Current Zcruit dashboard
Proposed dashboard for Zcruit
Timeline: 3 weeks
CHALLENGE: Zcruit was an existing website to allow collegiate recruiters to track their most opportune prospects. Aside from a “Z-score” (which used a proprietary algorithm to determine a player's likelihood of attending a certain school), Zcruit wasn’t offering much else to set them apart from other recruiting sites. Our goal was to start with usability testing and user research on the current tool in order to provide usability and interaction design recommendations that would give Zcruit the features it needed to be it’s own unique site.
PROCESS: Being completely new to the collegiate, football recruiting industry, my team spent a lot of time on user research and competitive analysis. Since Zcruit was an existing product, we were able to test the current state with users in order to better understand how Zcruit fits into their current workflow and which features they liked and didn’t like. We also got the names of some of Zcruits competitors during our user tests. After diving into competitive analysis, we determined that there were plenty of sites out there that provided recruiters with player information. Recruiters were also utilizing basic tools, such as excel and white-boarding, to organize the information that was most important to them. We determined that there was an opportunity for Zcruit to be both an information portal and a tool for recruiters so that they can get everything that they need in one place. As we moved into design, we realized that we were not going to be able to design the perfect site for every school. We decided to focus on mid level, mid sized schools since they seemed to put the most time and consideration into their recruiting efforts.
SOLUTION: By focusing heavily on the content strategy and hierarchy of Zcruit, we were able to redesign their Dashboard and Lists features in order to drastically cut down the time it takes recruiters to complete simple tasks. We also gave recruiters the ability to customize their searches through filters whenever possible so that they were getting only the information pertinent to their team. Since we were working with a more junior development team, my team passed along a feature implementation plan and some future recommendations for Zcruit as they continue to grow.
for more detail and visuals on this project, keep on reading below!
Zcruit is a website built for collegiate football recruiters that uses predictive analytics to track their most opportune prospects. It gives the user a number called a “Z-score” which signifies the likelihood of a prospect attending your school. We worked with Zcruit to take the current version of their product, which has been in existence for about 2 years, and create a unique experience to entice new customers.
In just three weeks, my team of two focused on the hierarchy and content strategy of their Dashboard and List features. This project taught me that no matter how elementary a product’s content may be, the way it’s displayed and organized is imperative to the user experience.
Understanding the Landscape
During our client kickoff meeting, Zcruit’s founders shared with us that they’re currently pulling data and player statistics from some of the top football statistic sites out there. Using that information and our initial assumptions about collegiate football recruiting, we came up with an initial problem statement with our clients to make sure that we were on the same page. We synthesized that collegiate football programs need a centralized presentation of potential recruits’ information so that they can identify prospects likely to commit and allocate their resources to building a strong recruiting class. We saw Zcruit as an opportunity for this centralized presentation and we spent the next 3 weeks researching and strategizing how to best display the data in order to optimize recruiters’ workflows.
Knowing very little about collegiate football recruiting, we relied heavily on our research to continue to define our direction. We dove right into competitive analysis in order to learn about the tools that collegiate recruiters are currently using to get their job done. We discovered that the main competitors were informational fan sites, such as 247Sports and ESPN, which give the user a lot of data but lack functionality. Zcruit is also competing against tools that allow users to manipulate the data, such as Hudl and even Excel Spreadsheets. We realized that there is a vacancy for a tool that gives the user both of these functionalities. We also learned that Twitter is a crucial tool to recruiters since that is often where they find out about new prospect offers.
We uncovered an opportunity for Zcruit in the collegiate football recruiting space. That opportunity was in a website that gave users the information they needed, as well as the opportunity to manipulate the data and make it their own
Since Zcruit’s product was in Beta, we were able to user test the current product with users during our interviews.
Interviewing and testing on site at Northwestern University allowed us to observe their fast paced working environment and current collaboration strategies. [Director of Recruiting at Northwestern University pictured above.]
In its early stages, Zcruit was giving users way too much information that wasn’t useful to them amidst a number of other issues. The “Discover” and “Dashboard” features looked almost identical and didn’t give the user any unique capabilities. Users had to go through an exhausting amount of steps just to track or untrack a player. Also, the current filter options were hard to find along the left side of the screen, which didn’t fit the users’ mental model of having it at the top like the other sites they were using. Lastly, aside from the “Z-score”, users could get the information being displayed almost anywhere. Clearly, Zcruit in its current state wasn’t offering many unique features to future customers.
From our user interviews, we concluded three main takeaways.
Empathizing with our users
Through synthesis of our research, one of our takeaways stood out to us, different programs have different needs; no two schools are alike. Knowing this, we felt that creating detailed personas would not be the best design decision for this project. Instead, determining who our target user groups were right now and who are target user groups were not helped us to narrow down our scope in order to design a product that would be beneficial.
Who we were not solving for: National Championship contenders
These Universities have large recruiting budgets. They don’t conduct as thorough research on prospects before making an offer, they target the top players in the country.
who we were solving for: Less dominant power 5 programs and smaller fbs programs
These Universities have less manpower and budget for recruiting. Therefore, they require more planning and research to find attainable prospects and are focusing on a regional versus national talent pool.
