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User Experience

UX and The New England Patriots

by Bill Kalpakoglou posted on January 31, 2017

Pats and UX

The Patriots are about to appear in an NFL-record 9th Super Bowl. They’ve won four out of the six they’ve appeared in under head coach Bill Belichick. If you’re a native New Englander and a Patriots fan like I am, it’s been a great ride. Having lived through years of their being the NFL’s laughing stock, the user experience of being a fan during the past 16 years has been one for the ages. But this didn’t just happen magically (not magic alone anyway) and as with any success there are some traits we can examine and apply to the UX of our websites and applications.

Introduced As a Team

There’s no question superstars of sports delight fans and sell merchandise but if they want to win championships, they need to be part of a greater whole. Michael Jordan didn’t win any rings, until they gave him a supporting cast. With the great teams of today, the supporting cast has become even more critical. Players have to be able to depend on everyone else around them and no egos should ruin chemistry. When the Patriots were introduced as a team in 2002, it echoed this changing sports climate and the team’s way of saying that the team as a whole matters more than any individual player.

We can apply this to our user experience because by definition it’s the whole experience we need to be assessing, and not just one ingredient, like UI or the visual design, and surely not any one part of those ingredients. When I was in an illustration class many years ago, I had a teacher who said, “don’t fall in love with any one part of your painting.” Great advice. If you’ve painted the most realistic, beautiful hands in the history of art, but they’re part of a flat, dull painting, it was all for nothing as far as your painting’s viewers are concerned. And visitors to your site won’t care that your search tool is fast and thorough, if the rest of your site is difficult to navigate, slow, or broken.

Next Man Up

Similarly, teams have realized that hedging your bets on just a star or two is a huge gamble, when the possibility of injury always looms in the background. Successful teams have to be able to adapt and turn to other players when something goes wrong. No one will argue that Tom Brady is the star of the team (he’s the best QB of all time), but when he was out for the first four games of the season, backup Jimmy Garoppolo stepped in and barely missed a beat. Then when he was injured, young third-stringer, Jacoby Brissett, stepped in and did admirably as well.

The web changes quickly and constantly. If browser updates break part of your site or if, through user-testing, you discover part of your site is confusing visitors, how agile are you in reacting? Imagine how much confidence you’d lose if your banking website has a bug that sits there for weeks or worse, is never addressed. You’ll find that, especially in a lot of larger companies, adaptive changes move at a snail’s pace because of things like budget constraints or required personnel approval. Successful companies recognize this way of working guarantees failure. To be successful you need to be constantly working to improve weak parts of your projects while looking critically at your successes.

Do Your Job

Over the past decade, the Patriots have let go of several talented players we fans thought would be team fixtures, and it would leave some of us scratching our heads. But we’d say “In Bill We Trust,” and sure enough they’d just continue winning. Occasionally we’d find out later that the player wasn’t following the playbook, and instead playing according to his own decisions because he thought he knew best. Of course, you want intelligent players that can make decisions on the fly, but repeatedly “going rogue” isn’t good for the rest of the team because other players expect their teammate to be somewhere specific. They depend on it. It’s the very reason the playbook exists. If one player is out of position and he has gambled wrong, the entire play can fall apart.

In our websites and applications, as we wireframe new functionality or re-visit old ones, we should make sure to keep them focused on their purpose. If you’re designing a weather app, it probably wouldn’t make sense to have it also give the user stock quotes or you’ll confuse your users. An extreme example, sure, but less obvious things like that happen all the time as we construct our complex projects. We, or one of our colleagues, wants us to add some tangential information to save the user clicks, but all too often all it does is take the focus off the intended function’s purpose. Keep your widgets and processes laser-focused on what they’re supposed to be providing to the user, while making sure they’re a valuable part of the whole. Don’t let your widget “players” try to do too much on their own by going rogue, because your “team” will suffer.

As always if you want a professional on the job, contact VisionSpark here for a free consultation about your project.

And finally, LET’S GO PATS! 🙂

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