Taking a retrospective look at the Jersey NatWest Island Games 2015
Undertaking the organisation of a global event like the Island Games is a daunting task. Organisers need to consider travel guidance, accommodation (for athletes, crew and supporters), venues, health & safety and publicity. Unsurprisingly, Quadra has taken a particular interest in the role of digital technologies and sport marketing strategies in this year's games. In this blog (with the benefit of hindsight) I’ll offer my analysis of the games and suggest improvements for future local events.
Before I get started, I want to ensure that no organisers are offended in the making of this blog post. My aim is to praise the games’ many successes and outline some potential improvements for digital aspects of the games, publicity campaigns and supporter interaction. (Please note that my suggestions may not have been feasible with the games budget and time frame).
As an avid follower of basketball, I was excited for the Island Games to be hosted here in Jersey. I was looking forward to my role officiating basketball and watching other sports as a spectator. In the lead up to the games I was on the look out for news and information, I saw a Facebook page and a Twitter account that utilised the #Jersey2015 hashtag encouraging supporter interaction in the lead up to, and throughout, the games. I also checked out the website for basketball news, timetables and results.
So what could have been improved?
1) A Smart Phone & Tablet Application
This is number one on my list for two reasons, firstly because (as you are probably sick of hearing) the increase in users consuming digital content through smartphones and tablets is growing at an alarming rate. The games were spread out over numerous venues, meaning that the percentage of users searching for timetables, venue information, transport links and schedules while on the go was always destined to be high.
Secondly, because an app could facilitate and support the majority of my other recommendations. An app is a perfect platform for a centralised resource of information, a ‘one stop shop’ for all things Island Games XVI.
2) A centralised calendar and fixture list
I haven’t reviewed the schedule for all sports, but as an example, the Basketball schedule was laid out in a relatively simple table structure, split by day. I am not currently aware of an overall schedule for the games, which could have included the opening and closing ceremonies, medal presentations and other non-fixture based events.
I can only assume that the games separated all events by sport and used PDF format for distribution of schedules due to time or budget restraints. PDF’s are particularly awkward to work with on handheld devices as most operating systems don’t feature file manager applications or inbuilt PDF readers like their desktop counterparts. It was likely that many users download the PDF itself, followed by a suitable app to open the PDF proceeding to zoom in and out to read the content. This content could just as easily have been created in markup and rendered by the user’s browser instead of downloading a document.
The format of the fixtures and other events could have been merged into one and displayed on a single calendar interface. Understandably, with a large number of events, this could be overwhelming for users, but I believe through a combination of usability-focused design and the following techniques, a clean interface listed all events centrally could have been created:
- The use of colours and icons to represent different sports and event types.
- Multiple views (such as week, day, hour) providing increasingly detailed information once filtered
- On click/touch pop-up modals containing more detailed information on a given event
- The ability to filter by sport(s), venue(s), event type and date/time
A calendar of events could have worked hand in hand with functionality for event attendance and reminders through either a custom feature such as ‘Pin to My Calendar’, Google calendar or Eventbrite integration. I certainly would have attended fixtures of other sports if had known what was scheduled in the areas close to me. A map integration providing directions and nearby transport links based on the user’s current location (assuming they have location services enabled on their device) would have also been useful.
3) Crowdsourcing for photographic and video based media
To a degree, Facebook and Twitter could have been (and possibly was) used to crowdsource some of the imagery and video content captured during the games. Attendees should have been encouraged to post content and been contacted by account admins for their permission to use the content for official galleries.
This basic form of crowdsourcing could have been taken further by providing a standalone interface allowing users to either upload their content retrospectively or, if this feature were provided as part of an app, capture live content there and then using the camera on their handheld devices.
The biggest potential issue with this is the process of moderating and categorising user generated content. The upload process could include some mandatory tagging of the content such as date and time taken, sport(s), venue(s), Island(s) and competitor(s), automating a large portion of categorization. Capturing detailed information about the content provider could have reduced the need for moderation, employing software-based content moderation tools and implementing a low tolerance strike based blocking method.
Free broadcasting tools such as Twitter’s live streaming app Periscope could also have been promoted to stream live video content of event coverage throughout.
I think we can all agree that the Games were a great success; we had excellent weather, a fantastic atmosphere and winning wasn’t too bad either! Jersey can’t be expected to compete with larger international events; we simply don’t have the budget, but hopefully these suggestions inspire upcoming local events to get creative. We have set a high standard for future Island Games and I hope that other islands continue to push the boundaries of digital when hosting.