This is a short story about ActionBet, a new sports betting platform that I helped to build from its infancy to its current state. The project which took about 6 months before the launch of the MVP was aimed at reshaping the sports betting industry in Nigeria.
This was a project I was tasked to assist with by my manager when we had fewer projects at hand back in 2019.
I was initially requested to help out with the UX process and other areas where I can utilize my expertise to ensure the success of the project for the sister company of the company I work for.
I spent a large amount of time between the Fall of 2019 and most parts of 2020 (especially the pandemic/lock-down period) on the project – working closely with the founder and a small team of engineers, and marketers to build the vision which quickly spiraled into a full-blown business that required my attention in full.
Product Designer, Marketer
Product Strategy, User Research, Interaction, Visual design, Prototyping & Testing, Information Architecture, and Marketing
Project Period: Sept 2019 – 2021
Joining any startup is never a step that is taken lightly, especially when it requires weekends and working out of hours to bootstrap things together, and demonstrates genuine leadership.
The most essential element of leadership is having a vision for how to make a difference, to make a change for the better or decide where to go.
— Adam Pond, Founder of Sealadder
(former Head of Engineering at Medical Director)
Considering the growing number of interests in sports betting and online gambling in the country, it’s apparent that the market is open to anyone with the big buck and willing the sacrifice to become the next big thing such as 1XBet or Bet9ja and the likes.
But that is not really the case considering the over-saturation of the industry and the need to stand out in order to pull any significant number of customers.
With the likes of Bet9ja and BetKing dominating the market and foreign brands like 1XBet, there is a need to create the best strategy that has the best chance of helping an entirely new brand grow from scratch.
And that is what I did with ActionBet. Being the sole product designer of the founding team, I became a small part of the founding team which includes the founder, two marketers, an engineer who works remotely in a faraway country, and myself.
As with any start-up, each member of the team is required to wear multiple hats and be flexible enough to handle multiple roles.
Even though my roles were extended, I led the product design, and digital branding and supported the marketing while also maintaining the UX and UI strategy for the team alongside the founder.
I’ve been extremely fortunate to have been a part of the journey so far and have continued to grow tremendously with my time at ActionBet, some key achievements of which I have listed below:
- Turned an idea into a product. The ability to transform an idea into something much more tangible is a process that is both exhilarating and rewarding.
- I worked closely with the founder and team to shape the product vision and strategy of ActionBet. While the product is still in its infancy, being able to see how much we have grown as a team and startup is truly sensational.
- Juggled many different hats. Working in an early-stage startup is not easy. I dedicated hours of my spare time and weekends conducting research, sketching, testing, and designing the product alongside coordinating events, building marketing verticals, creating pitch deck presentations, and filling out grant applications for the business and marketing side of the business.
- Pitched to investors and crowds. I developed skills in not only designing our pitches but also presenting them to investors and large crowds.
Understanding the problem
As a young product designer at the sister company of ActionBet, what was supposed to just be an assisted product soon grow into a full-fledged business that required full dedication and careful nurturing.
With so many sports betting in Nigeria, it was a difficult task to take upon ourselves however, jumping into an industry that you’re unaware of can be disastrous which is why it was obligatory to carry out solid market research in order to understand what we’re in for and how we can captivate our target audience efficiently.
We decided to focus on the younger audience who are interested in making extra bucks while showcasing their love for their football clubs across Europe and other regions of the world.
One obvious thing is that Nigerians love football and they are really passionate about it and the fact that European football especially the top four the English premier league, Spanish La Liga, Italian Serie A, and German Bundesliga has enormous fans across the country most of which are young adults, we needed to come up with the right strategy that matches up with their energy in every way possible.
We decided to focus on the software industry – specifically, students interested in software engineering as it is a relatively fast-growing industry where information can become quickly outdated and constant learning is required to keep up to date with emerging trends.
One question that kept lingering on my mind was “Why would anyone leave their trusted platform to come to ours after so many years?”
The reality is that majority of those that use existing sports betting platforms have some challenges and some unresolved issues which affect their experience with the existing brands they are customers of and that is why there is a need to fill those loopholes and ensure our potential customers have the best service which differentiates us from the rest on the market.
- The chicken and egg cycle. Many existing sports betting platforms do not stay true to their promises which leaves many of their customers in a vicious cycle of chicken and egg where they are unable to enjoy the reliable experience that they can count on anytime.
- Relatability. There is a massive distance between customers and these big corporations behind the sports betting platforms they are on and that distance affects trust because obviously, there is no proper figure they can relate to, and the fact that these brands rely on expensive celebrities to reach their audiences just isn’t the entire solution.
- The attitude of recruiters and employers. Some agents in the industry lack the technical knowledge and ability to assess a customer and onboard them to the platform easily.
- Lack of streamlined recruitment process. There are no streamlined betting agents application processes in the industry which make it not-so-trustworthy since anyone can basically apply and with minimal criteria can get approved. This affects the quality of service they can chunk out to their customers which in turn affects the overall brand image in its entirety.
- Culture fit and gender bias. Since many parts of Nigeria are very conservative with the “Gender role” ideology, things such as women participating in sports betting are still being frowned upon and the male-dominated customers make it hard for other females who are just passionate sports lovers to participate and make money in turn.
Based on our research of the market, it was easy to recognize there were three key user types that our product tried to solve problems for however, we decided to focus on Persona 1 due to their needs being much greater and it was easier to conduct an interview for them via a traditional outreach and survey.
