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Sports betting and the importance of user experience

Keith O'Loughlin - SVP Sportsbook and Platforms.

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” - Albert Einstein

That is the challenge for UX within sports betting. Albert Einstein’s quote also emphasises a key aspect of user experience (UX) design: the experience should feel simple, natural, not manufactured. When a user actively realises that a computer is behind the interaction, whether by programming fault, bad design choices, or even their own error, the UX becomes clunky in their eyes. Maintaining a relative ease in UX is crucial in any industry.

Sports betting is no different, but the industry also presents unique UX challenges; the sheer volume of content on display and the number of possible bets requires a logical, intuitive, and easy system. Bettors should never be more than a few clicks or taps from their goal, and designers must ensure that every aspect of the sports betting experience is easily accessible.

Given the industry’s distinct needs, sports betting is an ideal playing field for finding innovative and progressive UX technique. Good UX can set an otherwise equal competitor above the rest of the market by engaging punters with an intuitive interface and providing a seamless, easy betting experience. A typical sportsbook might not boast millions of products like an online retail giant, but the bets processed at large events like the Grand National tend to exceed the transaction numbers of tent pole online shopping days.

The dynamic nature of the space makes UX development a challenge, but it’s fun and a welcome challenge for those prepared to rise to it. Sports betting platforms don’t serve a static product catalogue; the offered items are constantly changing. The sporting calendar dictates the availability of certain bets, with events coming and going, schedules fluctuating, and games progressing. As such, a sportsbook’s UX must cover the globe 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. The UX of any sportsbook has to quickly adapt to these fluctuations while remaining simple and intuitive. On top of scheduling and full-time coverage, in-play betting presents a special challenge. Prices change in-game to reflect not only the performance on the sporting field, but also where the punters put their money.

The UX must be catered to those making their bets, but it also has to be obvious and noteworthy when something changes. At SG Digital, in our OpenBet™ sportsbook, we combat this challenge by providing a range of user-friendly products that allow operators to service their punters with seamless experiences. A simple example of this is visible push notifications received by punters when bets change or anything important in a game occurs. Another common problem in the UX world of any industry is the matter of varying experience levels. Developers of a sportsbook product need to account for new users, seasoned punters, and intermediates. Novice users, casual users, frequent users, and expert users each have unique needs, and the ability to serve each of them in the best possible way sets the best operators apart.

SG Digital plans for various scenarios to determine the best path forward for every user at that time. In the examples below, one simple action — placing a bet — may have different UX requirements to make the experience easy for the same player. It has to be about the experience, not just the transaction.

  • A punter places a bet hours before a football match in preparation for the game.
  • Seconds before the event starts, the punter might change their initial opinion based on starting line-ups, weather, or an unexpected player injury. The user will be in a much less relaxed state, likely eager to place a bet quickly before the match begins.
  • While the game is in full swing, the underdog scores an unexpected goal. The punter would need the fastest access to their bets in this scenario, given the tight timeline once a game begins.

Each of these scenarios is served best in a different way. Great UX will support the user with the right content and interactions at the right time. This efficiency in UX design will keep punters engaged with the platform. Getting UX design right can be a great point of differentiation for sportsbook operators. The challenge is finding the right mix of industry expertise and UX expertise to be able to solve industry-specific problems alongside long-held UX conundrums. By taking into account the unique capabilities and drawbacks of sportsbook technologies, providers can determine the best practices for their UX and create seamless, intuitive products for a diverse audience. Good UX makes the connection on behalf of the operator brand with the end customer. The better it is, the better the bond! That is where the game is won and lost.