Improving the ski racing experience with Coachable

Apr 24, 2019 | 8 minutes read

Coachable is a sports coaching platform. They help youth sports clubs to create thriving programs by improving athlete development, coach connection, and program transparency.

Problem

Coachable was started by Ben Weiler with the idea that the ski racing experience could be improved for athletes, coaches and parents. Having spent his teenage years skiing and his university years coaching on the weekends, he knew what was lacking and how it could be improved with the advancement in technology.

  1. Athletes don’t have the full awareness of how they are progressing and a clear understanding of their skill development.

  2. Coaches don’t have the time and tools to deliver personalized athlete feedback.

Being early stage, the Coachable team had a lot of good ideas and were looking for someone with product design experience to help them understand and design what the product could look like. Having completed discovery interviews with potential users, they had conceived a long list of features.

Coachable wanted someone to validate the research completed and create the initial user experience and interface design. I was ready for the challenge and eager to get involved.

Research

As a product designer, majority of my experience has been working with business productivity tools and designing interfaces for the other technologists. This was my first time designing for a niche user base such as the ski racing community and I dived into the preliminary research that was completed. This in depth review was very useful to determine how well the problem space had been framed and what further information was needed.

The team walked me through a typical day for coaches and the young athletes, so I could understand the different parts of the day that could be improved with Coachable.

Fleshing out the typical day of a athlete (student).
Listing out all the wants for each of the users (coaches, athletes, parents, administrators), the full value proposition of Coachable became a lot more concrete. Throughout multiple brainstorming sessions with the team, we were able to consolidate the product needs into categories and form the 3 main features that were necessary for the initial product.
Brainstorming with the team on how to capture user needs and prioritize them.
From the mesh of different ideas and a long list of potential features I started with, Coachable became a refined vision of 3 main things that ultimately work together to improve the athlete experience.
  1. Resource Library - a collection of skiing drills with video demonstrations to educate coaches/athlete on proper form and technique.
  2. Schedule Builder - Coaches use the resource library of drills to develop weekly practices that align with their annual plan and help the athletes learn the associated skills.
  3. Athlete Profile - using the data from the weekly practices, athletes would be able to see their skill development and personalized feedback collected through the season.
Mapping out how a coach would make an event.
The schedule builder was the first and most important workflow that needed to be completed. Once I mapped out how coaches would build schedule and create events, I was able to start thinking about how athletes would later interact with these events and what types of reports/analytics could be possible within the athlete profile.
Building the UI flow for athletes.
Ryan of Basecamp has a cool technique that I used to map out the UI flows. When you are just starting to flesh out the details, drawing out visual diagrams over and over again can get time consuming when the main purpose is to understand user interactions with the system. Thanks to Ryan’s method, I was able to quickly iterate through different flows and make changes on the fly.

There were instances where I would suggest ideas based on my other projects but it wasn’t very optimal to the nature of how ski coaches operate and how their day is structured. Coaches are spending most of their time on the ski hill and they are spending limited time with the athletes at the lodge. Having a human-centered design process is very helpful for these type of initiatives where the main audience might not be technoloogy-savvy. I was very open to feedback when I shared my ideas and listened attentively when coaches would tell me what frustrates them and the reality of their day. I knew I had to make the layout straightforward and very accommodating to process multiple athletes in a short amount of time.

“Human-centered design is all about building a deep empathy with the people you’re designing for” -IDEO

Prototyping and Testing

Sketching out the user experience based on the flows.

Transitioning all these paper sketches into digital wireframes, I gradually added more detail until I had a rough prototype to test with potential users. I’ve talked more extensively about the biggest pitfalls when it comes to user testing in my Strava post, one of the takeaways being that preparation is key to successful user testing. Making sure all the hotspots are working properly, having the user tasks defined and the script written out go a long way to make the user testing go smoothly.

Refinements made to the event summary through rounds of user testing.

Testing it with different types of people (ski coaches, football coaches, sports administrators, etc.), I was able to get lots of meaningful feedback for the next version of the product. Some of the most constructive feedback I received was about the initial user experience when they first log in and what they see. Some of the questions that came out of testing were, what is meaningful enough to show as the homepage? Is it seeing past event summaries or upcoming events? How many events should be shown at once?

Making it easier to learn about new drills and add them to the schedule.

The schedule builder is where majority of the interaction happens. Observing users attempt to make a schedule and modify it provided many insights. Questions such as, is it important to show previous schedules? How important are the drill details? Should it be prefilled or start from a blank state?

Before: all events in one list.
After: upcoming events in their own section at the top.

Initially, I had all events in one list on the left-side similar to how email clients display your emails. This lead to confusion for some coaches and athletes during user testing as they couldn’t easily figure out whether the event was over or upcoming.

Depending on the day of the week, athletes would be more interested in viewing details on an upcoming event (practice) or reviewing a past event and looking at the event summary if it’s mid-week. Using this feedback, I moved upcoming events to their own section to give them prominence and seperate them from past events.

Throughout rounds of testing, it was immensely helpful to get feedback from people in different roles. Some coaches have been involved with the team from early on and understand the future product vision. Their advice and feedback was very constructive to help shape the product through the various iterations. In contrast, testing it with coaches and athletes who had never heard of Coachable beforehand helped uncover holes and discover flaws that we hadn’t discovered before.

User testing - the most important thing you can do during the product development.

Solution

After working with the Coachable team over a couple of months, I was able to provide them with completed designs for both the coach and athlete experience during the regular season.

Before handing them over, I decided to make them mobile-friendly. Athletes will be using their phones primarily to complete their check ins and many coaches are using tablets so I wanted to keep the layout consistent. Making the extra push to make it responsive meant I could focus on one set of designs rather than maintaining a second set for the mobile version. Eventually as the product matures, there may be need for two separate designs, but keeping it simple and spending more time showing it to users is more important at this stage.

Making the layout of the upcoming events similar to the schedule builder layout.

One of the bigger changes was updating the layout of the upcoming/live events page to match the layout of the schedule builder. Coaches could now view an upcoming event and when they want to make changes, the layout stays similar and switches to editing mode elegantly.

Making it easier for a coach to complete attendance and athlete check ins.

When an event is over, the athletes just want to change and get in their parents car as quick as possible. The old layout had the attendance checklist compressed in the 3rd column and coaches did not understand how it should be used. Discussing what tasks a coach can perform with the team, I added all 3 potential actions they can take and moved it lower to take the full width.

Results

With a professional prototype, the Coachable team is able to build out the product with a clear vision of how the users will interact with it. In addition, they have a visual aid to show potential clients/investors and help explain their story as they continue working on product development.

Ben Weiler, Founder of Coachable

  When we met Himesh, we did not know what to put in the 'about' section. We had some validation a digital sports journal could provide value worth paying for, but nothing to bank on. He helped develop and refine our UX process to find what coaches and athletes actually wanted and needed. Ultimately Himesh enabled us gain the insights to build a valuable product.

Walkthrough of an event from start to end for a coach (GIF).