March 19, 2012 | Advice
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NCAA Brackets: Why UI should matter

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why huge companies can’t seem to understand the basic principles of design. They have enough money, theoretically, to hire the best designers on the planet, right?

So it begs the question of why my CBS Sports bracket sucks so bad in terms of design, UI, and pretty much everything else. CBS Sports is a big dog. Not quite ESPN, but a big huge dog none the less. And every year, when I fill out my bracket at CBS, I’m frustrated by the lack of quality. (Note: The only reason I fill out a CBS bracket is because of a huge group of former coworkers that have been playing together for years. At least 10 years I would say, and it’s been at CBS ever since it became digital.)

Each year I also fill out brackets at Emfluence’s Big Shot Bracket, a local Kansas City company. And even though Big Shot Bracket is small potatoes compared to CBS, they get it. UI and design matters. For starters, it’s significantly better looking, on screen and in print form. But the real kicker is how user friendly it is. There is a ton of great information, like RPI and strength of schedule, right there when you roll over the team names. It makes it super easy to pick the matchups for each round. In the photo below, you can see a TON of useful information right on the leader board. Total points, possible points and the best of all, who they have in the final four and championship. SO even though Patrick the intern is killing it right with his bracket, he probably won’t win, because I can see right here that he picked Missouri to go all the way.

I can’t even count how many times I’ve clicked on individual leaders’ brackets on CBS just to see who they had in the final four and Championship game.

It seems easy to me to solve the types of problems that CBS has. Find the right designers and let them lead you to the right solution, while having guinea pigs give you feedback along the way. As the designer, you should be using the product yourself and if something doesn’t feel right to you or the test audience, figure out how to fix it. Is it that the managers don’t get it and won’t let the designers do what’s right? Is it that the designers themselves aren’t right? Maybe no one over there cares because they will have the audience no matter what, because they are CBS.

Another good example is Myspace. They pretty much disappeared in main stream society because the usability sucked so bad, and they never bothered to fix it. Then Facebook came along and boom, Myspace practically went away overnight. Facebook, wether you love the design or not, is a constantly changing and evolving design and user interface. Rather than rest on their laurels, they are trying to implement unique ideas in a space that’s only existed for a few years. They get it.

The point of this article isn’t to complain that all big companies are like Myspace or CBS Sports, there are exceptions. But it’s 2012 for crying out loud, all large companies should have figured out how to design a website and UI by now.

PS: The Boss/Wife buttons on the Big Shot Bracket are pretty awesome.

Links: CBS Sports Big Shot Bracket