Defining the problem
Once we narrowed in on a group of specified users, we were able to more accurately define the problem we were solving for. We determined that college football recruiters are already able to view information on prospects through multiple portals. They need a connected tool to fit the needs of their unique recruiting program so that they can move quickly on their most attainable recruits.
It was clear through our research that a database with prospects and one proprietary number wasn’t going to be enough to enhance the experience and attract new customers. We needed to mold Zcruit’s current site into something that would address the unique challenges of smaller, less dominant football recruiting programs. In order to do so, we developed a set of principles that would guide our design decisions moving forward.
We needed to anticipate that some users may be on Zcruit for only moments at a time throughout their recruiting process. It was important for us to keep in mind that every program is different so we needed to give users flexibility and customization when interacting with Zcruit. Also, it’s crucial for the recruiting team to be on the same page at all times; Zcruit needs to keep everyone from the directors of recruiting to the coaches in mind and foster collaboration between all users.
Another factor we wanted to keep in mind when defining our direction were our technical limitations. Zcruit’s team consisted of only one jr. developer and in order to design something that would be beneficial to our client and their future users, we needed to make sure we weren’t reaching too far with our concepts.
Designing, Testing, and Iterating
We determined that the two features where we could make the most positive impacts on a recruiters’ workflow were the Dashboard feature and the Lists feature. While these weren’t necessarily new concepts for Zcruit, we did design and test new layouts and content for each.
We turned to sketching to test out some new layouts
We sketched out the two concepts for testing. I specifically built out the Dashboard screens. We were able to concept test with the one current user of Zcruit at Northwestern University and a couple of other recruiting analysts at smaller FBS programs. In testing for the Dashboard flow, our main goal was to determine the preferred layout for the “email content” and if including a twitter plug in on the Dashboard would be helpful. The “email content” is daily emails being sent out by the CEO of Zcruit with updates on prospects that a team is tracking.
During our user testing in our interviews, users mentioned that the email content was very helpful and they would like to easily have access to it at all times while on Zcruit. Also, since Twitter was mentioned as important to users, we wanted to test it out right on the Dashboard
I also had the idea to conduct a card sort exercise to determine the order of importance of the dashboard content.
The most important information to users included any updates regarding their offered or tracked players
During testing for the List flow, we wanted to determine if creating customized lists was important to recruiters. We also wanted to understand if it would be helpful to see not only a recruiter’s personal lists, but his/her program lists as well.
The current lists feature does not give users any customization, they can only create lists from filtered searches and they aren’t able to view program lists.
During our first round of concept testing, we gained a number of valuable insights which we used to converge into a single solution for Zcruit. Users want a wide range of editing tools so that they can organize their prospects in a way that is helpful to them. Also, going back to one of our design principles, ‘highlight the best, trash the rest’, users only want to see the information that’s relevant to them, nothing more. Lastly, there is an abundance of information that can be presented to a user, it was our job to evaluate which information was most useful and showcase that information first.
All in all, we needed to keep it fast and easy. Recruiters want to exert the least amount of effort while getting the information they need.
The final product
Users felt that the new design and functionality of Zcruit would prevent them from having to constantly flip between the multiple sites they're currently using. The time to complete simple tasks such as viewing newly added prospects, tracking or untracking players and adding players to a list was drastically decreased (see task flows below).
In our goal to increase efficiency for users, we walked through a task flow with our clients. We showed them the amount of steps it took to track a new player before our enhancements and after. Our proposed designs cut out almost half of the steps it currently takes to track a new player and even gave users the ability to add a player to a list in the same flow.
The task flow on the top shows the exhausting amount of steps it currently takes to track a player of interest. The task flow below shows how many steps it would take a user to track a player of interested with our proposed UX designs. A user is also able to add a player to a list at the same time which is not even possible on the current site
Final Handoff and next steps
Through testing, users confirmed their need for an informational portal that can be easily customized to fit the needs of their specific recruiting program. Though we weren’t technically adding any new data, our designs placed Zcruit right in the middle of an informational service and an analytical, organization tool. This gave users the ability to get the crucial prospect information they need while allowing them to make it their own and hone in on attainable recruits.
Since Zcruit is still in its very early life, we left our clients with some future recommendations:
1. Make Zcruit responsive – Users are on their smart devices when they’re on the go around campus or when they’re meeting in different offices. It’s important for Zcruit to have mobility so that users have the same functionality wherever they go.
Sample responsive screens we passed on to our client
2. Consider a digital recruiting board – Though recruiting boards exist in current products and on whiteboards in recruiter offices, Z-Score would be a welcomed addition to help track the likely recruiting class.
3. Give users "batch untrack" functionality – The ability to untrack multiple players at once. For example, the ability to untrack all players with Z-score below 5.0 or ability to untrack all players with offers from Alabama.
During this project, I learned how to keep my design within the scope of what the client’s resources could handle. As a designer, it’s easy to get caught up in my own head with far out ideas that would be nearly impossible for a one- person development team to implement. With the Zcruit team especially, it was important to keep in mind the technical limitations while designing. I learned how to use hierarchy and content strategy enhance the user experience of a current product and allow recruiters to get their job done easily and much more efficiently. Zcruit is currently implementing our recommendations in phases.