Developing an Online Sports Platform: Best Practices and Design Examples

“Developing an Online Sports Platform: Best Practices and Design Examples”

Although some might say that the internet isn’t of much help to sports (sitting in front of the screen and being active are quite the opposites, aren’t they?), we would disagree and call this a misconception. Over the last couple of years, SteelKiwi has developed a number of sports-related products – both applications and websites – that, in one way or another, promote an active and healthy lifestyle.

You might wonder how people come to develop digital products to promote physical activity instead of, you know, just building a gym or something. We think there are a couple of explanations for this trend.

To begin with, let’s look at a graph of sports participation by generation (from 2017) prepared by the US Council of Physical Activity.

We can see that fitness and outdoor sports are the most popular activities for all four generations, fitness sports being the most preferable for Millenials, Gen Z, and Baby Boomers. When looking at the winter sports category, keep in mind that these are seasonal, and hence fewer people are able to partake in them than might want to.

The next graph, also from the Physical Activity Council, allows us to observe fluctuations in sports participation for the period from 2011 to 2016.

In 2016, most sports saw an increase in participation rates. Given the appreciation of physical activity across all four generations, we could assume that this trend will continue.

So people want to be healthy and exercise. But they might not have an easy way to do so.

In the US, only about one in five houses have parks within a half mile, and about the same proportion of people have a fitness or recreation center within this distance. In contrast, nine in ten American adults have access to the internet at home.

You see? People’s willingness to exercise isn’t the issue here – their opportunity to exercise is, and the internet could be a great answer. In our own experience, you can develop many successful sports-related IT products including workout streaming platforms and websites for gyms and personal trainers.

SteelKiwi’s hands-on experience with sports websites

For instance, you could invest in a website like Your Living-room Trainer, which is a platform for connecting clients and fitness trainers so they can have online classes together.

If you look at the product’s structure, it has two main interfaces: For Trainers and For Trainees. Trainers can create profiles and upload pictures, certificates, certifications, and credentials. Trainees can also create profiles and fill out personal information to help them find the trainer that suits them best.

Having found a trainer, users can then schedule a class. Classes take place via online video chat. Each chat is limited to one hour. Participants can choose to leave early, but cannot exceed the limit. Twenty minutes prior to the scheduled class time, both trainers and trainees receive a notification.

After a class, trainees can review their trainer and have three days to ask for a refund (the decision on granting which is made by website administrators).

YLT helps you exercise from home via online training. But there are other types of sports apps as well. Take Snow Sensei, for instance, which helps people find snow sports instructors for Japanese winter resorts.

This project is also divided into two interfaces – one for clients and one for instructors – which work similarly to the interfaces in Your Living-room Trainer.

The Snow Sensei website offers schedule-sensitive search: when looking for a trainer, you only see those with compatible schedules. You can book and pay for a trainer as much as one month in advance; however, trainers only get paid three days after a class happens so you have time to file any complaints and get a refund.

Snow Sensei also has a notification system to make sure that clients and instructors don’t forget about their scheduled appointments, which is especially useful given how far in advance you can schedule sessions.

Of course, these are just some ideas for your inspiration. Next, we’ll offer some other suggestions for a sports-related IT product: preparation, structure, design, and features to include, with examples and explanations along the way.

Preparing for development

Before getting into the full-blown development you really want to sit down and think carefully about what exactly you want to accomplish. Sports-related IT products tend to focus on a specific sport and cater to a specific audience.

SteelKiwi Advice: There’s no one-size-fits-all approach.

Although we could just assume that you already have the idea figured out, it’s never wrong to double check. After all, a project catered to bodybuilders should look very different from one for yogis, shouldn’t it?

We encourage you to look at our suggestions and pick the ones you think would work best. This is the most creative stage – just mix and match until you find something that truly clicks with the image you have in mind.

General stuff

Any project developed from scratch starts off with a wireframe. Below, you can see an animation of the Your Living Room Trainer booking process.

First, users pick their type of training as well as the day and time. Then, they proceed to enter their credit card information and pay for the session. You can see how this process is a succession of steps, each coming logically as a result of the previous. This type of design is very good when you want to get users not only to explore but also to take a specific action, be it booking a training session or buying a product. The user experience is simple and intuitive: important elements are highlighted, information is clearly presented, and everything is designed to help and not to distract or mislead.

Zumba is a sign-in/sign-up screen concept for a project catered to Zumba, which is a type of dancing exercise popular among women. A page like this could be used for either a physical Zumba gym or for an online Zumba streaming platform.

You can clearly see that this design was created for a very specific audience, which is probably the smartest way to go when designing a sports-oriented product. As Zumba tends to be more popular among women than among men, this design concept features a woman and a playful “Hello Gorgeous!” invitation. The color scheme is bright yet soft, featuring hues of purple, pink, blue, and light green. This combination is pleasant to look at, and this website would be a pleasure to use.

