National Pro Grid League
When inventing a new sport from scratch, there are two big challenges: explaining the mechanics of the sport to the world, and then building an engaged fanbase. The National Pro Grid League (NPGL) kicked off their inaugural season in 2014, showcasing elite athletes racing head-to-head in two co-ed 14-person teams (7 women, 7 men) in a two hour match. Each match incorporated speed, skill, and strategy through a variety of weightlifting and body-weight movements. Every race within the match was always different, so NPGL needed to communicate the race format in a quick and easy to understand way, while simultaneously showing how the race's result determined which team won the overall match.
Design were executed and tested at live events, and helped the league to win venture funding, start franchises for the initial round of teams from across the US, and secure a television contract to broadcast matches on NBC Sports.
🏆 Finalist for IxDA15 Awards in the Engaging and People's Choice Categories
The website, scoreboard, and on-site experience were designed with an emphasis on making the sport easy to understand, and telling the athletes' unique and compelling stories. The design team worked in tight collaboration with a third-party developer team using Lean UX methodologies, developing quick-turnaround iterations of key interactions—as well as developing a longer-term framework and vision for the fan experience.
We performed some down-and-dirty user research at the league's combines — talking directly to fans helped us understand the core audience interested in the league, but also recognize some of the opportunities for helping expand the fanbase. We developed hypothesis about how best to connect with involved fans, and educate people newer to the sport. Later combines included practice matches, that allowed us to test those hypothesis by trying out initial design ideas in a realistic situation — then refine those designs with direct, regular feedback from fans.