Kickoff: Football App for Novices

Kickoff: Football App for Novices

Kickoff: Football App for Novices

  • Role Student
  • Class Principles of Learning for Software Design, School of Education
  • Location University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • Skills Shadowing, Interviews, Literature Review, Card Sorting, Prototyping
  • Year Fall, 2016


The objective of Kickoff is to improve the social experience of game watching for people who are novices to football, and provide guidance about the rules, strategies, and technicalities of football to people who aspire to watch and engage with the sport at a real or fantasy level. We would like to develop an app which combines teaching and socialization. Both the user’s technical knowledge and socialization experience would get mutual promotion. For the technical module, we want people to develop a good understanding of essential terminologies and rules so that they are able to enjoy the game independently or in a group. For the social aspect, we want people to be able to get more involved in the football community with the information they have accessed in the technical module so that they are able to discuss games with others or participating in social activities that revolve around football watching.

Target Audience

There is a clear gap in the application space for true football beginners, and we believe that our target audience consists of people who have little to no experience with football but hope to be able to socially engage in watching and talking about football. This could range from users who have never seen or attended a football game to users who frequently interact with football in social situations but do not understand the mechanics of the game. To clarify, the target user is looking for a level of understanding that allows him or her to be able to watch or listen to a football game without feeling confused or disconnected from the social setting in which they are engaging with the sport and ultimately have an informed conversation about a game. Our target audience is not “serious” about football in that they are not looking to run a fantasy football team or coach a high school team.

User Research

We conducted interviews with experts who knew the game well and asked them to card sort rules and regulations in order of difficulty. In the process we discovered a threshold limit below which no understanding is possible. We went to live game broadcasts organised by different schools to understand the first context. We also went to the stadium as that was our second context. Finding were discussed in weekly meetings and in class.
1. Context affects user, for instance, during a live game on TV users don't want to be nuisance by asking doubts.
2. There is an essential kit of rules and vocabulary that one must know to understand the game.
3. Greater Control over Time like rewinding helps understanding.
4. Greater control over space for instance knowing which player is under the helmet helps.
5. International students need closed captions as audio commentary is fast
6. There is no offering for experts in other sports like soccer but novice to rugby or American Football.

User Research
  • Ethnographic Observation: Processions
    Ethnographic Observation: Processions
  • Ethnographic Observation: TV/Screen
    Ethnographic Observation: TV/Screen
  • Ethnographic Observation: Stadium
    Ethnographic Observation: Stadium
  • Interview

design diary
  • Cognitive Theory
    Cognitive Theory
  • Initial Concepts
    Initial Concepts
  • Context along Time
    Context along Time
  • Flow Concept
    Flow Concept
  • Gamecast Idea
    Gamecast Idea


Persona A: Emil

Emil recently moved to the United States to pursue a graduate degree at the University of Michigan. This is his first time in the United States and he has never seen an American football game prior to moving. Generally, he considers himself a sports fanatic. He grew up playing soccer and still plays occasionally. He also attends soccer matches on a semi-regular basis in his home country. As such, he has a deep understanding of the rules, mechanics, and strategies involved in a soccer match. He actively follows soccer matches that are relevant to him (i.e. a team he supports or within a league in which he supports a team) both via live stream and on Twitter to gather facts about the game. While Emil has found many students with whom he can watch and discuss soccer matches, he is eager to be a part of the football culture at UM. Out of his passion for both sports and UM, he wants to be able to understand what is happening during football games rather than just being a casual observer or choosing to exclude himself from football-related activities entirely. He has heard both his peers and professors play the role of “Monday morning quarterback” after UM games and he wants to be able to eventually engage in these conversations but first requires a basic understanding of the sport.

Emil’s learning goals

Be able to follow American football games in detail both on his own and during live games (whether at the stadium or on TV/via live stream). Be able to discuss the technicalities of the game with his peers and understand the commentary on social media.

