Increased connection through individual focus.
Native iOS application
The CrossFit Games is a global competition that starts with an Open, wherein ~100,000 competitors from all over the world compete against one another in weekly workouts. These workouts are done at their local gym, are judged by a peer, and are submitted online to the global leaderboard.
If they get the best scores, they go to Regionals. Do well again, they compete at the highest level: The CrossFit Games.
In 2015, the opportunity to create the CrossFit Games mobile app from scratch was an opportunity to view the competition from a new perspective.
How could we use this medium to help a competitor feel more connected to this distributed competition?
Further, how could we motivate competitors to stick with it, even if they knew they’d never make it past the Open?
What we learned:
1. It’s not about The Games…
For the majority of CrossFit Games competitors – those not going on to Regionals or The Games – the competition is a once yearly opportunity to push themselves and their training partners at the gym to a new level.
We need new leaderboards for competitors and their training partners to compete against one another without including all competitors. The global and regional leaderboards are not useful for most competitors; scrolling through pages of rankings to find themselves reinforces the fact that they’re not going to the next step (Regionals) and de-motivates them.
2. …until it is about The Games.
After the Open, competitors find themselves no longer in the gym on a Saturday, cheering each other on, but in a gym member’s house on a Saturday, watching ESPN, and cheering their favorite athlete on.
After the Open, our app needs to transition from individual competitor focused features, to features that focus on the community as a whole. Once the Open is over, a transition happens, where participants become the audience. The leaderboards are no longer of interest, and the news feed becomes the primary point of interest. Who are the athletes I should care about in Regionals? How did my favorite athlete score in the last workout? When can I watch my favorite athlete compete?
3. It’s a social event.
One of the primary draws of group training at a CrossFit gym is the community you become a part of. Your friends push you, and hold you accountable, and take part in your fitness journey. The Games is no exception. During the Open it’s about pushing each other and bragging rights. During Regionals and The Games it’s about being inspired together by seeing what we all are capable of.
We need to add features that help users share, brag, and push each other to keep going. Looking at posts tagged with #crossfitgames and #crossfitopen, we saw competitors sharing screenshots of their rank on the global leaderboard (I’m winning!). Sharing a picture of their scorecard for that week’s workout with their signature and their judge’s signature (I did it!).
Unlimited custom leaderboards were great for competitors to compete directly against one another as part of the greater competition. That said, we were surprised to find out that users were also creating custom leaderboards without themselves on it, where they would follow their favorite athletes throughout the Open, and create fantasy leagues where they would pit the best athletes against each other.
Fun fact: This fantasy use-case helped inspire what would become the CrossFit Team Series, a post-Games competition featuring the best athletes from the Games teaming up to compete against each other in a smaller format.
Notifications, news feed, and live streaming.
We created the news feed to ensure our app was still useful and engaging when making the transition from participant to audience, but we learned it would also be helpful during the Open, when competitors are anxiously awaiting the announcement of that week’s exercise.
Push notifications allowed us to keep competitors engaged, and notify them of important events during the competition like the workout announcements and upcoming deadlines to submit workout results.
Share your results.
Sharing progress and results with each other is a big part of the Open, and a lot of the features in the CrossFit Games app were added for this purpose.
The snapshot of your rank, for each leaderboard you were on – global, regional, your gym’s, and custom ones – was square for easy sharing on Instagram. Further, clicking the share button would take you direct into Instagram, saving the photo to your camera roll, overlaying your rank with a timestamp, and pre-filling a post with the #crossfitopen hashtag.
In addition, you could overlay this information on your own image, allowing you to take a picture of; your setup, where you performed the workout, or with your group of training partners.
Watching the #crossfitgames and #crossfitopen feeds fill up with these photos was an exciting confirmation that we had built the right thing.
What we accomplished:
Topped the Sports section of the app store.
During live events we had ~10000 concurrent users of the app, streaming our workout announcements and human interest stories.
~7000 custom leaderboards.
~10000 social shares via the app.