Defining the problem statement
After gathering the findings from the research, I worked with the team to define the problem statement.
Many sports fans and football lovers are frustrated with reaching their full potential as well as trusting many of the existing sports betting platforms because they have little visibility over the important aspect of their business that they lack, what needs to be done in order to cater for the wants of their customers and how well they’re tracking towards their goals.
The product vision
As a product, we wanted to position ourselves as a trustworthy place for anyone to stake their bet and make money while also enjoying the process with 3 key focus areas:
- Make money staking on their favorite teams. We want to help individuals stake their bets on their favorite teams as easily as possible and with as little as possible while also offering them the proper return which is worth their initial investment.
- Giving incentives: We want to provide individuals with advice on what they need to do in order to achieve their goals after staking their bet as well as guiding them through the process and how they can maximize their profit at the end of it all.
- Ease of access to anyone. Working with statistics and understanding that many Nigerians are below the poverty level, many of the youths we’re targeting are fresh out of school or still at the entry to mid-level in their careers or fall within the low to mid-income level, while there are so many inadequate socio-economic infrastructures such as electricity, we needed to ensure that our platform is a safe haven where they can count on to make money and enjoy the process.
In addition to being a Product designer, I was also responsible for the digital marketing and full-blown branding side where I created pitch decks and innumerable banners, presentations and so much more in order to illustrate the concept of our product and the value that it provides to our potential users.
I created the designs, put together the prototypes, the banners, and the contents, and recorded and edited a few videos to demonstrate our product vision to investors and target users at pitch events and at investor meetings.
Defining the MVP
I conducted workshops and sketching sessions with the team to map out the user flow and come up with a storyboard to capture the MVP.
We identified the following key features:
- Goal definition. Allow users to set a career goal and specify the level that they want to get to in that profession.
- List of recommendations. Receive a plan of courses, events, blogs, podcasts, etc. that you can do to work towards addressing any skill gaps in your knowledge.
- Connecting with providers. Curate or import a list of your activity history from existing providers such as Codecademy, Coursera, Khanacademy, Github, Stack Overflow, etc.
- This allows your activities to be synchronized automatically, reducing the need to remember tracking everything that you’ve done.
- Tracking of development. View your progress over time to see how you are tracking towards your goal.
It is also worth noting that there were technical constraints that had to be taken into consideration as a learning machine algorithm was not an easy feat for the recommendations page.
The proposed short-term solution was to provide a semi-automated list of activities based on past, present, and near-future events across the platform which will help guide the customer’s decisions.
User testing was an iterative process that was conducted at every milestone of the project to identify the biggest pain points in the current version. Once feedback was gathered, I would revisit the prototypes and test them again.
For the brand, I wanted to create a refreshing, minimalist, and clean UI that conveyed trustworthiness and progression for future-oriented individuals.
Considering the innumerable number of information to be displayed on the landing page, there is a need to understand how to arrange things in a manner of relevance.
Sign up page
A simple sign-up that lets the users come onboard with ease or sign in to their existing account via a pop-up login form.
We ask users to enter important details relating to their accounts as well as their personal info which is their credit/debit card that gets encrypted in the cloud.
Browse different options Logged in or not, a customer is able to navigate through an array of sports betting options at the top bar of the website where they can pick the type of stake they want to make such as sports betting, casino bets, animal sports (horse race, dog race) and virtual games, etc.
Working with developer
I worked closely with the primary software engineers in order to translate the vision into a usable digital product for the MVP.
I scoped out tickets for the front-end engineers with user stories and product requirements.
I also encouraged the team to look into using a third-party component library to quicken the implementation process and spend less time worrying about the component interactions since starting from scratch entirely can be a time-consuming process.
As part of the future vision, I created a site map of the platform to help engineers understand how the overall site architecture worked. The main areas were segmented as follows:
- Stage 1 – Landing page: This is basically what the end-user sees first detailing everything about a series of matches and highlights about past sporting events which can guide their judgment.
- Stage 2 – Onboarding: Join the platform by filling out a simple form with a couple of personal information such as credit/debit cards for ease of transaction.
- Stage 3 – Profile and Account setup: Set up your basic account and view a profile with an initial deposit which allows the “first-time” user to gain some incentives for joining the platform.
- Stage 4 – Betting: Staking of bets can be done with ease by basically collating a number of matches and getting their betting codes with which they can stake their bet either virtually online or at physical locations.
- Transactions: Paying or getting paid can all be taken care of directly with the click of a few buttons directly on the website.
One of the biggest challenges I had with the software engineers were translating the exact vision into a software product, for example, the exact location where a button is supposed to be, the size of a layout, or the color option of a particular part of the template.
Results and takeaways
Working in an early-stage startup was an extremely steep learning curve. It was an eye-opening experience that taught me a lot about being lean and knowing when and where to focus your energy and efforts.
Some key takeaways from this project are:
- Focus on building an MVP. In a startup, there is only so much time and effort that you can invest (especially when you’re working full time!) so it’s important to focus on the features that can deliver the highest value for your users.
- Don’t worry too much about the detail. Earlier in my journey, I made the mistake of worrying about the look of the UI and would spend time tweaking and retweaking.
- Taking a step back and reassessing the user flows helped me to reprioritize the UX.
- Focus on the problem. At the end of the day, it is your user’s pains that you will be solving so keep that in front of your mind as it’s easy to lose sight of this when you’re bogged down in the day-to-day.