Persona B: Holly

Holly is American and has grown up watching football with her friends and family. As part of a network that actively engages with football, she regularly watches games in social settings (i.e. at friends’ houses, at bars, etc.) and has attended a few live NFL games. She has even been part of a fantasy football league at work but admits that her brother orchestrates her team each week. She played lacrosse and basketball in high school but no longer participates in either sport. As the result of her experience with football and the parallels she is able to draw between football and the sports that she has played, she has a basic understanding of football games. She knows the basic language and rules of the game (i.e. touchdown, quarterback sack, and downs) but is self-aware of her knowledge gaps of the game including penalties and confusing plays. While Holly can actively watch and understand a football game, she is uncomfortable asking questions during game. She also feels like the people who would not get frustrated if she asked them questions during games also have gaps in their knowledge and wouldn’t be incredibly helpful. She wants to be able to feel comfortable watching games and engaging with her friends and family about the game in these situations.

Holly’s learning goals

Fill knowledge gaps with respect to the intermediate aspects of the game Gain confidence in her ability to understand the game so that she is able to intelligently discuss the game (and perhaps the performance of her fantasy team as well)


Scaffolded Learning

A learner may begin by using the essential kit to prepare for a live match. This kit contains the ‘must know’ rule and technical information to successfully comprehend a game. There is a guided path with only the first module within level 01 unlocked. In the explore section, a learner need not follow a predetermined path. The quiz section contains questions related to recently bookmarked concepts.

Scaffolded Learning

This screen depicts the touchdown tab highlighted within the scoring module. A learner may read a verbal explanation supplemented with a visual explanation (GIF).

Active Learning

A learner may choose to answer a quiz related to the same concept.

Scaffolded Learning

A learner may choose to watch a video with closed captions if the earlier GIF and Quiz did not suffice. This is especially useful to non native english speakers.


A learner may select a/multiple teams and championships to follow and read related news.

Vocabulary Buildup

Within the news article, technical terms and concepts are hyperlinked and upon click/tap, a brief explanation is provided adjacent to the news article.

Live Game Context

During a live game, this screen depicts a 2-dimensional simplified gamecast that provides visual and verbal description of each play with a timeline to rewind/forward.

Live Game Context

A learner may customise the gamecast with additional layers of information to understand a live game (notice the grey dropdown menu). A novice may require more information layers to assist in making sense of a game. If a concept, for instance, field goal is not understood it can looked up adjacent to the gamecast and bookmarked for actively creating a knowledge repository. Ideally this gamecast should be in full screen view mode except when a concept needs to be explored.


Once a concept is bookmarked, it goes into the recent bookmarks section. Bookmarks in recent section can only be starred or added to learned section and not deleted.

User Agency vs System Control

Only bookmarks that are starred or marked as learned can be deleted.

Concept Map

view original size



There is a clear gap in the application space for true football beginners, and As we think about moving Kickoff forward, we think it would be useful to think about how the app can work with smart TVs. We think it could be beneficial to users to be able to have the app and the TV communicate so that they are hearing the same commentary with the same timing, as opposed to using a gamecast that is currently not connected to the actual game broadcast. We think there is also potential for the app to work with other technologies. For instance, Kickoff could send notifications to a smart watch during games of a user’s choosing so that they don’t have to spend the game attached to their phones.

We also believe that this concept and technology could be fully incorporated into game broadcasts. Currently, announcers speak at a level that novices cannot understand. A network that broadcasts a game may have Kickoff technology on a sidebar of the program so that novices can understand what is taking place. They make also be able to use it in distinct channels. For instance, there could be a parallel drawn to a channel like ESPN RedZone. It is directed towards someone who is looking for very specific information (when teams will most likely score touchdowns). ESPN could similar have an ESPN Kickoff station that uses our technology and employs announcers who speak directly to novices. This would be beneficial for ESPN or similar networks, or perhaps the NFL, because it creates a new revenue stream and draws new viewers that it may not have been able to reach before.

Finally, when we have made progress on the development Kickoff for American football, we believe that there is a market for this type of technology for other sports. We think it is important to have proof of concept for football, in particular because there is such a large market in the United States between high school, college, and professional leagues. However, we do think there are other sports for which this model would work. In the United States, there is a similar unmet need for many popular sports. This could also be easily and well translated for soccer, which is incredibly popular on an international scale. Ultimately, we hope to see a version that is compatible with the Olympic Games as many of those sports and competitions tend to be less well-known and generally understood.