I helped redesign a league platform for GGLeagues, a recreational eSports league startup, with a focus on improving user retention. In the process, we identified a critical user need that wasn’t being addressed in the platform's current state— player performance-focused information to provide a more useful and engaging experience for their users.
GGLeagues is an eSports league startup that seeks to provide fun, localized competition that encourages gamers to form relationships with one another through games they play.
Erich, their founder and CEO, asked us to consider how we can make their player experience more fun, engaging, and community-oriented. Business objectives included user retention and new user conversion. Ultimately, he wanted us to determine the exact project scope based on findings drawn from user research.
Our first step was to learn the ins and outs of the eSports industry, before we could start having productive conversations with GGLeagues’ users. We researched competitive eSports, gaming culture, and League of Legends and DOTA 2, which are the two games that GGLeagues currently offers its players.
We then spoke with several collegiate eSports experts to get a more in-depth look into the recreational and collegiate eSports scene, which is relatively new and still “uncharted territory” according to this Kotaku article. Adam Antor, Head eSports Coach at Aquinas College, likened recreational eSports leagues to college intramurals:
“[Recreational eSports leagues] are like any college rec league, for people to create friendships and play games they enjoy. There's an opportunity for the same thing in video games, and it’s just not being met at the current state. That’s where the value is.”
I was surprised to learn what differentiated GGLeagues was straightforward: none of its competitors offered a similar balance of localized, friendly tournaments and casual gameplay adjusted for skill level. Recreational leagues tended to be online and impersonal, while collegiate leagues were unavailable to casual players.
We talked to GGLeagues players to find out where there was opportunity between their current and desired experiences. We learned the following:
We visualized our research findings through a journey map to illustrate a user’s point of view to our client:
Our first priority would be to address the glaring pain points that players faced in their user journeys, while still considering our client’s objective to strengthen the GGLeagues’ community.
Equipped with clear insights gained from research, we formed a problem statement that captured their users' need for relevant content:
Enthusiastic eSports players need a digital way to stay connected with gaming and league information and content so they can enjoy being a part of an active and cohesive community of gamers, beyond just being competitors.
With the problem in mind, we were able to narrow down our scope to concentrate fully on user retention:
After our design team aligned on the problem, we ideated individually. Through my ideas, I wanted to address each of the three key takeaways above:
In our first round of interviews, several users mentioned that scouting was something they did prior to every match, yet they had to find a manual workaround each time. My initial sketches were centered on providing players with useful scouting information first, through a dashboard view.
To create a personalized experience that players could look back on, I wanted to help them track progress by providing access to past achievements through their "Player Profiles." I gained inspiration from platforms that rewarded players for their progress over time, with Yahoo! Fantasy being especially relevant.
While a sense of community and competitiveness could result indirectly from our focus on honoring player achievement, I wanted to see if it could be further reinforced. I drew concepts for a “Community” section on the homepage, to celebrate achievements more publicly within a league.
My early sketches and ideas led to our team’s first concept, a performance-based platform that built community through the recognition of individual and team achievements:
Our second concept, created by other team members, was to provide a connection-first approach to community, which our client envisioned as a focal point of their platform. This concept was more visual and friendly, and was centered on getting people to know each other more personally:
Concept testing confirmed our hypothesis that users preferred the performance-focused concept over the connection-focused one. We learned that:
We were glad to find that our client agreed, and our next step was to continue building out the performance-focused concept as our final prototype, while taking some elements of the other one to ensure the platform would still align with GGLeagues’ friendly and community-first brand.
Based on user feedback, some specific iterations we made included:
Our prototype was a platform that provided information for GGLeagues players to prepare for matches, scout opponents, and track performance, while also helping them get to know each other better as a community.
Usability testing displayed high levels of satisfaction and ease of use with the prototype. Users appreciated the increased focus on scouting and match information, and they found the new layout cleaner and easier to understand.
Our client was excited about the final prototype, and he mentioned that he was very surprised to see scouting and stats being so important to GGLeagues players. While he was hoping to see more community-building elements like the player cards, he agreed a strong foundation should be built out first to address key user needs. Their development team is planning to implement the less complex changes by the end of 2019, and the rest of our recommendations starting in early 2020.
We look forward to seeing metrics to track how these changes would affect user engagement and user retention from season to season.
Moving forward, we made the following recommendations to GGLeagues on how to further refine their platform:
We learned that users preferred the Discord platform for gaming-related communications, and they didn't engage with the existing GGLeagues messaging system. Additional testing can help determine if the discussion board can successfully replace Discord for certain functions.
Users responded well to achievement-tracking through a badge system. Usability testing can provide insight on how users might actually interact with badges, which would require the concept to be developed further.
We tested a pop-up modal that appears when users return to the website after they complete a match. We recommend acquiring feedback from users about this format, and learn what information is most important after a match.
Reflecting back on this project, my biggest takeaway was learning how to balance user needs with client and business objectives. While we needed to consider and advocate for our users, it was oftentimes vital to ensure that the client’s goals were not lost in the process. This wasn’t a matter of simply appeasing the client; at the end of the day, it was also our responsibility to consider the overarching strategic objectives as we designed the user experience.
I believe that by actively listening to clients and stakeholders, and maintaining a constant dialogue with them, we'd be less likely to forget the long-term vision of a product or brand– this balance between client and user is something I’m excited to continue learning about and refining in my future work.
Later on, I discovered an opportunity to further improve their website: I was able to scope and pitch a new project to win additional work with GGLeagues.
The goal of this project would be to increase conversion of new users through an improved marketing landing page, and continue building out their internal platform for existing users based on our recommendations.
During this 3-month project, I served as the Lead UX Designer with responsibilities in project management, UX and UI design work, and facilitation of meetings with the company founder and CTO.