How the UX of buying cricket tickets leaves users in a sticky wicket

Sales of County cricket tickets and UK attendance have been declining for the past few years. Ex-professionals have blamed a lack of interest. But could it simply be down to bad UX?

Here’s the backstory…

For my birthday this year, my wife bought me a selection of short-sleeved checked shirts. “What’s wrong with that?” I hear you ask. A lot! And it turns out bad UX was to blame.

Cricket results disaster

 

“If I see someone in a short-sleeved shirt, I don’t even think middle management, I think loser.”
Richard James, Savile Row tailor 

My wife intended to buy me tickets to watch Surrey play cricket – but the online experience left her so frustrated that she abandoned the purchase. Instead, she opted to buy my present from a clothing website that she was familiar with and knew would offer stress-free navigation.

What made booking cricket tickets so difficult that I ended up with some naff clothing to see me through the summer?

This article provides a UX review of the Surrey Cricket Club website – focusing on the key journey of finding tickets online – as well as further insights and validation from remote UX tests.

The homepage – an assault on the senses

Users arrive on a homepage with a specific task to complete. In the example of a cricket club website, I would guess some key tasks would be to read news about the club, buy merchandise and book tickets. It’s the job of the homepage to make sure the user can complete these tasks as easily and quickly as possible. This can be achieved by providing clear signposting, meaningful communication and task-focused calls to action.

Cricket website homepage
First impressions of the Surrey CC homepage show it’s catering for a large number of user tasks. But not in a good way. The cluttered interface, the contrasting colour palette and overuse of auto-play carousels make for an assault on the senses. They all seem to be battling for real estate.

Adding to the mayhem is a live scores ticker, which auto-updates and forces a page refresh fairly regularly. It’s unbelievably annoying.

Interestingly though, every test participant commented positively on aesthetics when asked for their first impressions of the page – even after they had struggled to complete the tasks. I think this site, along with many other sporting websites, rely heavily on creating a positive affect through aesthetic design and imagery, so as to paper over the cracks of poor usability.

 

“Aesthetics matter– attractive things are perceived to work better.”
Don Norman 

Finding the price of a ticket

You don’t have to look for too long to find the big, red “Buy tickets call to action in the header. However, there is also another “Tickets” link sitting in the primary navigation directly below. Which one should I click?

Cricket website header
Overloading an interface with multiple links and trigger words, hoping something sticks, can sometimes work – but I think it’s just lazy. In this case, the links lead to two different pages!

“How can we sell more tickets? I know… Let’s stick a big, red button at the top of the page… they will never miss that!”

I appreciate Surrey CC will have a substantial number of returning customers who’ll land on its homepage and feel comfortable navigating the site. But it’s doing a good job of making it difficult for new customers – and any small user uncertainty could have a direct impact on conversion rates.

Ticket prices – non-relevant imagery and bad UI

Upon landing on the ticket prices page, you might be forgiven for thinking you had been sent to the England cricket team’s website. The hero image is of the England cricket team and the ticket prices are all for the next England cricket match.

Cricket website ticket prices
I should point out at this stage, for cricket non-fans, that the England cricket team plays a number of games at the Kia Oval – but that’s no excuse. This is the page where customers will head to find ticket prices for Surrey matches.

Photos and imagery aren’t there solely to fill spaces on web pages – customers will look at them. They need to be relevant and complement the content. If this is not the case, images will have a negative impact on the website’s user experience – as witnessed by this participant who immediately doubted whether he was in the right place by saying “I’m a bit confused…this looks like it’s for an international game?”.

 

Further down the page is a set of buttons which allow you to toggle the content in the pricing table. The problem is that they are styled exactly the same as the table header and provide no visual cue that they are clickable links… or even grouped with the table below.

Cricket tickets booking table
At the bottom of the page is a “Click here to buy tickets” call to action. This is great – the user’s next step has been anticipated and a task-focused call to action provided. The link, however, is not dynamic based on the content active within the pricing table. So it ends up taking you to an e-ticketing microsite…which is also heavily England-branded.

“Book tickets” microsite – where are you taking me now?

Taking customers to a new site in the middle of any buying journey can lead to serious conversion issues. A customer needs to build up a level of trust in a website before becoming happy to enter payment details. Surrey CC has done a fairly decent job of applying the same colour palette on the new site. But being forced to learn new design elements and templates, can increase cognitive load and add one more barrier to completing a purchase.

The only signposting for Surrey fixtures on this page is within the main carousel – which, when we tested it, happened to be completely covered by an account login dropdown. Surrey CC really is doing a great job of stopping customers buying tickets to its matches!

Cricket tickets website login
In the primary navigation, there’s a “Tickets” link which has one dropdown option – “Single tickets”. This wording is confusing – why is it called “Single tickets” when you can purchase more than one ticket per booking? I understand the need to separate this from group or corporate bookings, but why add the word “single”? They are just tickets!

Choosing your seats

Although it may seem like just another step in an already long process, choosing your seats can be a signature moment for a lot of customers.

For example, when I book tickets to cricket matches, I like to know where I’m going to be sitting based on the position of the sun. I don’t want to be having to squint through the whole match. Knowing the position of the sun allows me to make an informed decision about which stand or area of the ground to sit in.

Surrey CC, along with many similar sporting sites, needs to do a better job of understanding the types of information customers need, at different stages of the journey. If it can do this, it would see huge improvements in its overall conversion rate.

It’s not just the lack of information on this page which concerns me – the interactive seating map is awash with usability and accessibility issues, making it extremely frustrating. You have to zoom in and out, and pan around the iframe to find available seats.

Final thoughts

Surrey CC will have loyal customers who are familiar with the online ticket booking journey – but it needs to start attracting new customers through its gates. To do that, it needs to make sure customers can find information and book tickets easily.

A lot of money is spent promoting fixtures through marketing and advertising – but wouldn’t this money be better spent improving the UX of booking cricket tickets online?

For the sake of my wardrobe, let’s hope it is.

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Matt has worked in the design industry for a decade, specialising as a UX designer for the last 5 years for multi-national companies TUI Group, AXA and British Airways.

Matt has a passion for working creatively and collaboratively, which is why he has recently joined British Gas to further develop his skills in a great UX team for a new sector.

Contact Matt: matthewgottschalk [at] gmail [dot] com

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