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Padel & Friends

The goal of this project was to make Padel more accessible and known by racket players, by creating a convenient mobile app that allows you to book any registered court across the city of Ottawa, and eventually in other cities in Canada!

Padel, a rapidly growing racquet sport, is gaining popularity in Ottawa, offering a unique and engaging outdoor activity. However, potential players often face difficulties in discovering padel facilities and booking courts in the city. There’s a lack of a comprehensive mobile app that caters to the needs of both padel enthusiasts and newcomers, which results in inefficiencies and missed opportunities in the growing padel community.

I conducted participatory user interviews with 10 individuals in my company who played or were interested in sports, to gauge their interest, as well as identify what their existing pain points were today.

Goal: Bringing Padel to Ottawa

This project aims to address the challenges faced by the Ottawa padel community by designing and developing a mobile app that serves as a one-stop platform for users to discover padel facilities, access relevant information, check court availability, and seamlessly book courts. The app’s primary focus is to enhance user experience by promoting padel engagement, facilitating easy bookings, improving community communication, and providing resources for newcomers, ultimately contributing to the growth and sustainability of padel in Ottawa.¬†

NorCloud application, showing Roles and Permissions screen

The Process

1. Discovery and User Engagement

  • Initial Exploration: The project began with an earnest commitment to understanding the problem space. To accomplish this, I proactively initiated discovery activities, making the most of the available time.
  • User Interviews: I conducted participatory interviews with approximately 10 individuals from diverse backgrounds, including colleagues, sports players, and those less inclined toward sports. I also engaged with racket sport players.
  • Exploring Recreation: Through a series of carefully crafted questions, I sought to uncover the steps people take to initiate recreational games. Additionally, I seized this opportunity to assess interest in the emerging Padel sport.

2. Requirements Gathering and Learning

  • Comprehensive Understanding: In the absence of significant stakeholder presence, my team and I embarked on a thorough and extensive requirements gathering phase.
  • Translating Insights: We diligently extracted and comprehended the essence of the initial project request, converting these insights into actionable requirements.

3. Concept Ideation and Feature Development

  • Feature Brainstorming: Following the establishment of a robust requirements list, I delved into the creative process of generating concepts for the required features.
  • Comprehensive Feature Set: These features spanned across diverse functions, including mobile user sign-up/login, booking time slots, facility information access, order management, and administrative capabilities for facility managers. These administrators could configure courts, time slots, assign timeframes, set prices, and durations.

4. Ongoing Refinement and UI Development

  • Dynamic Project Evolution: During implementation, and given the absence of a fixed project timeline, there was a substantial degree of fluidity and adaptability, leading to extended discussions and debates about the MVP requirements.
  • Simultaneous UI Development: While these discussions were ongoing, a skin was developed for the mobile app, which was then applied across both the web admin app and the mobile application, streamlining the project’s visual identity.

5. Continued Progress

  • Towards MVP Release: The project is continuing its development, with the MVP slated for release by the end of the year, following the completion of user acceptance testing.
  • Post-MVP Feedback Gathering: Upon MVP release, the plan is to organize and conduct continued research to gather user feedback and insights on the application’s usage.
Showing NorCloud application, the action history timeline

After some discovery work was done, low fidelity wireframes were created to form a proof of concept, and to learn to understand better ways we could allow users freely book time slots at different courts around Ottawa.

Current state of affairs

Upon completing some research, including surveys and interviews within the constraints of available time, some insights were uncovered:

  • Friendship as a Catalyst:¬†individuals were more inclined to explore and engage in a new sport if they had friends or acquaintances who were willing to participate alongside them. The presence of a social network played a pivotal role in encouraging sports exploration.
  • Pre-Formed Sports Communities: there is existence of pre-established sports groups and communities. Many individuals were part of these groups, engaging in specific sports activities with their peers, which formed an integral part of their recreational lives.
  • Passion for Sports: expression in a genuine passion for sports and an eagerness to connect with new individuals who shared their love for various sports. They were enthusiastic about expanding their circle and engaging in their favored athletic activities.
  • Pressing Court Availability Concerns: there is difficulty in securing available courts for their chosen sports. This challenge was underscored by the urgency to book courts at specific dates, times, and locations, indicating a critical need for streamlined solutions to facilitate court reservations.

While I’m understanding that there are resources available out there that allow for online booking of sports (city-run recreational facilities, etc.), it looks as though having a convenient mobile application tailored to work with a virtual court system around different areas of the city (and more to come) would be a big benefit to the recreational sports communities.

 

As mentioned, we had to accompany the app with an administrative component, which was built for web browsers on desktop. Administrative users for the MVP were pre-configured to be assigned to specific facilities. They can see high-level booking and order statistics, as well as manage the bookings and time slot schedules.

Admin users are able to view orders, which contain one or more time slot bookings for any given court in the facility that they administer.

Court information is available as a detailed view, where the administrator can view and edit the basic court details such as its description, some properties such as the court type (singles or doubles), and the name. The user can also see existing time slots and their statuses, as well as create new ones or manage an existing schedule for any given day.

While many edge cases were surfaced, the main issue we ran into was whether or not to allow users to modify time slots when they were already booked, or were in the process of being booked. Because facility admins need the flexibility to take a court offline for any emergency reason, we decided to allow administrators to cancel bookings, notifying users on the mobile side of changes and refunds as a result.

Working with development limitations

After learning about the client’s ask and understanding the complexity of the features to be developed, we had to scale down the MVP so that the developers were confident to build a complete application within a reasonable timeline.

Originally the client asked for a multi-player ranking system that involved all players registered on the application to be allowed to play with and against each other (all tracked within the system).

But for an MVP we were already required to design and build two separate systems (one for handling administrative tasks of creating and managing courts, schedules and orders, and the mobile app for players to book). Our main application was simplified to a court booking system that could be configured and managed by administrators of different facilities.

 

High fidelity concepts of both the web and mobile app were created for the demo to our main stakeholder. These are the main landing screens upon login, showing a dashboard, popular facilities, and upcoming bookings for mobile users/players.

Starting from scratch

After just being hired into the company, I was brought into the Padel & Friends project to assist with establishing a baseline user flow and low fidelity wireframes for the MVP.

In this project I had the opportunity to spearhead the brainstorming sessions and discussions that lead to the requirements we use today for our guide. Due to the lack of external stakeholder (client) presence, we had to make the executive decisions on what features and functionalities could be best suited for the MVP.

The most complex flow for the project was booking and checkout for the mobile users (Padel players). The player should be allowed to select time slots from different days and different locations if they so choose. At the same time, administrative users who set up the time slot schedules and facility/court details need to know when time slots are getting booked by users on the mobile end. The entire booking system was created from scratch due to the nuanced need to schedule the time slot visibility, as well as allow for customization of the time slot durations and pricing