According to a recent article I read, there are over 5,000 people employed in the UK online gambling sector today. Judging by my recent experiences, few of them have ‘user experience’ in their job title. What amazed me was how most of the sites I looked at were clearly not focused upon the novice gambler experience. Maybe they work seamlessly for a seasoned gambler, but for a ‘newbie’ like me, it was so painful that I gave up in the end.
Betting on the next Chelsea manager
Before this weekend there’s been a lot of debate among fellow Chelsea fans over whether Avram Grant will still be Chelsea manager next season. So much so, that I began to feel pretty strongly about the whole thing and in a debate I was challenged to put my money where my mouth was. So that’s what I decided to do. The idea of going online to place a bet felt a lot less daunting than walking into a betting shop, so I started working my way through a few of the more well known gambling sites. Before long I found myself very confused.
Most, if not all the websites I looked at have no ability to search, which I found distressing as they assumed that I knew exactly what I was looking for and where to find it. Finding the Football or Soccer sections seemed to be a struggle and, even when I did, I found nothing that would allow me to bet on the next Chelsea manager. Overwhelmed by the bombardment of ads, promotions and betting options, I struggled to find a betting site that would guide a new user to make clear decisions. I found that I could bet on almost any competition I liked that was happening now or in the immediate future. I could even bet on who would win the Premiership next season, but there was absolutely nothing on future manager predictions. Since this weekend where Grant was sacked, many of the sites now have clear promotions to the various betting options leaving me frustrated that these weren’t clearly available only a week ago.
Little support for gambling ‘newbies’
Intrigued by the online betting user experience, I decided to continue my investigation by looking at the betting for Euro 2008. Although most of the sites listed the betting options in order, from the favourites to the least favourites, I still managed to get myself confused when trying to work out odds like 13/8. Like most other betting ‘newbies’ I just want to know how much I can win if I bet a certain amount, but very few sites let me work this out without forcing me to take the bold step of actually placing a bet.
Many of the sites listing Euro 2008 betting options required a certain level of understanding of gambling terminology with terms like ‘Antepost Betting’ and ‘Double Chance’. These sites made me feel like I didn’t belong, but even worse, they made me feel stupid. As a new user, I required: good navigation allowing me to quickly find what I wanted to bet on, some tools to help me decide which bets might be sound than others (e.g. links to football statistics), a clear way to understand the different betting options, and a method of clearly working out what I would win on each bet.
Poor online user experience
It’s predicted that in 2 years time, the UK gambling market will increase to £1.6bn with 2.1m active gamblers. This growth can be achieved much quicker if these sites paid more attention to improving their user experience.
Customer acquisition and retention are key in the online betting market with the number of sites competing for business. The sites which take the biggest market share over the coming years are likely to be those investing in customer experience for people new to online betting. I found it surprising the barriers customers have to overcome before converting.
Understanding customer requirements and improving usability is not an expensive endeavour, but all too often we see websites that fail to meet the needs of large groups of their audience, and on the face of it, the online betting market appears to be no different.
Are you meeting the needs of your customers online?
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About Damian Rees
Damian has worked as a usability and user experience consultant for over 13 years. He has worked in senior roles within companies like the BBC and National Air Traffic Services where he has researched and designed for users in a variety of different contexts including web applications, voice recognition, and air traffic control interfaces. Follow Damian on twitter @damianrees