the cost of licensing data as well as the technical ambition of the project. A full scale launch would take some serious ironing out of these creases. But how awesome would it be if it existed?
Augmented Reality is currently seen as a bit of a gimmick. It’s a powerful tool but often executed for the sake of technology, rather than adding real value to the environment you’re in. We often talk about the 2Screen user experience and how we use technology to augment television. Taking the 2Screen thinking and applying it to a physical domain feels like the natural extension of this experience. I’m excited about the possibilities of a world that leverages the clarity of data visualization we know and love from watching sport on TV but without taking it away from the real fans who paid money to be watching it there, live at the game.