Mike Cushing / Digital Strategy / June 20th, 2014

A Lesson in UX from Stephen Colbert and the Jaguars

Due to the cruelty of regional television contracts, those of us here in Gainesville are subjected to watching the televised struggles of the Jacksonville Jaguars* during football season. While any football is good football, past Jaguar seasons haven’t been the most riveting TV. But when I visited the stadium a few weeks ago for a pre-World Cup friendly between the USA and Nigeria, both ends of the stadium were undergoing serious renovations, significantly upgrading huge portions of the stadium with bigger screens and a few luxury additions.

While the renovations may improve the experience for some fans, they’re also a sign that Jacksonville has fallen into one of the classic traps of user experience. National treasure Stephen Colbert noticed that the time and money those improvements require might be better spent elsewhere.

They should also tackle the stadium’s most underperforming area: that green, line-y space in the middle.

Now, since we’re from SEC country, we know that if you can’t win the game, then you’d better make sure you win the tailgate. But even so, Jacksonville’s renovations are a pretty classic example of putting the cart before the horse. The team has put a lot of focus on making a football game into “an experience” without focusing on improving the football-side of that experience. Even worse, the upgraded areas of the stadium will be largely out of reach of most fans, both in price and capacity. The new Jumbotrons do plenty to enhance the overall experience of watching football – but if fans simply wanted to watch NFL RedZone on a big screen, they could stay home.

It’s simply far too easy to get so focused on improving the user experience that you neglect the quality of the product that you’re providing to users.

Of course, this sort of unfocused approach to user experience isn’t new, or even limited to sports teams. JCPenney is still recovering from its move to slash prices but remove coupons. Everything in the store instantly became more affordable, but customers rejected the lack of small shopping victories: if everything is a bargain, then nothing is. It’s just cheap. When Target expanded into Canada with its first store, they neglected to lay the groundwork for a successful expansion. It added more than 100 stores in a year, and then failed customers with widespread inventory issues.

The Jaguars are simply one of the most recent organizations to widely miss the mark when trying to meet fan expectations. Sure, it’s nice to attend a football game in an upgraded stadium with huge screens to grab your attention, but if your core product isn’t good enough to put people in the seats, then the rest is simply window dressing.

*Please, no cracks about our beloved Gators. I assure you, we’ve made every possible joke to ourselves, while crying.

Image credit: Tambako the Jaguar

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