After working at Telvida (my first job) for about a year, in 2019, the company began investing heavily in sports betting which turned out to be ActionBet.
Towards the end of that year, Telvida’s managing director was fully convinced that ActionBet could be a good project to be grown alongside the IT company.
A lot of preparation began with the new company such as recruitment, branding, and sharing office spaces.
I was assigned to work with the company since I could be useful with the branding while resources can be repurposed for other things such as core business infrastructures and so forth.
Before the end of that year, ActionBet was already in several important locations across the Lagos state and it was already garnering attention.
The brand identity of the company was already up. A lot of marketing verticals were created as points of contact while advertising the business to potential customers (click here to read more on that).
By 2020 when the COVID-19 lockdown began, there was a need to shift some business operations to the internet.
So a new website was developed upon the completion of the backend and core infrastructures.
I was tasked with the design of the website to be as comprehensive as it can be due to the market the company is targeting as well as an accompanying mobile application.
Although there weren’t enough resources to build both applications at once, a responsive web application was the first option while the conceptualization of a native mobile application became a secondary objective.
But since the point of this testimony is all about the mobile application, I’ll skip to the head 2021 when the option to build an actual mobile application where users can be able to easily stake their bet directly on either their Android or iOS-based devices.
The plan was to conduct a competitive market analysis based on the foundations and data we already have about the business prospects as well as potential customers since the point was to scale the business and reach a new height.
So as usual, I drew a plan in which I would conduct market research for mobile usage, the ins, and outs of sports betting as an industry in itself while coupling it with existing data and brand identity that was initially created for the company a year earlier.
The objective was clear. It was 2021 and many people were barely recovering from the devastating effects of the previous year’s COVID pandemic.
So whatever we do, it has to be encouraging enough that users would consider investing their hard-earned money into it.
I was the sole designer in the entire company… Well, it’s a startup.
And lucky enough for me, Telvida, the parent company I worked with didn’t have any project that required much of my input around that period. So I was able to focus the whole of my attention on the project.
Even though the major focus was on the MVP which would then be pitched to investors because we needed to showcase it to them to get more funds to scale the business operations.
Being the “lead” product designer, part of my tasks included user requirement gathering, designing user journeys, conducting interviews, and doing a competitive analysis of existing brands that we were trying to go up against.
I also worked with a team of front-end and back-end engineers and a project manager to oversee the project’s development.
We had a really short period to work because we had to present to the management to continue seeking investment for the business.
In fact, we needed to have the MVP released by March or April. So I knew I had a lot of work on my hands and I had to get to business immediately.
However, I left my role at the company by June of that same year in an attempt to seek a better opportunity elsewhere since the progression of the business wasn’t entirely in line with my goals especially what I had hoped for as a young person looking to further his career growth in the cooperate world.
NOTE: For privacy reasons, I will intentionally omit some core business plans and models to be used by the startup but focus on my part as the Product designer.
ActionBet in a nutshell
Sports betting is becoming a big part of every Nigerian’s daily activity. The point is to stake a bet on a favorite sports team against another.
You can predict who would win, who would lose, how many goals that would score in the match, who would score, who would get a yellow card (for soccer), and so forth.
The point was to design a simple application that can cater to all the complex moving parts of a sports betting application.
While there have been some core features already developed at the backend, more features would be designed and then developed for use by the software engineers.
ActionBet wanted to compete against industry leaders such as 1XBet, Bet9ja, SportyBet, BetKing, and so many more giants that exist in the industry.
So the essence of the application which would help separate it from the rest on the market is to be simple, less cluttered, and easy to navigate. This has been a big issue with other brands due to the innumerable moving parts of the application.
As stated earlier, one of the main reasons why I was asked to work on the project was due to my understanding of the business and its prospects as well as my prowess as a product designer.
Also, the Parent company was trying to be conservative in its spending so I was more of a lending hand to the sister company which required my service.
I was required to help create the experience and user interface of the application which is meant to go against existing big players in the over-competitive sports betting market.
That was challenging and very ambitious. I was really happy to be part of this even though I’ve had a lot of input from the beginning as far as the company is concerned in terms of its branding strategies and identity.
Being the primary designer meant that I was constantly pulled into meetings to discuss several pressing issues as well as to support developers with previous jobs that were done such as the ActionBet dashboard (that is another story in itself).
So my task regarding the application included Product Strategy, User Research, Interaction, Visual design, Prototyping & Testing, and Information Architecture.
The design would be cross-platform because again, the company is trying to be conservative with its spending.
I also needed to maintain the existing brand identity and consistency across the plethora of graphical content that I’ve made for the company. I’m talking about banners, flyers, images, fonts, and so forth.
My delivery date was supposed to be as soon as March ending or early April so that development can start by the end of April after reviews and further deliberations.
Some of the important things I worked on to realize this ambition to pass on the baton to the next developmental phase include the following:
- Customer Insights & Ideation: I worked with a team of smart engineers and a project manager to uncover insights and translate concepts into features to address customer behaviors and motivations.
