GameOn, the social app for sports fans, recently received $1.5 million from Joe Montana (and others) and is continuing to make a splash on the app market. We’ve written about GameOn on Examiner before, but we had the chance to ask Kalin Stanojev, founder of GameOn, some questions about their app. We talk about the future of the app and Kalin gives some tips to budding designers on how the manage and maintain a smooth, easy-to-use app. Keep reading below for the interview!
Josiah Motley: Hi there, thanks for talking with us, care to introduce yourself and your role at GameOn?
Kalin Stanojev: My name is Kalin Stanojev and I am Founder and CPO at GameOn Technology. In addition to managing product development at GameOn, I’m also our lead UX/UI designer and resident Gator fan.
JM: What inspired the creation of GameOn?
KS: Myself, Alex and Nate (my co-founders) are huge sports fans. We weren’t always in same location, but we’d keep in touch with each other through sports. We realized in a single Saturday we would bounce between Twitter, Facebook, SportsCenter, TV, WhatsApp, email and group text threads just to stay up to date with both our friends and the events of the day. The constant was always our conversations– and we really wanted a way to bring all this disparate content (news, videos, images, scores, updates etc) directly to them. When we couldn’t find a product out there that was doing this, we figured we might be onto something.
JM: If you had to describe GameOn in just a couple of sentences, what would you say?
KS: It’s fun. GameOn extends the experience of enjoying a game together to the mobile device in a way I haven’t found anywhere else. We allow you to create group chats (“huddles”) with friends around the teams and events you normally follow together. Related news, scores and highlights are dropped directly into the chat in real-time so you can keep up with your friends and common sports interests all in one place.
JM: GameOn is smooth, intuitive app, would you credit some of that to your background in Computer Science and Fine Arts?
KS: Absolutely. Having a technical understanding of how things are built goes a long way in product development. Creating a great experience requires a lot of back and forth between design and implementation; my being able to speak both languages and contribute has helped immensely.
JM: When designing an app, such as GameOn, what are some of the things you look for to improve usability for the end user?
KS: Clarity of messaging is key. It’s important to keep things simple and use layout, color, and scale to point users in the right direction. There is a lot of cross over between GameOn and other messaging platforms so it is important to play up people’s familiarity with those as we introduced new usage patterns.
JM: What were some of the obstacles designing Gameon?
KS: While GameOn has a lot of similarities with other messaging platforms and news aggregators, it really is a new approach to socializing around content.
Differentiating the product from those while keeping the experience recognizable enough for users to take the leap with us was something we worked a lot on. Messaging has been around quite a while and really hasn’t evolved that much over time. Finding the right places to enhance such a familiar and established interaction model is always tough but the UX/UI challenge there is something I have personally had a lot of fun with.
JM: Do you have any tips for others out there who are aspiring mobile designers?
KS: Yes, a couple!
– Simplicity rules and everything on screen should have a purpose. Always treat the product as a whole and ask yourself if the feature you are working on adds to the core holistically. It if doesn’t make sense in wires then it probably won’t make sense just because you colored it in.
– Know when to step away for a bit and take a break. I solve a lot of design problems when I’m away from the computer and being active, sometimes it’s just a change of scenery that makes something click.
– Be humble and always open to others’ feedback; great ideas come from everywhere and there is often nothing better than a fresh pair of eyes.
– Always stay up to date on trends, try new apps and be a critic. It’s key to stay fresh and experiment but always make sure an animation, design element etc enhances the overall experience and isn’t there just because it’s cool. Gimmicky approaches often detract from the product if not purposeful and perfectly executed.
I’ll always be a student. Never stop learning from the people and world around you, because you can always improve.
JM: Thanks for that! Now, back to the app. Huddles seems to be one of the driving points behind the app, can you tell us a bit more about it, from a design perspective?
KS: Huddles are the core feature of the app. The goal was to create a social experience that fused relevant content and messaging into something addictively engaging. To do this it really needs to be fun and continue to spur conversation all the time. We have found the delivering of content directly in between messages in real-time goes a long way in that regard. If a piece of content isn’t interesting to the group it will quickly get moved out of the way.
From a UX/UI perspective we did a lot to try and keep the experience feeling ephemeral and in-the-moment. The header of a huddle always displays the upcoming game you are following and the color palette of those teams extends subtly throughout the UI. This makes each huddle feel unique, dynamic, and tied intimately to the content. The ordering of messages, flowing top down from the header, is also meant to reinforce the idea that new content is coming in all the time. We want users to have a shared experience, even when they can’t be in the same location, and the combination of giving context to the conversation with the header and a sense that everyone is consuming the same content together drove a lot of our design decisions.
We also love stickers and they are a big part of what makes huddles fun and irreverent. We designed the sticker wheel to reflect the way users hold their phones and wanted it to be fun to use. We spend a lot of time brainstorming sticker ideas and think our personality really comes through there.
JM: For those of us who aren’t interesting in trash talking our friends and discussing the game, GameOn also acts a bit like SportsCenter with highlights and what not, right?
KS: There are a number of ways to keep track with the world of sports in GameOn without social interaction, “The Five” being a great example. GameOn delivers the top five stories of the day in bite-size pieces so it’s easy to stay up-to-date with little effort. You can easily dive into the stories but we’ve presented the headlines in a way that users should only need a minute or two to feel like they haven’t missed a beat. GameOn also provides scores and schedules from most major leagues around the world, making sure it is easy to bubble your favorite teams to the top.
Public Huddles are a new feature we’ve rolled out which are open to everyone. Notable athletes host them, follow their favorite teams, and provide exclusive content directly to the huddle. It’s an easy way to follow along passively, let others provide the banter and enjoy from the sideline.
JM: Anything exciting coming to GameOn in the near future?
KS: As mentioned, we recently introduced Public Huddles hosted by athletes and celebrities, and we plan to expand this feature in a number of ways. Broadening the focus to include the lifestyle around sports is a big part of where we’re headed– and we’re especially excited about the personalities that are getting involved.
We are also actively working on expanding the types of content users can follow, as well as the role stickers play in the experience. We f-ing love stickers and will be dramatically expanding our offering there. We are actively collaborating on content with a number of recognizable figures, so keep an eye out.
JM: Thanks for taking the time to answer some of our questions, anything you’d like to close with?
KS: Download GameOn and give it a try. And Go Gators!
We’d like to thank Kalin for taking the time to answer some of our questions. GameOn is available for both Android and iOS.