The FA govern football from the top tier professional game, down to the children's developmental level.
I worked on a number of different projects at The FA, some required research and ideation from the ground up (new products), others were improvements or continuations on existing products.
The FA have been migrating from the old digital system (Match Day) to the Platform for Football (PFF).
Before going into the work and the challenges that came with it, I'd like to comment on my time at The FA and the colleagues I worked alongside.
As with every large organisation, you have colleagues of many different levels of knowledge, work ethics, and general life views. I found that The FA has a very homely feel, where the majority of people I ran into or worked with on a regular basis were very positive and great to get on with. This isn't to say we didn't have any disagreements, but the communication was top-notch and te were easy to resolve.
The Referee portal was a project to digitise the process of adding any playing offences to the FA database.
The project involved designing a system which didn't exist before - this came with its own unique pros and cons.
The pros included having a bit more creative freedom with any solutions presented. The cons were that we didn't have enough data on the target area (at the start) to argue strongly against wavering from the existing patterns.
We went through the usual process of ideation (myself, product managers, another solely-UX-focused design team member) of user interviews, white boarding, validating data from Google Analytics.
By the end of the project, we had burned a few bridges and broken a few windows, but we came to a solution that was pushed into development and tested with FA registered referees. Bar a few nitpicks, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive for the digitised system.
Press the image to open a gallery of a few screens from the process
  • Club Level - Misconducts Flow
  • Club Level - Playing Infringements
  • Competition Officials Management/Admin Tools
  • County Level - League Management Tools
  • Club Level - Transfer Management Dashboard
  • PFF Level - Updated Status Communication Language
  • PFF Level - Accessibility Updates (error communication, state communication, etc)
The majority of projects I was involved in, or led on, at The FA did' include following a traditional "design process."

Most projects were boiling down a project that would've been ideal to spend 4 months on to something we could analyse, design a flow, present to stake holders, produce designs, score and handover within 2 weeks.
By now I'm sure everyone in tech knows how amazingly smooth these kinds of projects are, and how your first idea was the perfect idea that all stakeholders loved and then you ride off into the sunset.
Unfortunately, this project is definitely the only one in the history of UX that has not followed that pattern.
All jokes aside, there were quite a few things I learned throughout the duration of this project. Some of which I was able to tackle right away, others which persisted.

To name a few:

  • It became very clear that the current FA portals hadn't been built with mobile devices in mind, a lot of the patterns worked only on larger desktop dimensions - but the developmental architecture was at a place where making the necessary changes would be a much larger task than anticipated.
  • Prior to my line manager starting at The FA, the organisation relied on agencies for their design work - it was very noticeable when one agency had stopped and another started. Whether it was the way files were organised, or the visual design language.
  • An issue I, and my team, ran into quite often was a developer ignoring our recommendations because a previous designer had told them to do different - this was quite frustrating because we should usually not know that a developer had made changes to our designs until the project was in Pre Production. At this point, there was never enough time to go back and change anything.
  • The FA have made a push to become AA compliant on all of their platforms, but due to most previous work being completed by agencies there was no communication between projects and there was no documentation of the level of accessibility knowledge any of the previous designers had. There were a lot of inaccessible elements all over the portals, but it was a a much larger task correcting them than just updating colour contrasts.
  • Extremely rigid timelines which were planned 18 months ahead of time - I had my fair share of calls with stakeholders where we had to continue with less ideal solutions because a project which should take 6 weeks was slotted only 2 weeks.
  • I was hired on contract to work on the disciplinary portals within the FA, the original plan was that I would aid the designer leading this vertical. However she left within 2 weeks of me starting and the hiring process at the FA meant we didn't bring another designer in until quite a few months later.

Problems and solutions:

  • To combat developers going rogue and making changes without any notice, I spoke with the lead developer for each work stream and arranged a weekly call to go through any questions, issues, blockers or updates we might need. This solution took some time to stick, but eventually the resistance from the development team wore down and the uncommunicated changes to designs reduced significantly.
  • I led workshops within our design team, as well as for product and dev leads about accessibility and the standards we'd have to reach to have the minimum AA requirement.
  • When the new internal designer joined our team, the two of us combed through all of the user analytics we could get our hands on and documented a future plan for design within PFF. This was a long process which was interrupted by other projects, but we arranged bi-weekly catchups to go over everything.
  • I worked on redesigning existing portals into a more mobile friendly interface. This required coming up with different ways to perform familiar tasks, such as the creation of a "quick view" element prior to navigating into the main details page - this allowed us to reduce the amount of information we had to show on large data tables.
Press the image for another small collection of other screens from projects I worked on