Play-Cricket Scorer, version 1.0.0: the First Test

With the season only a matter of a few weeks away, the ECB have released their own electronic scoring app, Play-Cricket Scorer, available for iOS and Android.

My impression of the Android app (version 1.0.0) is that it is usable, and due to its integration with Play-Cricket, will be worth persisting with: the time saved by removing the need to manually upload match scorecards (a standard league requirement) will likely be enough in itself to justify adoption.

However, as with any new piece of software, there are inevitable rough edges. Here are the most glaring problems with it that need to be fixed without delay, before the season starts, if at all possible.

1. Disregard for Android guidelines

The first and worst problem is not a cricket-related issue at all; perhaps that’s a good sign. It does, however, have a major impact on usability.

The issue is that the Android version of Play-Cricket Scorer has a non-Android look-and-feel. It looks suspiciously like the an app for Apple iOS that has been forced onto the Android system.

One example is the labelled “Back” button. Android apps use an “Up” button, and it only shows an icon, not text. Another mistake is the right-facing carats on menu items. Both are hallmarks of iOS design and are clearly rejected in the Android guidelines.

This may seem like irrelevant pedantry, but there are real consequences. Users accustomed to the Android way of doing things will be caught out in subtle ways. The most obvious example is when it comes to alerts. Play-Cricket Scorer’s alerts, for instance when ending an over prematurely, or confirming a wicket, are laid out with the affirmative action (the action that indicates approval of whatever is being queried) on the left rather than the right.

This is exactly the opposite of what the Android guidelines specify: “Affirmative actions are placed on the right side and continue the process. […] Dismissive actions are placed directly to the left of affirmative actions.”

The result is that Android users will be prone to hitting “Yes” when they mean “No”, and vice versa.

There’s also the entirely misguided use of the Floating Action Button as a ubiquitous Help button (not their intended use), but I’ll pass over that since, firstly, it’s clearly springs from good intentions, and, secondly, it can be turned off in Settings. However, I will observe that if the necessity to include a help button on every screen was felt, that in itself is a warning sign that the design isn’t up to scratch. It’s also not at all sensible to make such help dependent, as it is, on an Internet connection: scorers with tablets, sitting in the middle of the countryside, often won’t have any data connection.

While we’re on the subject of design, the typography also would benefit from tweaking: choosing the Android standard Roboto would have helped to make Android users feel more at home.

The Android Material guidelines are there for a reason. A brand new app such as Play-Scorer has no excuse for not following them from the outset. Starting off by treating Android users as second-class citizens is a great way to decrease their satisfaction.

2. Limited export facility

It seems that uploading to the Play-Cricket website or exporting to PDF is the only way to get a match scorecard out of Play-Cricket Scorer. The latter is highly limited: it’s little more than a brief summary of batting totals and bowling figures.

There should be a way to export a full ball-by-ball run-down of the match, both in an attractive readable form (formatted as a traditional scoresheet, for example) and in a pure data form (XML or similar).

3. Certain dismissals incorrectly incur deliveries

“Timed out” and “Obstructing the field” dismissals may take place without a delivery being bowled, but Play-Cricket Scorer assumes that a ball has been bowled.

4. Penalty runs are not handled gracefully

The only way to add these is by manually editing the scorecard, with no provision for recording when these were applied, or even in which innings. As such, it does not seem to properly handle the admittedly rare event of a win by penalty runs under Law 21.7.

Conclusion

The Play-Cricket Scorer app is promising, but urgently needs attention before the start of the season.

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