It’s difficult to remember life before smartphones, Facebook, Youtube and Instagram. A time when dial up was still commonly used, wi-fi on every device was the stuff of make believe, and when iPods were just beginning their global dominance (yes, remember iPods!). Unfortunately, I’m old enough to have worked during this era. This was a time when Google was still the new kid on the block – a squeaky clean brand who pushed their popular mantra, “Don’t be evil”. A time when some of the biggest UK websites were Friends Reunited, Myspace, ASK Jeeves and when the most poplular go to form of communication, texting and e-mail – with MSN (Hotmail) and Yahoo ruling the roost.
My first project was working for SportingOptions, an online person-to-person betting exchange. The company was a small internet start-up set up by two ex-futures traders as a rival to Betfair.com. When the site launched the company enjoyed early success, eventually becoming the number two exchange in the market. Customers loved the sites speed, ease of use and innovative functionality.
I worked closely with the web developers to develop the UI for the site, my relationship gave me a clear insight into their needs. I understood the way they think and how best to make my designs work within those restrictions.
The platform had to be light on graphics and quick on page load, to ensure the site could maintain a 5 second auto refresh of prices. This was due to the number of horse racing and sports betting markets which were available on the SportingOptions website, plus the number of transactions and intensity of betting/price volitility before the off.
The first version of the SportingOptions website was graphic heavy, lots of ten pixel borders with drop shadows, along with round corner graphics all constructed out of tiled gifs. The buttons were quite typical of the time with bevel and emboss and drop shadow – these were all gif and different versions produced for view, hover, click, load.
In 2003 there was a PDA version of the site launched, which is another reason for emptying out many of the previous graphic styles, this was the first in a step to moving towards web 2.0 mindset.
Working at SportingOptions was an exciting roller coaster of a ride; from pre-launch to launch, re-launch, through to robotic trading, share options and (less enjoyably) the end – administration and redundancy. I met some great people and had autonomy to learn and do whatever interested me. We had a great product which could have been market beater but unfortunately the business operation and lack of capital liquidity at scale was it’s downfall.