Design your app to score big with sports fans

Scenario: A golf fanatic without Sky Sports wants to check the second round results from the WGC Accenture World Matchplay event.

Conveying sports scores, in particular golf, seems to have become something of a lottery recently. Last week was the first of the 2012 World Golf Championship (WGC) events: The Accenture World Matchplay. As a golf fan I needed to know what’s happening.

Without boring you with golf detail this event takes on a different format to that of regular tour events. Individuals play against each other head-to-head with the lowest score winning the hole. When someone reaches an unassailable position, say leading by 3 holes with only 2 left to play (3 & 2), then the match is over. That player progresses to the next round and the loser is sent packing.

I’ve found that the best way to keep up-to-date with live scoring is via the Professional Golfers Association of America Tour iPhone app. Not only does this app cover the

PGA Tour but also the European Tour and lesser known Nationwide Tour events. This app includes many positives for the golf fan:

  • The option to navigate between events.
  • Access to the FedEx cup standings.
  • Player search.
  • Last updated time with real time scoring.
  • Not to mention the tour report, media reaction and a social element.

Regular PGA tour events – Scoring presentation

Comprehensive it certainly is. During the regular events the app works well and displays a leaderboard in a fairly comprehensive manner. Clear options are provided to switch between tour events and there is the option to see the updated ‘FedExCup’ standings (points accumulated over the entire season with the winner walking away with $10M at the tour finale).

However, the first noticeable issue is that the headings are separated from the players totals by a ‘Full Leaderboard – *Player teed off on 10’ line (this is a non-clickable heading so its purpose is questionable). This makes associating the players with the column headers more difficult that it should be.

This can be worked out although even the hardened golf veteran may not initially know what the ‘Fav’ relates to as part of the header.

Further exploration reveals that by tapping the ‘+’ next to the player can add that individual into a ‘My Leaderboard’ section so only players of interest can be followed (perhaps for the purposes of fantasy golf leagues).

By simply swapping over the header and ‘Full leaderboard’ messages the association issues are removed and the app presentation becomes more effective . Incidentally, knowing that the player teed off on the 10th is inconsequential and rarely happens in the final round of a PGA Tour event. It ultimately, has little or no bearing on the outcome but may be beneficial to statisticians. The issue is that it appears that the prioritisation of content has not been fully considered.

Given the lack of real estate on a mobile device it is critical that content is presented in a logical order that meets the expectations of the target audience.

WGC Matchplay – Who won?

Returning to the matchplay event – Let’s focus on the Robert Karlsson vs. Lee Westwood match.  My initial reaction to this is that Karlsson won the match 3&2. What leads me to this conclusion is that the 3&2 is aligned with Karlsson’s name. This is re-enforced by Karlsson’s name being on top of the 2.

However, I checked a related site and found that it was in fact Lee Westwood who won 3&2. Perhaps the PGA Tour app was using a convention that I was not aware of. I therefore, checked the Laird vs. Manassero match.

Laird won that match 2&1 which the result format suggests. However, this is at odds with the convention used in the Karlsson vs. Westwood match.

Add to the mix the use of ‘Thru F’ meaning that match is finished (an American convention) and the picture is very confusing.

Finally, the golfer is prefixed with a ‘#number’ which relates to the golfers seeding within a particular quadrant in the wider draw eg. #1 = the number 1 seed in that section of the draw. There are obviously 4 quadrants each comprising 16 players.

Any further explanation of the draw complexities will leave the reader further confused and ultimately bored.

What is important however is that the presentation order for each pair of players do not seem to follow any convention or be consistent. For example, in tennis the highest seed is shown first or in football the home team is shown first.

The user is left to figure out the ordering principal at work here: Is the higher seed listed first? The winner? Are they alphabetically arranged?  No pattern emerges. The PGA tour app could learn from tennis and place the highest seed first and apply throughout.

There are a multitude of ways the winners and losers could have been represented to provide clarity. Perhaps a consistent use of colour, bolding or even a (W) next to the winners name would work. Conventions from the desktop web can be carried forward. The BBC use bolding to differentiate the golfer and importantly remove all doubt by including the word ‘beat’.


An app is an ‘at a glance’ service provided on the mobile platform. The PGA Tour app requires the user to double or even triple take in order to grasp the conventions used and interpret who won.

If the golf fan has to view a different resource to verify scores/standings then the app has not performed its function, the user base will likely reduce and advertising revenue potentially lowered long term.

Whilst the navigation around the app is straightforward the content presentation leaves a lot to be desired.

To remedy the issues with and further enhance the PGA Tour app a number of recommendations need to be considered:

  • Use conventions that are understood primarily in the golfing community but also as far as possible into the wider community.
  • Make the presentation consistent throughout the app.
  • Avoid local colloquialisms when conveying content ‘Thru F’.
  • Provide context to the bigger picture. In this case the full matchplay draw.

Using clear conventions, consistent presentation and providing context will ultimately benefit any app. Given that 2012 includes many major sporting events, including the Olympics, and that many will check the results via their mobile device it is worth getting results presentation right and ideally usability testing  the app prior to launch.

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