Manchester City is at the forefront of digital in the footballing world.

We’ve written about MCFC a lot and found there are plenty of clubs that are way behind. That’s understandable, given the gulf in finances between some teams.

What City does very well in this new iPad app is to create an experience that’s about football (duh!) and content and is enjoyable to use. It befits the sport and should please the fan.

Plenty of rival apps don’t allow you to watch highlights (without paying) and don’t put enough effort into editorial, preferring to concentrate on monetisation.

Let’s take a closer look at the City App.

Home and consistency of UX

In line with the BBC and other design leaders, the homepage swipes left to reveal content. It works incredibly well, the pictures are crisp, the interface is responsive and there’s the right amount of content on offer.

Adding great consistency, each content section accessed from the menu, be it news, match reports, gallery etc, follows the same format of swipeable thumbnails. This is the sort of behaviour that makes an app usable. It makes sense to the user.

Content, internal linking and sharing

The emphasis of the app is content. That’s refreshing to see, when far too many sports clubs use apps as a barefaced sell. City takes the opportunity to promote match tickets and competitions where needed, but the focus is on team news, match reports, interviews etc. It’s what the fan wants.

I delved into the last match result and thought the interface and the available material was pretty impressive, with a selection of video highlights and some articles. There’s also some useful gestural instruction on how to close articles once I’ve opened them.

The articles I found slightly difficult to skim read because of the choice of white text on a dark blue background (see below). It fits the club palette but isn’t particularly easy on the eye.

On the plus side, the photos are great and there are fairly prominent share buttons not just within the articles and highlights, but on their thumbnails, too. This is fairly smart, seeing as research has shown that many people share content without even reading it, especially on social platforms, but also from web content.

Notice the internal linking in the article, too. This is a nice touch, allowing me to easily read a match report and then jump to a player’s profile and stats. Yaya Toure, for example, shown below.

city app
yaya toure city app

Design

Taking the example of the Premier League table and upcoming fixture calendar, I think the City App team has done a great job of laying out information.

This section is so easy to use and pleasurable, too. Again, each fixture links off to a results or preview page (where, crucially, tickets are sold). The only slight annoyance is the absence of a back button, to get back to the calendar and table after exploring a fixture.

Bugs

I enjoyed the way video clips can play at thumbnail, within a match report dashboard, or be enlarged to full screen. It made me feel like I was using some of Sky Sports’ fancy studio equipment.

However, there are bugs here. See the video below for a crash that happened to me reliably when I played a video and then touched the same panel again.

This is a pretty major flaw considering most fans are interested in game footage, but to give City their due, this is listed as an outstanding issue in the App Store and should be fixed soon.

iOS gesture conflict/enforcement?

It’s nice that when I first open the app, there’s a quick tutorial on how to swipe up on the app to reveal first team fixtures and the league table. I naturally assumed this would be a swipe up from the bottom of the page (despite the text that says otherwise – this is a lesson in how we use the web), in the same way iOS surfaces utilities and settings.

One can swipe up anywhere on the City App page and it took a few seconds of trial and error to understand and get this right. I don’t think a few wasted seconds is a problem, of course.

It’s very difficult to make an entirely consistent/predictable interface, but I thought this was worth mentioning to highlight the issue in UX of what to imitate. It can be difficult to know exactly what is a fully adopted behaviour, even for iOS users.

gestural instruction on city app

Conclusion

It’s the simplicity of this app that makes it great. Even with a few creases to iron out, it’s all about content and enjoying accessing that content. This is what building a global brand is about, striking a balance between the magic of football, watching it and reading about it, and selling stuff, too.

The less said about the £61.95 football shirts, the better.