2 min read

Shortening the Goalposts, Chris Clarke

I’m sharing notes from UX Scotland 2014, which took place in Edinburgh Thursday and Friday this week.

Chris Clarke spoke about the challenges his team at the Guardian faced with making the Guardian Football Beta. (The beta is available to anyone who pressed the blue button at the top of Guardian pages: “I’ll give £5 to anyone who figures a way out”).

As you might expect, the football section of the site is popular, but as it turns out it’s very popular: usually the #2 visited part of the site and on mobile often #1. Still, there was room for improvement, especially in the lead up to the World Cup. Through research they found that people considered the BBC fast, but the Guardian the place for indepth commentary and analysis.

To make sure they knew what they were doing, they conducted mobile studies to understand the ‘football week’ such as what devices were used when and when they should be providing particular content. They were surprised at just how often people switched devices or even multi-deviced (listening to radio while on phone with TV in background).  Out of the studies came four personas, but for the sake of the beta they focused on the one who was keen on a particular team.

In terms of agile they learnt a lot: they were initially far too ambitious (doing 1 code release in 3 weeks of a 10 week project isn’t good) but quickly scaled things back and learnt to make modular systems. This way they could build up elements and feed in extra features when there was time to do so (e.g. resolving badges or tricky graphics).

The team also paid a lot of attention to site speed and placement of content: by having scores front and top and only showing the top 5 news items (rather than a full list) they could make key information immediately in view and load in extra data later with javascript.

Ironically, the project was almost too successful: the content authoring system they created was so enthusiastically taken up by the site’s content editors that they had to great guidelines to reign in the deluge of fact boxes and other elements that threatened to overwhelm the main information! This aside, while the site still has some issues, they generally are happy with what was achieved by a small team in a relatively short time.

Finally, special mention has to be made of Clarke’s CIF-worthy slides: