3 Brackets and their User Experience

3 Brackets and their User Experience

March is upon us and with that brings the same madness that preceded it for 79 years. The NCAA Tournament is one of the most popular events in sports and attracts attention from the die-hard super fan to the slightly interested. In Dayton and in the State of Ohio, it generates nearly $80 million of economic development impact just in the First Four®.

A long-standing tradition with the tournament is the bracket. Companies like ESPN, CBS, NCAA, Yahoo, and Coca-Cola all fight for people to use their online bracket experience. Since they all share a common goal, how do the user experiences compare? What features stand out? Is the experience effective on desktop and mobile?

I decided to find out with three of the more popular bracket challenges.

ESPN Tournament Challenge


The sign-up process was easy and also had options to receive reminders via email to fill out the bracket after the NCAA Selection Committee had finalized the seeding. This is a nice option for some who want to be a part of the hoopla but is probably not necessary for those who live for this time of year. ESPN does a great job of immersing you in March Madness by offering articles and expert analysis to help you make informed decisions on your picks without distracting you from your main goal of filling out the bracket. The bracket is very intuitive. With a simple click it locks in your winner and updates as you select different teams down the line. The ranking information like whether your bracket is complete, potential and actual point totals for each round, and an overall ranking in your group keeps you interested and coming back. The site is responsive, but a better on-the-go experience would be to use the app that is available for download. There are ads on the site, but they are treated in a way that isn’t overly disruptive to your experience. Upon completion of your bracket, a nice animation appears with falling confetti and an option to share easily to social media.

CBS Bracket Games


Sign up process was simple. There were options to receive articles, sports picks, game projections, and insider analysis via email but no option to just opt into receiving a reminder email for the bracket (although I received one anyway). There was a reminder on the dashboard letting you know the NCAA Selection Committee has finalized the seeding, but it didn’t stand out as much as I would have hoped. Filling out the bracket was a breeze. There are options to auto-fill your bracket with top seeds, user favors, historical random, and expert picks. Click or drag and drop to change or choose your winner and if you change your mind, your bracket will be updated down the line. I like the decision to be able to see your bracket and the current games on the same screen and CBS does have an advantage over other sites because you can watch live games right on the site. Unfortunately, the site isn’t responsive but there is an app available for download. The dashboard prioritizes ads, articles, and video over your own bracket. After completing your bracket, you print and/or share your bracket.

NCAA March Madness Bracket Challenge


Just like the others, the sign-up process was simple, and a reminder email was sent. The notification that appears when the brackets are open stands out from the rest of the page. When you decide to fill out the bracket, an animated panel covers takes over the browser window giving you full focus on the task. There is an autofill feature similar to ESPN where the top seeds were chosen for each matchup. Choosing a winner was as easy as a click and automatically updates down the line. The dashboard prioritizes your bracket by organizing groups and articles on separate pages. The personalized greeting is a nice touch that wasn’t there on the other sites. The site is responsive but when filling out your bracket it would be best to use the app that is available.


Overall, the three different sites had three different experiences. ESPN Tournament Challenge did a nice job of catering their experience to the die-hard super fan and the slightly interested. Their dashboard had a clear hierarchy of elements and prioritized your bracket. CBS Bracket games has some nice features like different autofill options that the other sites didn’t have but the overall hierarchy on the dashboard didn’t cater to what you were trying to accomplish. NCAA March Madness Bracket Challenge did a nice job of organizing available information with simple navigation and was the only site of the three to offer a personalized greeting. If I were to pick a winner of the three sites, the ESPN Tournament Challenge would cut down the nets and raise the trophy.


Does your online experience align with the goals of your users? Are you offering the information they need to take action in a simple and clear way? At Nova Creative, we ensure your marketing campaigns are a positive experience by starting with a Discovery Meeting.


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