Episode #447: How the Barclays Center and Brooklyn Nets embraced mobile to enhance the in-game experience – with WillowTree Apps VP Design Blake Sirach

Episode #447

There is something so abstract about a good user experience – you know it and can describe it when you have one but it is hard to define otherwise. Then there is logic – the things that should happen when they should happen, happening – which is not to be misunderstood as good user experience. For something so hard to express but easy to experience, designing for it intentionally is, to me, one of the greatest mysteries left in mobile.

There are scores of great examples of it out there but have you ever noticed that very few companies break away from the norm? Most look to the examples that have paved the way and incrementally move the needle forward – not inventing but more closely refining someone else’s invention. This has worked out well for the industry for sure – better user interface = better user experience = better products – but I hope we can break some of the patterns we are seeing and really start innovating at a UX level again.

This is where WillowTree Apps and their VP of Design, Blake Sirach want to play – and doing a fine job incidentally. To do UX properly there needs to be this convergence of timing, need, want and budget which is exactly where Blake and his team found themselves as they began developing the mobile experience for the new, state-of-the-art Barclays Center and the relocated Brooklyn Nets. This conversation, while fixated on how this happened and what they learned, also dives deep into the thinking around the in-game or at-home fan experience. It touches on lessons learned, opportunities still in the queue for development, what the “multi-screen” world may look like and we even dive into an old-fashioned “Apple UX vs Android UX” slap fest.

Blake is passionate about creating great screen experiences – something we should all be cognizant about with each of our products – but the difference here is that their vision was embraced wholeheartedly by a team and venue that understands they need to welcome the glowing screen, not shun it. The challenge was how to make them work together, without friction, while adding value to the venue, the game and the fan.

Tough challenge. Watch to see how it unfolded.


Here is a quick reference of what we covered in the show. Click on the link and the video will take you to that clip

1. About WillowTreeApps 2:50
2. What led to your accelerated growth 6:40
3. The mobile enterprise opportunity 8:20
4. The New Barclay’s Center as a technology hub 11:15
5. What does hand crafted apps mean to you? 13:55
6. How do you know when you’ve succeeded in creating a “right” experience? 16:55
7. What influenced your passion for UI/UX? 18:25
8. What were the main challenges for designing for the Nets and Barclay’s Center and their different audiences 21:40
9. Can the Barclay’s Center app become a mobile entertainment platform? 28:00
10. Connectivity is the catalyst for the entire app experience 29:45
11. Was it intimidating to get into this contract? 31:15
12. Is this an example of the future of live events? 34:00
13. How does mobile shape the in-experience experience? 37:00
14. How long did the entire development process take from start to finish 41:35
15. What is the next piece to add to the apps? 42:35
16. What was the big lesson learned during the development of the Barclays Center and Nets apps 46:20
17. What are some revenue generating examples with these apps 49:25
18. Why is a “multi screen” strategy important to companies 53:00
19. How is Google doing in the UI/UX battle today 58:15
20. Who is winning the UI/UX paradigm today – Apple or Android 61:45
21. Is there any demand for BlackBerry? 65:00

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About Blake Sirach
Blake Sirach Willow Tree AppsBlake Sirach is WillowTree Apps’ VP of Design and has held a design lead role through the rapid growth of the company from 4 to over 50 employees since 2010. Through leading the design team at WillowTree, he seeks to continually improve the quality, beauty, and utility of mobile software. He has lead strategy and design for over 70 mobile products to date for a wide range of clients like Johnson & Johnson’s Babycenter, GE, and Barnes & Noble.

About the author

Rob Woodbridge

I'm Rob, the founder of UNTETHER.tv and I've spent 14 years immersed in the mobile and pervasive computing world. During this great time I've helped some of the most innovative companies grow their business through mobile. If you are in need of a mobile business advisor or coach, connect with me here to get things rolling.

  • Great interview Blake, keep up the great work

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