Researching the competition
A trap you can easily fall into when performing competitive analysis is looking at a competitor's solution to the problem and thinking “Okay, so I should try to do it like that”. If you see something that you feel works as well as many positive reviews in regards to it, it’s natural to think implementing it in your own creation is the best solution. The issue though, is that that line of thinking goes against the core of design. In his article on competitive analysis, Caio Braga lays out many different reasons why this is the case, with the biggest to me being this
You are not creating a competitive advantage. By just following the competition, you don’t have a foundation to evolve your work. You are not creating a competitive advantage for your business. The version you see on a competitor website was probably designed six months ago. They are likely working on an improved iteration for their goals by now. When your version is live, it will have been a year since the competitor designed theirs. And the world might have just changed.
The purpose in creating an app should be how it can be used differently from what’s already there. If you’re just creating the same solution in a different style, the app loses much of its sense of purpose.
My own competitive analysis
In regards to scorekeeping apps though, there’s not a great slew of competition. There’s almost nothing like the app I’m trying to make and even expanding my research to any type of scorekeeping app, the competition is still limited. With this in mind, I structured my analysis to the user reviews, taking what they appeared to like and dislike in regards to the app and seeing how that would impact my own.
For example, in the apps I analyzed, much of the focus was on little league or softball games. For these games, it gave people who couldn’t watch their kids games due to distance or health reasons a chance to stay involved in it. My app won’t focus on little league, rather it could work for any baseball game, but it gives me an example in how scorekeeping can go beyond a personal factor and instead foster a sense of community.
Beyond that, I also noticed in these reviews that the apps could be confusing for some. For someone who’s used to technology like myself, I personally didn’t have too much trouble, but it made me realize the vast majority of people who would like to use an app like this may be on the older side. With that in mind, it’s essential that however I design this app, it must be user friendly for this group.
The next step: User Interviews
With a greater understanding of what the alternatives are for my app, I could now move on to user research. I feel most understand the importance of user research, but it may be underestimated how important it truly is. The user is the core of your app, if they’re not happy with it, the app is a failure. This means the influence the user’s view has on your application is vast, with this graphic from Arin Bhowmick’s article on user research showing a good example
With this in mind, I tried to make sure my user research was both dense and diverse. With the current status of the world and having to remain indoors, this was more difficult than usual, but I was able to get three different candidates, all with different mindsets and views on scorekeeping.
The interview Process
Before the interviews, I wrote out questions to ask so I would have a basis for how the interview would go. I didn’t try to stay extremely rigid to these questions and was willing to let the conversation divulge in different paths, but I wanted to make sure I had a basis and wasn’t just winging it. For my first interview, I decided to interview my dad over the phone. Someone like my dad is what’d I’d say is probably the most stereotypical user for my app. He’s liked scorekeeping for a while and would appreciate a different way to do it. This interview went as I expected for the most part, though the experiences he recalled scorekeeping with his own father gave me an even clearer understanding of how a sense of community can be born from this.
For my second candidate, I chose to interview one of my future roommates. I conducted this one over zoom as he’s more technologically adept than my father and this gave me the chance to better analyze things such as facial reactions and the like. This candidate was another somewhat expected user for my app, as he was familiar with scorekeeping as well. He also gave me a look into someone who views scorekeeping more as a personal hobby than anything.
Before my third interview, I soon realized though that these questions wouldn’t work for my third candidate. He wasn’t nearly as familiar with scorekeeping, but I wanted to interview him as he showed a desire to learn it, which I feel would be a less common subset of my audience for this app. With this in my mind though, I realized I had to change up the questions which turned out to be a benefit. This interview may have been the most helpful, as the candidate was very open to giving their own ideas for this app and it helped me look at it in a very different perspective.