9 year old Soccer: Design Strategy

User Experience Design is about asking the fundamental question: Why?  Why do people love the things they love and hate the things they hate and ignore most of the rest?  Why does the world act the way it does?

Once you understand Why something happens, you can design a strategy to maximize the positive outcomes.  A good UX advocate will find inspiration everywhere.  This weekend, I found it watching my 9 year old son play soccer.

Ethan’s team was seriously outclassed.  The opposing team was much better at passing, dribbling and kicking.  90% of all the game was played on our half of the field.  We won the game 4-0.  How is this possible?  Why did the better team lose?

Imagine a field with a 17 kids all clustered around one goal.  How likely would it be to get a clean shot?  It’s nearly impossible.  There are just too many kids and the field is kid-sized so they are too close together.  The ball just wobbles around for a while and then someone kicks it to the far end of the field.  Interestingly, this is where the magic happens.  When the ball is kicked into the open field, one of our kids and one of theirs chases after it.  Now, imagine half a field with 2 kids and a goalie.  The chance of a clean shot?  Pretty darn good.  Our team got about 10 balls on their side of the field and scored 4 times.  90% of the game was on the other side of the field as a cluster.

So if you were designing strategy for 9 year old soccer, you should consider the fact that too many people make it hard to shoot.  Have strategies to play the center of the field and streak 1-2 kids towards the goal.  And for heaven’s sake, make sure your defenders stay WAY back.  Don’t let them get bored and drift into the cluster.  Spread out!

UX Design is about the outcomes from the decisions we make.  The better team didn’t want to lose the game, but they did because of bad strategy.  Your product/service can lose to the competition in exactly the same way.  Ask the tough questions and make the tough, counter-intuitive decisions that will give you the win.

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