The Players’ Tribune

A space for athletes to be storytellers

The Brief

Helping The Players’ Tribune Up Their Game

The Players’ Tribune is an innovative media company with professional athletes around the world as contributors. TPT provides athletes with a platform to share intimate stories about their lives, world-view, personal successes and failures. The Players’ Tribune hired us to solve two problems:

1. A consumer-facing web experience that did not drive engagement and discoverability
2. A backend infrastructure that was not tailored to their unique needs

This case study is focused entirely on the website. I'm more than happy to show you the CRM work IRL.

My Role

I lead the design of the website. Collaborating closely with the client's editorial team, I identified the greatest opportunities for impact. Working with the client's designer, we rethought the experience and redesigned the visual system. And I communicated with engineering and product teams to implement design specs into a shippable product.

Team

Will Denton—Product Designer
Ian Hall—Product Manager
Alex Kayaian—Art Director
Shawn Kelly—Front-end Engineer
Adam Pash—Back-end Engineer
Nate Wildermuth—Back-end Engineer
Phil Hughes—Back-end Engineer
Gina Trapani—Back-end Engineer

Approach

Starting with Discoverability and Recirculation

The former TPT site was not successful in keeping users in a content loop. It was difficult to discover content relevant to their interests or related to stories they were currently reading. Aside from the great athlete photos, the stories lacked distinguishing characteristics. We audited the TPT website to identify the greatest opportunity for impact: the area below the articles. At the time, content was recirculated around the site via infinite scroll—one story would load immediately after the next based solely on their publish dates. Recirculation via infinite scroll hurt the site’s key metrics: bounce rate and time on site.

Execution

Why would someone come to the Players’ Tribune? And why would they stay?

By working closely with the content and editorial teams, we found that readers come to the site for the expected reasons: to view content from their favorite athletes, teams,  and sports. But readers come to the site for another, more unexpected, reason: they want to hear stories around topics that matter to them, that go beyond just sports.


Introducing the kicker

With this motive in mind, we created the Kicker. The Kicker is a new way for TPT to contextualize and package stories together. Kickers such as addiction and recovery and women in sports, combined with more traditional categories such as authors, athletes, and sports, help readers discover more stories that matter to them.

Extending story packages into the homepage

The previous homepage was a reverse chronological list of stories. Editors could move individual stories around, but there wasn't much diversity in how stories were presented to their readers. I extended the idea of “story packages” based on Kickers, athletes, etc to become a modular component that could be rearranged and replicated on the homepage. Instead of moving individual stories around, editors could swap and rearrange entire groups of related stories, giving them the storytelling flexibility they need and making it easier for readers to discover content.

The final result was a marquee area, where the most important stories could be featured along with a dedicated space for video content. Below the marquee area was a composition of packaged stories, based on clear themes such as "Road to the World Cup", curated into "Editor's picks", or grouped by date into "Latest Stories".

Content diversity and flexible storytelling

The former website was a built on a Wordpress template, and it felt that way. Every athlete has a unique story to tell, but every story looked the same.

To solve this problem, I collaborated with the Players' Tribune Engineers to create two distinct experiences based on content type. The first experience was tailored to watching video content; dark mode layout, minimal distractions and a playlist of content to continue watching. The second experience was tailored to reading stories; pulling key passages out of stories, letting images wrap text, and letting user quickly share quotes on social media.

Increasing engagement with shareable pull-quotes

With the understanding that most readers arrive at the TPT website through social channels, I designed a way for readers to share specific moments from stories. This meshed with the social media team's existing strategy of sharing pull-quotes and images from stories.

Unfortunately, this feature never shipped. We had to triage which features were feasible to ship before the 2017 Super bowl due to time constraints.

Conclusion

A Slam Dunk!

We greatly improved the experience on the site, making it easier for fans to discover content that matters to them, and getting them a little closer to their favorite athletes.

What did I learn? Context is everything.

I understood the mission and vision of the brand pretty quickly. But the most valuable thing I learned was where that communication failed, and using that as the starting place for design.

What could I have done better? Provide a roadmap.

For all the great strides we made on this project, we were limited by the timeline, as well as the maturity of the business. At the start of our engagement, the client was just in the nascent stage of their shift to video content. With more time, I believe I could have done more to facilitate the maturity of their content strategy. Which would shape the way content is experienced, and lead to the ultimate goal — to amplify athletes’ distinct voices.

I would love to show you how I designed the custom CRM, but there is sensitive information that I would rather show IRL. Shoot me an email and let's talk!

More Work