Problem

As Battlefy, a Series A esports startup, we wanted to vertically integrate. Our current users were ultra-competitive players and we wanted to move upstream where there were a larger market of less competitive players who still wanted to be engaged with esports.

The user problem we wanted to solve was that it was hard to find good teammates to play competitive games with. We were going to start by solving this problem for Fortnite players.

Problem Discovery

We started by trying to eat our own dogfood and conducted user interviews on gamers throughout the office, it turned out though that after performing them inside the office we found they didn’t suffer from the problem as much as we’d hoped.

I thought back to the most successful problem interviews I’d had after doing 10 years of product design. When my problem interviews were successful, it was because I spotted first adopters who had suffered from a pain so great that they had cobbled together a piecemeal solution.

You find the piecemeal solution, you find the first adopters. So we looked on facebook groups, discord servers, and we found our first adopters.

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Solution

After conducting numerous JTBD interviews we identified the key problems being:

  1. It was a hassle to look for teammates to play with

  2. Even when teammates were found they were typically terrible

Knowing this, the product manager and I pieced together a solution. In order to align the team and get feedback I created a scrappy before & after user journey in Google Slides. We’d get feedback from the team & the market, iterate on it, and go back to them again.

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I used to spend all my time creating visual artifacts like user journeys, but as I grew I’ve realized that most of the time, 15 minutes spent in Google Slides is just as valuable as 3 days spent on a beautiful multi-colored user journey plotted out on a chart. In this case, the intent was to align the team, and so I found simple slides to be much more effective both from a communication perspective and also in terms of time saved.

Once the written slides journey made sense and people found it valuable, I layered higher and higher fidelity visual artifacts into the journey, using it as the central source of truth for the experience. I started with paper sketches, and after multiple rounds of feedback added more and more fidelity. This helped anchor everyone around the value we were ultimately adding to our users throughout the entirety of the project.

What we ended up with was an app that would find you your perfect teammate in seconds:

  1. It would machine learn your preferences over time, finding you better and better matches the more you used it.

  2. It would be incredibly quick and simple so you didn’t have to comb through lists of partners to find a good one, we would recommend one to you instead.

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Visual Design

For this particular project I also had to design the brand identity from scratch. I created 5 moodboards based on the value propositions of the product (quick & smart), aligned the stakeholders which included the CEO, and designed the visuals according to the aesthetic people gravitated towards. There probably should have been more consultation with the target market but the project was so incredibly risky as it was that I decided to spend the time de-risking other parts than the visuals.

Information Architecture

We decided we’d build a React Native app over a mobile website as the experience we felt would be less janky, and I looked at analogous experiences for inspiration. I ultimately based the IA around the value proposition - the fastest way to find the best gaming partner for competitive play.

I put a giant button on the home screen to keep the experience simple & obvious - then copied the instagram’s IA of swipe left for profile, swipe right for individual chats. Most of our users would be already familiar with this paradigm, so re-using it would lessen the onboarding cost as most of them would find it natural & intuitive.

The Home Screen. Emphasizing speed with the main CTA, and quality (smart) with all of the current matches and current players playing.

The Home Screen. Emphasizing speed with the main CTA, and quality (smart) with all of the current matches and current players playing.

If you swiped to the left you’d see your statistics and what qualities you play best with in a teammates.

If you swiped to the left you’d see your statistics and what qualities you play best with in a teammates.

If you swiped to the right, you’d get a chat so you could chat with the teammate you were matched with.

If you swiped to the right, you’d get a chat so you could chat with the teammate you were matched with.

Results

We shipped an MVP, and as with most MVPs, we had people who loved it and people who hated it. The team was a bit unfocused so I helped list out all of the problems we wanted to solve, our hypothesized impact of solving them, and identified the top items that would move the needle in the most meaningful way for us by ranking the impact to macro product goals. Ultimately that meant dropping support for Android so that we could further focus on doubling down on the value propositions we had for the iOS users.

After this focus, the subsequent iteration achieved Day 14 retention of 20% which was our original metric to hit.

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