Build TT

A table tennis paddle building app that allows more invested players to make better informed decisions about buying equipment.
Overview

Table tennis is an extremely complex sport, and unfortunately not very popular in the US. When I was a beginner at table tennis, I had a lot of trouble finding credible resources to find the correct paddle materials for my playstyle. Reviews on rubbers and blades were spread across numerous online forums and independent video creators, most of which did not look very trustworthy to visit; information was spread across too many platforms.

Many within my table tennis community communicated these frustrations. As a self-design exercise, I designed an experience that could help players that could help players who are starting to get more invested into the sport make better informed decisions about purchasing their first equipment materials.

Role: UX Designer and Researcher
Time: 4 weeks
Tools: Figma

Addressing the needs of the table tennis community

Due to the lack of popularity of the sport, many table tennis learning resources are done by individual contributors, not by brands. Looking into similar racket sports such as a tennis, the difference in resource trustworthiness felt very clear: Table tennis learning resources lacked visual flair, thus felt less trustworthy. This was evident when asking members of my table tennis community.

Persona

Even today, many of my more experienced community members struggle to find good resources, but they understood the sport through years of trial and error. The problem I was trying to solve focused on a beginner to intermediate player who's starting to invest more time into table tennis and money into equipment. They are familiar with a lot of terms but need consistent reminders. Since they are not as skilled, they still have trouble understanding the materials in a paddle and how it affects their playstyle.

Design Goal
How might I help newer table tennis players make better informed decisions about purchasing/using equipment, and help promote the leaning of table tennis as a sport?

Identifying the right guidance for beginner/mid level players

What does a learner care about?

I originally wanted to accomplish two goals: help a player understand build, and help a player learn techniques. I quickly scrapped the techniques idea as I eventually found it extremely difficult to communicate techniques without actually letting a player feel for it themselves, which was key.

Getting to know the player

Focusing on helping players understand build, I centered the experience around understanding a player's current level and playstyle, and helping them craft a paddle that fit them. Playstyle is important because it affects the shape and style of paddle materials. I crafted a user flow to outline this experience.

Understanding how a player chooses their equipment

Onboarding

One of the many challenges of table tennis is that players often ask very personalized questions about equipment. The goal of onboarding is to make the player feel like they're getting tailored advice. Players in my community loved the concepts this wireframe presented, citing the importance of personalization. They remember often feeling discouraged to try new equipment because they were never sure if certain materials were right for them.

Building

It was also important to communicate how materials would affect gameplay. Players often say that most resources online today don't do a good job of comparing and contrasting different materials together visually. Therefore, I abstracted certain statistics and displayed them visually to give players a more visual comparison as they are searching through different materials.

Designing an interface that makes table tennis feel cool

After incorporating some more feedback from the community, I created final prototypes for onboarding a player and building a paddle.

I kept the interface simple, allowing players to focus on the question to get the most personalization out of the experience. Players are often overwhelmed at the amount of information in forums when usually they are searching for specific key material recommendations based on their playstyle. By breaking these up individually, players feel like they are crafting their own recommendation.

A unique piece of feedback from testing was that it would be very helpful to not only see the statistics, but also community opinion of materials. Discussion around materials often lead into debates about how a blade or rubber "feels". While understanding the numerical side is important, players also rely on testimony when making decisions.

Community Takeaways

Many experienced players in the US wish that there were more accessible resources around table tennis. In racket sports, personalization is one of the most critical aspects of a player's game. Through this exercise, I learned the importance of crafting personalized experiences through supporting one of my personal communities. It's important that these kinds of experiences are not only solving a problem, but also are easy to use. When showing my community what I had designed, they felt I had struck gold.