UX/UI – Designing a Rush Hour Experience for NBA Fans Part-1

1 March 2017 by Shivam Sahai No comments
UX/UI Rush Hour Fan Experience

User Experience designing is never easy, especially when we have to craft a rush hour experience. We often face situations that make us anxious, tense and restless. Such situations make our heart beat as if it were on steroids. We sweat, we freeze, losing our capacity to think rationally. Remember that subway train you missed, that 911 call you made as the person next to you collapsed? Those final 10 seconds of an NBA game that sends shivers?

All examples of what we call rush-hour moments. Such moments make us micro-focused on a task, dedicating most of our mental bandwidth to handle it. In short, we momentarily lose our capacity to multi-task. This raises an important question.

What are the implications of rush-hour moments on UX/UI designHow can research findings from Human Factors and HCI be applied to the design of such systems?

This blog is about a research based real-world case. It takes you through a journey of how research and practice came together to design a rush-hour experience for die-hard NBA fans.

The Context

For a die-hard fan, the sport is more than just watching a game. It is about self-esteem, living every moment based on how their teams are performing. For these fans, watching a game is more than just being a spectator. Studies have found that the spectating brain is also the playing brain. Psychologists have studied the intricacies of what goes within the mind of sports fan.
Watching a live game is about intense engagement, resulting in high emotional responses within the brain. A perfect example of a micro-focused, mentally-engrossed context.

The Design Challenge

The real-world design challenge was to sell food and beverages in an action-packed environment. Sports fans have to use a mobile app to place their orders while watching a live game in. Using the mobile app would require fans to multi-task while being engrossed in the game. Expecting fans to pull out mobile phones from their pockets, fire up the app, browse the pickup stands, scan the menu, decide on what to order, select items, check out, pay, wait for the orders, and pick the prepared order from pickup stands, was a tall order. This raised an interesting question.

How can we craft an experience that is minimal? An experience that is non-intrusive? An experience that will not let fans miss even a minute of the game? How can the task be designed considering the human cognitive limitations in a live arena?

The Ambience

Watching a live basketball game on TV is one thing. Witnessing it live in a stadium is quite another. Before we delve deeper into how research and practice came together to craft an enriching experience, it will be useful for us to highlight the problems and challenges in a live arena.

This will setup a strong context to evaluate design opportunities. Some of the critical aspects are listed below.

The Layout

NBA arenas are colossal in size. A single game can be attended by close to 20,000 fans. The seating would spread over three levels in the arena. Each level is enclosed by a surrounding corridor. These corridors house the concession stands. Additional facilities like restrooms, merchandise stores and customer service kiosks are also a part of these corridors. In short, the corridors are busy places.

Noise Levels

Watching a game is never a quiet affair. With fans cheering, hooting and applauding their teams, it is a noisy place to be in.

Crammed Aisles

The arena is jam-packed during a live NBA event. The super excited fans don’t leave much room to navigate the aisles easily.


The lighting in the arena is not uniform. Lighting could range from being the brightest near the court to the darkest at higher levels.

These are the physical attributes that influence the task at hand and then there are human limitations that impact the design. More on that in the second part of this blog which we’ll publish next week. Watch this space.

Download the Case Study: An Amazing Rush-hour Mobile App Experience for NBA Fans: User Experience Design

Shivam Sahai

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