Overcoming online gambling design challenges
07 December 2018
The online gambling industry has come a long way in terms of adopting new technologies and expanding ways of connecting with their audience. Despite this, it’s still behind the leading brands outside of gaming when it comes to optimising UX and UI, and moving forward with the latest design trends.
The gaming industry has a lot of potential for change and innovation, and providing a great experience for users is a crucial factor. As a designer, I still see many challenges in creating online gambling products.
Gambling apps and websites are traditionally full of games, promotions, adverts and more to encourage customers to register and play. It can be challenging for designers to find some logic in this and to make sure all these features are visually appealing and engaging. In addition, online gambling is a highly regulated industry, so designers must meet very specific guidelines for the end product to be accepted and released. These include data protection notifications, timers to track how long the user has spent playing, responsible gambling options, extensive registration forms and more. These relatively small, but key elements can all affect the creative process and require clever placement on each page to create the right balance between an attractive design whilst adhering to industry standards.
There’s a lack of venturing outside the norm within the industry in terms of innovation. Whether it’s a sports betting product or a casino website, it tends to look similar, as well as offering the same features and functionalities.
There’s also a lot of repetition or ‘me-tooism’ across the industry. For example, whenever one operator launches a successful new feature or a product, such as Cash Out, many others follow suit to keep up. This means, that innovation in gaming is quite limited or slow, and companies tend to use the tried and tested solutions instead of driving change themselves.
This can be a real problem for operators in terms of customer acquisition and retention. It will always be a challenge to retain brand loyalty. However, if there is no real frontrunner offering something completely new, customers will continue to chase better promotions, offers and odds from multiple brands instead of sticking to just one or two.
Displaying gaming content on a single page or a small screen can be quite a challenge. As designers, we must find a way to display lots of content and data without overcrowding areas of a site to allow users to explore and quickly find what they’re looking for. We have to overcome this by starting from a fresh perspective. This means venturing outside of gaming. It’s still important to see what the competition is offering, but there are plenty of fresh new ideas used in other sectors too.
Taking inspiration from other well known brands that customers interact with daily is a great place to start. Looking at top brands like Netflix, BBC iPlayer and Spotify could offer new ideas for online gambling products. These brands showcase content in a very visual and eye-catching way and are also extremely simple and easy to use.
Acquisition and retention
Encouraging customers to join an operator (acquisition) is one of the most important parts of the entire journey. The registration process can be time consuming, uninteresting, frustrating and often, there is no justification as to why customers are asked to enter so many personal details upfront. If the form doesn’t offer a straightforward way to completion, users could easily abandon it and move on to the next operator.
In order to acquire customers successfully, designers need to ensure there is a clear call to action on every page of the form, as well as including the UX best practices to facilitate this process. For example, displaying clear validation within each entry field will help users understand if the entered information is correct, they can proceed to the next stage. Providing a clear explanation of what this data will be used for and why it is needed will also reassure customers. This is particularly important in light of the recent GDPR and regulatory changes. All gambling companies need specific information from their customers to make sure they’re of the right age and their identity is verified. It’s important to be as transparent as possible when asking them to fill in such a lengthy form. As long as they’re aware, it will be much easier to get them onboard.
One of the biggest design challenges is being able to meet all the requirements of multiple stakeholders. There are a number of departments us, designers need to communicate with, including customer service, CRM, marketing, product managers, compliance and senior management. All of these have specific demands for a gambling product which need to be considered during the design phase.
To be able to manage all of this, it’s important to base any decisions on factual information and/or best practice. Gut feeling simply isn’t strong enough. Looking at industry statistics, performance analytics and customer data will help to create a better picture objectively for the final design. This way, designers can challenge stakeholders with factual evidence to gain their trust and approval.
Industry standards will always influence our design choices, however, this is an exciting time for the gaming industry to innovate and reinvent features that haven’t changed over the years. Looking for inspiration outside of the gaming industry could be exactly what’s needed. This doesn’t mean changing everything completely, as we don’t want to frustrate or confuse customers. But starting with smaller enhancements will lead to happy customers and a potential to increase revenue, which makes everyone happy at the end of the day.