Pickleball enthusiasm has reached an all time high because of the ease of play, the low cost of entry, and sociability, making it popular with players young and old. According to the Association of Pickleball Professionals, 36.5 million people played pickleball from August 2021 to August 2022 across the globe.
However, one of the major problems players are facing is the difficulty of finding suitable pickleball partners to play with. They may not have a well-established pickleball community in their area, making it challenging to arrange games regularly. Some players might be interested in meeting new people and expanding their pickleball network, but they lack a centralized platform to connect with other players.
User Pain Points
To validate the issue, five pickleball players of varying levels were surveyed via Google Forms. The main takeaway: all of them were dependent on local courts and clubs to meet players. The primary feature they sought from a pickleball site was the ability to meet players and schedule matches at local courts.
Our preliminary user research to validate this problem with pickleball players found that users feel a need to find people to play matches with their skill level and based on their availability. They also shared that they want to play with new people often rather than friends and family for a greater challenge.
Landing on a Solution
The goal for this product is to match users with an ideal pickleball partner and opponents based on their skill, availability, and location so that they do not have to worry about arranging pickleball matches. Pickle Pals solves this problem by providing a platform that facilitates easy matchmaking based on their schedule and location preference.
The primary goal of the pickleball player matching website is to,
- Facilitate Matchmaking:
- Help find pickleball players find partners and opponents to play game on court
- Develop a smart matchmaking algorithm that can pair players based on their skill level, location, and availability to ensure they find suitable opponents
- Easy Scheduling and Availability:
- Integrated availability calendar allows users to mark playing times and find others with matching schedules and location
- Simple Form based Registry:
- Users can fill their name, availability, skill and location in a form. On completion, provides a matching partner and schedules the match.
As I began the design process, I took into consideration that according to the 2022 Sports & Fitness Industry report, over half (52%) of pickleball players who play eight or more times a year are 55 or older and nearly a third (32.7%) are 65-plus. Thus, in the lo-fi and mid-fi designs, I chose to put all the options front and center on the Home Page: Profile, Find Match, and Find Court.
By having all the features available from the get-go, I believed this would simplify the user flow and help users accomplish what they needed to do faster. However, thanks to my team’s feedback, I realized that having the three options on the Home page was more confusing than helpful. This might cause a user to feel unsure about where to start.
After receiving feedback from users and team members, I turned to a different approach: encouraging sign-up on the Home Page and leading the user to a form that collects information about the player’s preferences. This simplified the user flow and made the site more approachable. I kept the navigation bar at the top for ease of switching from Profile to the Match feature and the Courts. Originally, Pickle Pals would use the user’s location to recommend a local court, but to have more realistic constraints for our project, we chose to restrict the service to Toronto and instead provide a searchable table of courts in the city.
Here are the lo-fi, mid-fi and high-fi we designed for PicklePals,
The project is hosted on netlify and the tech stack includes React (vite), Node.js and express js. On the frontend, Vite was chosen as opposed to the traditional create-react-app due to it speed and it is also a recommended way to create a react app on React official documentation
The hardest part of this development is the matching algorithm of the players. Getting to determine how they will be matched, whether to display to others, a user who has already scheduled a match with someone. On the frontend part, having a 2-step signup process and converting or processing form input data to fit the data pattern the Api expects has been challenging.
The key takeaway from this project is, it seems the simpler it looks the more complicated the project is for this short period of time as the backend is struggling to understand the underlying features of the web application
Currently, Pickle Pals only serves Toronto, Canada. We are planning to expand to other cities in Canada and soon to cities in the United States. Eventually, Pickle Pals will be usable for players in other cities across the globe.
Product Manager Learnings:
- As a PM, I learnt how to understand users and their pain points
- Researches we did helped in shaping our product
- I learnt how to make decisions and communicate product requirement with team members
- Learnt the importance of communicating with team members and users and how it affects the project development
- I learnt to keep track of the product development progress
- I learned how to take into consideration the requirements of front-end and back-end developers.
- I learned that a different perspective on my designs can introduce better user flow.
- I learned that sometimes ideas and feedback can be better communicated over call rather than in a chat, but that asynchronous communication is also key.
As a frontend developer of the team I learnt the following,
- Using vite for creating a react app is more efficient to using the native create-react-app
- Learnt about date pickers in react and how they can be customized
- Converting form data from users signup process to what is suitable to the endpoints
- Learnt about HOC's and how they can be used to display pages to users based on authentication status
As a backend developer of the team I learnt the following,
- How to think of an idea and turn that idea into reality
- Learned to collaborate with fellow developers and other team members
- Learned about authentication and authorization by implementing secure JWT token-based mechanisms
- Created APIs & served data to the authenticated user
- Learned to protect the api endpoints
- Learned and worked with mongodb database
- Learned about database design for efficient data access
- Created sophisticated matching algorithms based on specific parameters
- This allowed me to create intelligent systems that facilitated effective matches between users
Full Team Learning
- Worked as a team to achieve the same goal
- Communicate with team members in different time zones
- Discussing and sharing blockers and other issues with PM and other team members
- Providing feedback and implementing the recieved feedback
- Experienced agile process for development