It’s time for a change, and a new project to generate some income.
Where to start? Solve a problem I have. Because I’m not that special or unique, it’s likely other people are going to have that problem as well. The problem that’s been on my mind is that I can’t easily find BJJ tournaments in my area. I like to compete (a lot) and would like to compete more… but getting started sucked. You have to know someone who knows someone who knows tournament organizers. How will a white belt know to check out listings from IBJJF, NAGA, US Grappling… and what about smaller local one-off tournaments?
So I started looking around for tournament aggregators — and to do that, I did my usual thing: ask people who will probably know. Turns out, there are two aggregators out there: Jiu Jitsu Calendar and iCompete. Great news — other people are trying to solve this problem as well! I really believe that if no one else is even vaguely attempting something similar, you’re probably on the wrong path. Not always, but enough that I’d proceed very carefully. Seeing comparables out there that my target audience is using, I’m going to take that as validation that
- Other people have this problem
- Other people are looking for solutions to this problem
What a great starting point. Okay, so what do I like / dislike about these two?
Jiu Jitsu Calendar
From a functionality perspective, I think it’s pretty great. You can search by organizer, location (within a radius), and add them to your calendar.
As far as things I don’t dig about JJ Calendar… Off the bat, it’s kind of ugly. Just not an attractive site to be looking at. It’s definitely focused on the functionality and not the presentation. When I start on the page, it’s just a bunch of pins on a world map. Great, you have some listings… but now I have to think about what I want and how I want to search.
So I have to do a search, okay. Let’s see what they have in Chicago. I get two results, an IBJJF tournament and a NAGA tournament. Let’s take a look at the IBJJF event because I’ve competed in that tournament before. Basic info here, so that’s cool. I like the “Add to Calendar” link — this is something I’m specifically looking for. Click the link, and I have to create an account? Not such a fan of that. JJ Calendar is trying to create a personal calendar of events in my area for me, which is cool… but today I just want this one.
Let’s click through to the event page… oh man, a lot of dates related to the event. Things like the schedule release date and bracket release date are important to me, I’ll have to create my own reminders for those.
So bottom line — I think Jiu Jitsu Calendar has some great code behind it, but I don’t think it has the user experience in mind. On the whole, I’m looking to make it easy for me to keep up with the events I’m interested in and find good, valuable info. Putting the calendaring behind an account registration page, I really don’t dig. I like being able to add events to a calendar, but there are “sub events” that are before / part-of the tournament that are important to me too. If I create something, I want to include those and see if people value them the way I do.
This one came recommended because they have a newsletter people can subscribe to. This piqued my interest because alerts are something I definitely want to incorporate — I want to make it EASY to get the information around tournaments and not go hunting for it.
This site is more attractive, but the functionality is a little clunky. It looks like they only have two or three events total — the main image is a rotator but only has a single event, and the “Featured Event” below is the same one.
Hunting and pecking around the site more, I find https://icompete.org/blog/ This actually has quite a few events listed, but it took me a good 5 minutes to finally click there and find anything. I go to subscribe to the newsletter and find it’s just a FeedBurner RSS deal. Nothing wrong with it, but now I’m signed up to get alerts about events all over the world. Coming from a marketing background, the lack of segmentation makes me twitchy.
iCompete does have something interesting going on behind the scenes. I contact US Grappling to ask how they notify people of new events, and to be added to a mailing list if they have one. Turns out they don’t — events get announced through their Facebook page and they submit to iCompete. VERY interesting: Tournament organizers are trying to get the word out through these types of sites. So not only do competitors see a problem that needs to be solved, tournament organizers are looking for ways to reach fighters as well.
Here’s a recap of what I found in the initial research:
- People are trying to solve the problem of aggregating tournament info for competitors
- Competitors are using these sites to find out about tournaments in their area
- Tournament organizers are using these aggregators as a way to reach competitors.
- The existing comparables are difficult to use — the starting point for visitors is a little confusing, and things get weird as I dig in
- The amount of value provided by the aggregator to the competitor is pretty limited — it doesn’t go far beyond just linking to the event’s website and doesn’t include important pre-event information.
So where do I start? It seems like there’s a demand out there from both competitors and organizers. If I can figure out what information is important to show to competitors, and make it easy to get and use that information, I just might have a starting point for iteration.