No medals yet...
Appmiration wants to focus on making (better) sports apps. So the biggest sporting event, the Olympics, cannot go by unnoticed. No app was eligible for 4 stars or more, and thus for an extensive review. Nevertheless, we will pay attention to apps concerning Sochi 2014.
The official apps were not ready in time, just like various sporting facilities in Sochi. The first app, a guide for visitors, appeared a few weeks in advance but needed several updates before and during the Games. The results app appeared after the Games already started and initially was only suited for the smartphone. The iPad version appeared halfway the Games.
The first app that got launched was the ‘Sochi app’. Initially it was not clear that it was intended as a guide for people who were visiting the Games, but because you could find a schedule and information about the various sports venues it had some use. The prominent place for maps seemed odd and was not very useful from the average user (in any country in the world), but made more sense when the second app appeared, ‘Sochi Results’, and the first app got renamed Sochi Guide.
The app is comprehensive and professionally designed, but not very ease to use. And it is explicitly made for visitors who were present in Russia.
After the regular Olympics were over, and the Paralympics were about to be opened the word Guide finally appeared in the logo. At the same time the app was adapted for the Paralympic Games and you couldn’t find anything about the Games in the weeks before. That is … unless you clicked a small icon in a header on a particular page, and suddenly you’d have all the info and results on hand. The contents of the Results app was very well hidden in the Guide app …
The main app for sports enthusiasts appeared a day late, and for iPad users even a week late, and unfortunately has to be marked as ‘mediocre/bad’.
The basis of the app is a schedule with all sports, disciplines and times. The design and use of the calendar is not logical. Changing or choosing of a specific day is clumsy (initially you needed baby fingers for it) and the use of “all, now and future” in the calendar is confusing. Now suggests ‘at this moment’, but that only is the case if you have selected the date of today …
Another weak point is the news. Where the London 2012 app mainly depended on news with big pictures (too much), news is completely missing in this app. Only live tweets could point you to recent results or changes, but a clear statement of winners and important facts of the day is missing.
One could get over that when the results of earlier in the day would be included in the calendar of the day. But when a sports event was concluded it disappeared from the first screen, because it only showed the sports that were busy or had yet to begin. Only by going back to the overall calendar and look for a specific day, or by selecting a sports event you would get the results.
That brings us to the only strong point of the app, the results. All sports are well documented and up to date. Straightforward and clearly displayed, and almost anywhere you can zoom in on the details.
Remarkable were the comprehensive results and details that came live, without delay and well displayed. So at any time during an event it was clear what the standings were, and what or who was yet to come. Split times that were not always showed on TV, or not immediately, were available in the app straight away. Most graphical representations of the course or run (only for live events) were a good addition.
If a sports discipline got postponed it was immediately well marked on the calendar. The league standings (eg. Ice hockey, curling) however were difficult to find.
The built-in funtionality to get automatic notifications about sports, athletes and results was not only difficult to set up, it worked hopelessly. When the messages finally came in, they were in abundance, sometimes more than 10 times the same message, even a day later. Then they could not be put off because the server was so overloaded that you could not tell it that you did not want it anymore … but with a lot of effort and patience I succeeded. Perhaps the service got better later on in the tournament, but I was done with it.
After the regular Games finished the app was customised for the Paralympic Games and you had to go through six setup screens again (including country and language choice ??) before you could use the app again.
Ten days before the Games and with extensive media coverage NOCNSF launched the app TeamNL. A free smartphone app that, as the name suggests, presents the Dutch team. The participants, as well as all caregivers. An excellent approach, and not a bad performance. The app works quick and intuitive. The menu is self-explanatory and works well.
All athletes are depicted in a kind of face book. By name and / or sport. Followed by an action photo on the personal card and more info on the ‘back’ (although it was not clear in the first edition there was a back side). There you’ll find date and times when the athlete is due for action, as well as links to Facebook and Twitter.
The dates and times are also reflected in ‘Program and results’. The calendar is limited because it only shows the events with Dutch participation. But that makes it more clear, which is enhanced with the thumbnails of the Dutch participants. The clock symbol at the end is useful to place a ‘reminder’. Simple, but effective.
The app also includes a News section. There you find messages from of Nu Sport, NOS and NOCNSF. A good solution, although the messages are not always in chronological order.
Of course there is a Medals Table. Every site or app has one, and for NOCNSF it is an important measuring point. With 24 medals perhaps the main page this year.
The NOCNSF is happy with each sponsor euro that comes in but is desperately needed for the sport federations and and the athletes. Money for this kind of promotional products they don’t have. If you take that into consideration then this is a great app.
But … there will be a negative note. It can be done different. And frankly it should be different. The presentation of TeamUSA shows how it can be done. Of course we Dutch are much more sober, but our athletes should really be presented more as ‘Heroes’. First of all the athletes who often devote their lives to one goal deserve it, the federations deserve it, but we as spectators and compatriots deserve it as well. We need people to look up to, that we can worship. They give a gold or silver lining to our day or week. They give us hope that ‘we’ can achieve something.
And therefor you need a bit more than a collection of Monday morning faces in a plane T-shirt. It says ‘participation is more important than winning’ to much. While I have the suspicion that most to them have trained four years to win.
An example who it can be done also. And that’s how the do it in the USA. Maybe a little over the top, and probably with much sponsorship money, but the USA sells itself and its athletes as heroes and put them down as real contenders in Team USA, an app that comes to right even more on an iPad.
The intro looks nice, charging takes a bit longer, but then you automatically become fan of the athletes by the professional and attractive way the athletes are brought to your attention.
Some athletes are singled out and get special attention in the section ‘Featured Athletes’. Symbols around the selected athlete indicate that there is more info to be found. Among them are beautiful films, but also personal statements or information about their diet.
Not everything is better. One drawback is that when I click on ‘Featured Athlete Shani Davis’ in the first screen I am not transferred to the story about Shani Davis, but to a page with fifteen athletes where Shani is just one of them. The page looks nice, but it is a confusing step.
Besides these four serious apps there were some attempts to do something about the Olympics.
For unknown reasons the Olympic Committee also published its own ‘app’. But that was nothing more than a schedule overview and with each click you would leave the app and got linked through to the Sochi site in your browser.
Sponsor Visa (card) has invested money in a fun app. In seven sports you can look ‘through the eyes of the athlete’, 360 degrees around, up and down. During downhill, ski jump or figure skating you can decide where you want to look. Although it sometimes leads to ‘unnatural images’, it is nice to experience once or twice. Then the fun of the app is over.
Sanoma Publishing, known for many magazines, but also NU.nl, Nu Sports and various sports sites has also issued an app, ‘Sochi Magazine’. A beautiful and well made magazine, but unfortunately nothing more than that. It is a magazine in an app. It uses the capabilities of a digital medium, also has a small part topical ‘today’, but otherwise mostly stories with interesting information, featuring beautiful photos, you could have read in a magazine.
In addition, there were some simpler apps. Mostly limited to sports schedules that may or may not be easily personalized in your calendar.
Clearly a lot of money is put into the (official) apps for the Olympics. And there should be enough there with all the major sponsors. Unfortunately, the performance of the producers of the apps lags far behind that of the athletes. Although it’s not easy to make a good app, and it is still a side issue for the organization, the sports heroes deserve better. In two (and a half) years the next opportunity awaits to make a jump for gold with the Summer Games in Rio 2016.