- Experience Strategy & Vision: I created frameworks and prototypes to share the vision, design principles, and content strategy. This helped to evangelize ideas, gain alignment and drive decision-making for the project.
- Planning & Scope Definition: I defined the product with my project manager partners. I evangelized customer goals and balanced business goals, which were key to achieving a successful business and creating a brilliant product that truly solves problems. I prioritized and negotiated features for launch and beyond.
- Design Execution & Validation: I designed it on Android and iOS. I executed journeys, wireframes, prototypes, and design specs.
- Leadership: Inputs from senior executives and stakeholders helped with a lot of decision-making processes throughout the project design lifecycle.
The Challenges I faced
Convincing new and prospective users that ActionBet was a better option
At first, the notion of going up against the big players in the industry such as 1XBet was intimidating but I suck it up with the hope of finishing at the top with the design output.
There are just so many big and small sports betting platforms in Nigeria alone, not to talk of the entire world. Which is why standing out was extremely important.
Since the pandemic, most businesses have moved online and this is one of the key challenges I faced.
Considering the demographics of our prospective customers, conducting comprehensive user interviews and market research was quite a challenge.
The need to communicate in the simplest terms while passing my messages across during interviews as well as understanding the user’s perspective regarding the market as a whole was essentially important.
Another challenge was to evolve with customers, convince stakeholders why a decision was made, know where to put what, and generally create a process flow that guides the user itself with little input from the beginning to the end of the app’s ecosystem.
There were also plans to scale to other regions across the country. So I needed to understand how those regions approach gambling and sports betting especially in the context of cultural and religious biases.
Good, Fast, and Cheap
Collaboration was very essential during the design phase of the project.
There was a need to also speed things up which is why we utilized project management systems such as Trello to manage and assign tasks as well as track the progress of tasks with ease.
We also used Microsoft Teams for collaboration. Calls, and presentations were made via this method while communicating changes and ideas with key people about the project.
As the old saying goes, learn from the best. I looked around while collating my storyboard in order to see how other platforms were able to tackle design challenges while being able to still incorporate numerous features within the same application user interface.
With this move, things went faster and less absurd.
Coming out, I was able to simplify my task as follows: millions of Nigerians want to bet on their beloved sports team.
They want to be able to select numerous criteria when doing this. They also need to be able to place the bet and print their bet slip afterward.
So the plan was to acquire and manage a conceptual model that customers were familiar with and leverage the existing infrastructure to get to market sooner and cheaper.
This early architectural decision had a major impact on the quality of the customer experience we could both create and reconcile.
Chasing the Dragon
After understanding my stance as far as the project goes and finishing up with important baseline tasks, I had to proceed to the next phase of things by first breaking down each feature/module into series/phases.
The first was to write a comprehensive analysis of my findings ridden with user persona, user journey, and sitemap, then the low-fidelity design which helped me to craft out the design components that would be needed.
Being the lead product designer for the project, I decided to break down each of the features/modules into series starting with really comprehensive documentation ridden with the users’ persona, the site maps, and also the user-journey map.
This was approved faster than I’d expected and soon, we were able to proceed to the next stage of the project which was to actually create the design or Hi-Fi UI.
The main purpose of this was to present it as part of our pitching document to investors as an MVP considering the time constraint and the number of tasks being worked on by the small engineering team.
Remember I said features were split into different phases, this would also help the engineers to take one problem at a time before moving to the next.
This would help bridge the communication gap and understand certain aspects of the application.
Since I designed the corporate brand identity of the business, the creation of a working design system was really seamless and fast since we already have the majority of things we needed such as iconography, typography, color options, form fields, buttons, modals, and so forth.
So as each feature was completed, it gets pushed to the next phase on Trello and upon approval, developers start working on them.
Concurrently, I would design the next feature in the pipeline, whilst also working with my own platform engineering teams to execute the current feature through to completion.
“The combination of a fixed launch date and aggressive scope created an intense environment with many coordination and time challenges.”
Working backward from a fixed launch date, meant that design was subsumed into an engineering‐driven process.
Sign‐off milestones were driven by engineering estimates and time to create the right design was the time left over.
In order to meet up due to time constraints, we had to communicate even more and luckily, stakeholders and business executives including the company’s CEO John Doe (for the sake of privacy) were always on the ground to assist and help hasten approval processes by meeting with members of his own team.
As mentioned earlier, I was able to conduct comprehensive customer and market research which drove our planning phase.
Below are the key insights that defined the launch version of the product:
- The sports fan: The primary target is customers that want to stake their bet on their favorite teams against their opponents. Of course, they are able to stack as many stakes as possible on either one team or multiple teams across multiple games.
- Personalized betting experience: This was important in order to allow the end users to have a much more personalized experience on the platform which includes profile creation, saving their search history, bookmarking bets, wallet system, filing complaints about bets, and so forth.
- E-Wallet: Buy points or get points the more you use the platform which can be converted into a gift card that can be used on any platform that the brand has partnered with.