Overall, the design is rather minimalistic, featuring only some little details to balance things out – which makes it trendy, easy to maintain, and comfortable. Actually, all minimalist websites are like this. If you want to learn more about the specifics of designing and developing a minimalist website, we invite you to read our article exploring the minimalist approach in IT.

Let’s sum the design, shall we?

  1. Know your target audience. This advice is relevant to the development of any IT product. You really, really want to know the people who are going to use your product so that every addition or removal of elements is done to meet their specific needs.
  2. Go simple in terms of UX. Complexity isn’t favored much when it comes to IT development. You want your website to be informative yet easy to navigate.

Structuring your idea

We strongly advise that you have separate interfaces for each user role. This way you can keep your features divided comfortably and avoid confusion.

In this section, we’ll offer you two categories of features: for trainers and for trainees. Now, this doesn’t mean that your project has to have all these features. Rather, you can take a look at these features and get a sense for what you might want to include.

Features for trainers

Remember: trainers’ profiles are how they present themselves and attract customers. Your goal is to make this as easy as possible.

  1. Creating a profile. In this space, trainers should be able to fill out the information about the services they offer and add credentials, pictures, videos, and more. Profiles should help clients get to know their potential instructors.
  2. Information about services and specifications. Letting trainers give detailed descriptions of their services is a great way to help them attract the trainees they're looking for and to help customers find the trainer they want.
  3. Credentials. A professional trainer should be educated, whether that means holding a formal diploma or a more specialized certificate. You should help trainers showcase their expertise by letting them add credentials and making those credentials easily accessible to clients.
  4. Notifications. The sharpest memory is always worse than the simplest notification. For better client-trainer interactions, add a notification system to inform that a session has been booked, to remind about booked sessions, and for anything else that people wouldn’t want to forget when using your platform.
  5. Client testimonials. There’s no better way to prove a trainer’s professionalism than testimonials from their clients. Adding a page with customer reviews makes things clearer for both platform customers and administrators, as the latter can exclude instructors who do their job poorly.
  6. Progress pictures of customers. Written client reviews are better when there are pictures to support them. Allow trainers to add pictures showing their clients’ progress over time (with permission, of course). This way, other customers can know that a trainer isn’t just likeable but also succeeds at what they do.
  7. Videos. These videos could be anything from trainers telling about themselves or showing some of their exercise sessions to giving instructions on how to do movements properly. It doesn’t really matter what the videos are about. Just give trainers the ability to add videos and they’ll know what to do.
  8. Articles. Writing articles and performing studies is a way to prove that a trainer isn’t just strong but also has the theoretical background to support their work with science. Alternatively, these articles could be nutrition or exercise advice, which would also be useful for many customers and show that the trainer takes their job seriously.
  9. Linked social media accounts. Allow customers to find trainers via social media so that their profiles have a wider reach.
  10. Easy and bright CTA. Adding a “book a session” call to action button directly on trainers’ profiles adds to the platform’s user-friendliness.

Features for trainees

  1. Profiles. Customer profiles allow trainees to present themselves by adding a short bio, pictures, and goals. This information helps trainers form an understanding of their body type and what approach to take in training them.
  2. Bio. A simple form (age, gender, activity rate, eating habits, chronic diseases, etc.) can help trainers get an understanding of who they’re going to work with and can also help trainees track their progress and make changes along the way.
  3. Communication channels. Trainees should have a way of getting in touch with their trainer. By adding a text, video or audio chat, you're improving trainer-trainee communication, and increasing users' trust in your platform.
  4. Ideal body weight calculators. These are a great way to keep track of health, and, if kept as a personal record, to track progress and make adjustments.
  5. Community. Online peer networks have been proven to motivate people to exercise more.
  6. Calendars. This would be a comfortable way to store all appointments in one place, especially if the trainee makes many appointments in advance.
  7. Journal. Making journal entries is a way of keeping track of progress. For those of your customers who don’t particularly enjoy keeping a paper journal, an online journal could be a great place to make notes on their path to getting strong and healthy.
  8. Notifications. These are a great way to remind trainees about upcoming sessions, learn that a session has been cancelled, or receive other important platform news and updates.
  9. Communication channels. Trainees should have a way of getting in touch with their trainer. By adding a text, video or audio chat, you're improving trainer-trainee communication, and increasing users' trust in your platform.

Conclusion

Fitness-oriented appointment scheduling platforms are an area that hasn’t seen much activity yet. The idea is great, however, and it responds well to customer needs. Plus, these types of platforms are relatively easy to implement. All it takes is the desire to build it. Think about these ideas, fiddle with your concept on paper, and figure out if this is something you want to invest your time, money, and passion in.

Regardless of your conclusion, we’re here to listen to your ideas and help. Just contact one of our sales representatives and start working on the project you have in mind.