Elliot Rylands

Staff Product Designer

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Designing in the Service Box: Uncovering UX Secrets on the Tennis Court

Jul 12, 2023

When we watch an exhilarating match at Wimbledon, with each whack of the racket, each serve, and every volley, we're not just watching a sport; we're being taken through a thrilling narrative. This narrative is made up of skill, strategy, determination, and the ebbs and flows of the game's dynamism. It is in the nuance of these narratives where we find a compelling comparison between tennis and user experience (UX) design.


Both tennis and UX design might seem dissimilar on the surface, but they both fundamentally focus on strategy, anticipation of the opponent's/user's actions, adaptability, and the delivery of an engaging experience. Understanding how these two seemingly disparate fields intersect can provide valuable insights into the complexity and depth of UX design.

The Game of Strategy (Tennis)

![Image of a tennis player preparing for a serve, highlighting strategy and planning]

Tennis isn't just about having the strongest serve or the fastest reflexes. It's a cerebral game that requires careful strategy and planning. Each player must constantly anticipate their opponent's next move and respond in real-time, tactfully placing their shots to exploit their opponent's weaknesses and capitalise on their own strengths.

The Game of Empathy (UX Design)

Similarly, UX design isn't about creating the most aesthetically pleasing interface or incorporating the latest design trends. It's about deeply understanding your users—their needs, their motivations, their pain points—and designing solutions that address those elements. Like in tennis, a UX designer must anticipate the user's needs and actions and design in a way that feels intuitive and effortless to the user.

The Principles of a Good Match and a Good UX Design

Anticipation and User Predictability

![Image of a tennis player anticipating a shot, juxtaposed with a UX designer predicting a user's interaction with an app]

Tennis players excel when they anticipate and predict their opponent's moves. By understanding their opponent's playing style and tendencies, they can prepare their responses and strategise effectively. Similarly, UX designers need to anticipate how users will interact with the design. By understanding user behaviour, they can create interfaces that feel natural and intuitive.

Adaptability and Iterative Design

![Image of a tennis player adapting their play-style mid-match, juxtaposed with a UX designer iterating on a design based on user feedback]

Tennis matches are dynamic, with players constantly adjusting their tactics based on the game flow. This adaptability can make the difference between a win and a loss. UX design also requires adaptability. Designs should not be static; they should evolve based on user feedback and usability testing. By iteratively refining the design, UX designers can ensure that the product continuously improves and meets user needs.

Engaging Experiences

![Image of an exciting tennis match with a crowd cheering, juxtaposed with a user delighted by a positive interaction with a digital product]

The thrill of a tennis match lies in its engaging experience—the suspense of a long rally, the surprise of a well-placed shot, the satisfaction of a game well played. UX design aims to create a similarly engaging experience for users. By designing with the user's needs and emotions in mind, UX designers can create products that not only solve a problem but also provide a delightful experience.

Applying Tennis Strategies in UX Design

Preparation and User Research

Just as a tennis player studies past matches to prepare for their game, UX designers conduct user research to understand their users better. User research helps designers gather insights about their target audience, helping them make informed design decisions that enhance usability and user satisfaction.

Execution and Prototyping

![Image of a tennis player executing a strategic play, juxtaposed with a UX designer creating a prototype]

After planning their strategy, a tennis player executes it on the court, constantly adjusting based on the game's dynamics. Similarly, UX designers create prototypes to test their design solutions, iterating and refining the design based on user feedback and testing results.

Assessment and Usability Testing

![Image of a tennis player assessing their game post-match, juxtaposed with a UX designer conducting usability testing]

Post-match analysis helps tennis players identify their strengths and weaknesses and plan their future strategies. UX designers, too, assess their design through usability testing. This process helps identify potential issues and areas of improvement, ensuring that the final design provides an optimal user experience.


![Image of a tennis player celebrating a win, juxtaposed with a UX designer celebrating a successful product launch]

Tennis and UX design, although vastly different fields, share many parallels in their focus on strategy, anticipation, adaptability, and experience delivery. By analysing and applying the strategies and principles from tennis, UX designers can enhance their design process and create products that truly resonate with their users.

So next time you're watching a tennis match, remember: you're not just watching a game—you're watching a masterclass in strategy and experience design.

This article has been written to appreciate the interesting crossovers between the sporting world and design principles. While tennis serves as a great example in this piece, it's vital to remember that every sport or field can teach us valuable lessons about UX design when looked at from a different perspective.

© 2024 Elliot Rylands

© 2024 Elliot Rylands