Recent regulatory actions in the UK have made it clear that online gambling operators are under ever greater pressure over how they market their products. Investigations on the part of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) demonstrate the degree of scrutiny that exists at a high level.
Meanwhile, the UK Gambling Commission has made it plain it expects to see its stated goal of putting the customer first enacted by operators via explicit efforts with regard to a basket of measures including self-exclusion, reality checks and privacy measures.
At the forefront of answering this challenge are the UX designers who are confronted with the task of ensuring what the consumer sees does more than just tick the regulatory boxes.
“Regulatory requirements have a significant influence on the design of our sites and corresponding UX,” says Ben Murphy, head of UX at Sky Betting & Gaming. “There are certain standards that simply must be met. Having said that, our aim is to create a user-centric experience that integrates and builds on the regulatory requirements in a seamless manner and without stifling innovation.”
The balancing act between compliance and innovation is being attempted across the sector and indeed, a perceived skew towards the first is commonly cited as one reason why there is an apparent lack of truly innovative product in the online gambling space.
Subtlety is needed when it comes to getting the mix right, says Andrew Daniels, managing director at digital design and development agency Degree 53. Talking about the recent introduction of clocks on the screen to warn gamblers about how long they have been playing on the site, for instance, he says that in UX terms “you can’t just plonk something in that will be massively distracting.”
“At the same time, it also has to be in a positon that doesn’t fudge the regulatory requirements and looks like it is part of the experience,” he says.
The one and only
An obvious starting point with compliance is that, as with the concept of privacy by default in the area of data protection, anyone designing a game or a website must begin the process with a clear idea of what regulatory standards need to be adhered to.
“We use a standard set of regulatory rules,” says Paul Dolman-Darrell, chairman at games designer Gamevy. “It’s the very first thing that you know about the product.”
When it comes to mobile, and with screen size so limited, ensuring regulatory standards are met from the off will be a time-saver. “It is a lot less work to have the regulatory element built within the app from the start rather than to have to add it in at a later date,” says Dolman-Darrell. “Having the regulatory element as standard means the designers don’t have to think about it.”
A recent new entrant into the sports-betting arena is Bookee, which promotes itself as the Tinder for betting, and chief executive and founder Adam Wilson points out that ensuring compliance was baked into the offering has the added benefit for his company of providing players with the reassurance that it an offering that could be trusted.
“We built the site with all the controls in place, such as self-exclusions and play limits,” he says. “For us that was all really important. We want to be seen as being an honest brand. There is a cloud hanging over the industry on such issues as free bets and bonuses that we wanted to steer clear of. The audience really appreciates the truth. They want to get behind honest brands. That is certainly where advertising is heading with brands outside the sector.”
Daniels agrees that transparency is vital. “You almost want consumers to subtly notice but not pay too much attention,” he says. “It should look like part and parcel of a design pattern. No one wants to be seen as a shady operator. We want everyone to have the tools available, to deal with gambling problems. We follow regulations to the letter. Ultimately, the main touchpoint an online punter has with a gambling company is through the UX on a mobile app or website.”
As Daniels points out, one of these touchpoints that has taken on a greater importance just recently relates to privacy concerns and compliance with the EU’s upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which comes into force in May next year. “GDPR is on people’s minds right now, and UX is central to that,” he says.
There are a number of areas where the data regulations will have an impact on UX and site design. “It requires a whole new level of transparency when it comes to privacy policies,” says Murphy at Sky Betting & Gaming. “Very granular information needs to be presented clearly and understandably.”
As with other areas of compliance, though, there is the potential for operators that are on top of data privacy issues to be rewarded by an ever-savvier audience, says Wilson from Bookee. “Again, the customer is ahead of the industry here and is much more aware of privacy issues than they were before,” he says.