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Fencing ScoreKeeper

A detailed image of the Fencing ScoreKeeper main bout screen

The Challenge

When 42 Solutions Senior Designer and 2004 Olympic fencer Dan Kellner got his hands on his first Android phone, naturally his thoughts turned to how it could be made a useful tool in the sport of fencing.

Sure, other score keepers existed but all of them had a Look & Feel only a programmer would love. There had to be a way to make one that was also intuitive to those familiar with the sport and easy on the eyes, with features that previously required other tools. After all, what is technology best at if not convergence?

But more than a design challenge, it was also a technology challenge, being the first Android app 42 Solutions had ever put together.

Hey, even though the bulk of our work is servicing our clients, it doesn’t mean 42 can’t have a little fun on the side, right?

The Process

Fencing ScoreKeeper began with a series of mockups, detailing each screen and acting as a kind of visual requirements document. Each screen was carefully planned out with notations denoting what data would be carried over to the next and which buttons would activate each piece of functionality.

Sure, other score keepers existed but all of them had a Look & Feel only a programmer would love.

Working close with the 42 Solutions technology team, if for no other reason than to spell out the rules of a fencing bout, Dan Kellner ensured that every button was in its proper place as determined by its frequency of use. Thus, the penalty card buttons were smaller and lower while the large bout timer itself acted as the start and stop button.

But the most important decision sometimes in the art that is information architecture, is deciding what doesn’t need to be there at all. Some buttons on other apps were removed. The “double-touch”, for instance. Since each fencer’s score could be controlled independently without affecting the time left, Dan left it up to bout directors to manually increment the score for the other fencer who scored a touch. The app was just as useful as the others with a possibly confusing button being removed to keep the interface focused on what it should be.

While he was working on the information architecture, the 42 Solutions technology team was quickly getting up to speed on the Android API, assembling the pieces of the app according to the rules Dan put forth, and embedding “Eye of the Tiger” to play every time a bout was started

Once Dan was finished with his design, he got his hands dirty in the Android layout files, personally putting together the user interface and creating the assets for the two resolutions 42 planned on supporting.

With the layouts finished and the application code complete, all that was left was wiring the two together. And just one month after 42 Solutions began working on the app in our spare time, Fencing ScoreKeeper was complete.

The Result

While it’s not hard to imagine that the demand for a mobile fencing score keeper app is a fairly small market, the reaction to it by those involved with the sport was overwhelming, even once Eye of the Tiger had been removed for obvious copyright reasons.

In less than a week, Fencing ScoreKeeper became the most popular app of its kind, with free and premium versions available.

Additionally, it allowed 42 Solutions to create a new process for putting together a mobile application, one which we’ve continued to use since.

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42 Solutions

Working with 42 Solutions, you’ll find that it’s not the technology that’s important, it’s the idea. Regardless of whether your company is based on proprietary software or open source, we will find the right tools to get the job done.

Invite us to your office and we’ll send a pair of consultants armed with laptops and bright ideas, ready to solve your problem and offer solutions. We pride ourselves in getting to know how you do business and integrating into your process.