- The AI-Driven recommendation came due to the increasing need for AI integration into products and services to enhance user experience. This helped with most of the back-lifting based on the user’s profile: demographics, likes, and dislikes, hobbies, family history, earning capacity, and so forth.
Based on the market analysis, it wasn’t long before realizing that prospective customers fall into two main categories such as:
- Sports lovers who want to stake their bet, win, and probably return to the loop.
- An outsider who has heard about sports betting and wants to try it out but is not entirely familiar with sports as entertainment.
So it was very important to ensure that the product caters to these two categories of prospective customers even though the average sports fan is the main target.
Thorough market research was however required in order to come up with a user-centric profile that really addresses these two markets.
I tried to understand existing platforms such as 1XBet in order to see how users interact with their applications and rate their satisfaction.
I realized that the intuitiveness of their products was enticing thanks to the usage of bright colors and heavy banners across the different facets of their app UI.
This enticed sports lovers and outsiders alike into wanting to try things out so maybe they too can become sudden millionaires with minimal effort.
During my interview while crafting the user persona, I got responses such as the following:
- Ability to search for a game, team, sporting events, categories, and so forth.
- Ability to see bets based on a date based on the selected event category
- Ability to pick their bet options without necessarily leaving the page they are on in order to be able to add multiple options
- Ability to play bets online and offline.
The Product Vision
ActionBet’s aim is to revolutionize the sports betting market with a much more competitive offering paired with an advanced application.
So even though the offerings were promising to the users, there was a need to present them in the most efficient ways possible.
We focused on three key areas in order to get on with what we were trying to achieve in the first place.
The key focus we held on to was becoming the top-tier and the go-to place with the business plan that can place us right next to other bigger brands like 1XBet and Bet9ja among other well-established businesses in the industry.
We did not want to offer unnecessary bonuses like a general-purpose application.
We instead wanted users to know that there are good incentives for them when they use our platform.
Our customers expect and trust us to know them.
We envisioned the future of the sports betting service to be deeply personalized to customers so it can become part of their means of relating with their favorite sports team.
Hence the term I coined was “My team wins, I win. When my team loses, I still win”.
Designing the platform
Based on the collation of data from research conducted regarding the ActionBet mobile application UI, the wireframe was conceptualized and progressed to the Hi-fi design was basically coloring or adding aesthetics to the concept.
There are four tabs at the Footer of the application and it houses the critical components of the application.
The homepage is the second section in the Footer and it’s the landing page. It houses a lot of information about ongoing games, finished games, and future games all of which are categorized into different sections such as date, events, and sports type.
For a full oversight of a sport type, there’s a dedicated tab (first tab) where the user can go through the numerous list of different sports and then pick an event within the sports type in order to see games and matches relating to that event.
The reason for the arrangement was to emphasize the importance of both tabs. The point is that both tabs are literally home pages.
However, based on a user’s preset sports favorite upon onboarding, that’s what will mostly populate their homepage.
Even though they can then go through the category page in order to locate other types of sports and events that they want.
Also, remember that I mentioned the incorporation of an AI system that would side with suggestions based on numerous factors, this is why the homepage would be very dynamic and ridden with events and games that are tailored to the actual user.
There are in fact other pages such as “My Bet” which is a log to see the ongoing bet and past bets. In the ongoing bet, they can see live progress and they have the ability to make quick adjustments to their bet slip or even checkout if they’re fine with their current result without the need to hold on until all the games on that bet slip are over in order to determine how much they’ve won.
Modals were essential in order to reduce the number of pages users would go through before completing a task on the platform. This was very essential in order to lower the number of pages required to complete the simple task of staking a bet.
Up till now, the mobile app is still not hey developed despite everything that went into making it.
Priorities changed and the company wanted to manage its little resources.
The focus was then shifted back to the responsive web application as well as marketing the product to users first.
Another issue that happened was that the corporate CEO at Telvida left the company, ultimately leading to some structural issues.
Even though that didn’t have much effect on the sister company whose CEO was still on his job, the shift in priorities as well as my place in the organization became almost insignificant or obsolete.
This was why I had to move on to another company.
I was really saddened considering the fact that I don’t always move around.
I was definitely dedicated to the realization of the project but it apparently didn’t work out and the product was never fully-built.
One of the main things that kept me going in the organization was my relevance regarding my input on all products and services provided by the organization.
However, there was a sudden scramble in the path and I felt like I was obsolete.
I do not have any authority regarding what gets done or what makes it to the market but it seems the management didn’t find the project as amusing as it initially was. It was therefore moved to the back burner with no clear date for revision.
However, I had a great relationship with everyone during and after the project. It was just disappointing that things didn’t make it to production.
Even though we worked remotely, we were able to communicate efficiently thanks to Trello and Teams.
This gave me a better understanding of how to manage a team despite the distance.
I also learned how to conduct a user-based analysis, especially for a new company in a very competitive market.
It was very challenging but I was able to excel at the end. I took this knowledge with me and I applied it in many other future projects that I worked on.