The Red Bull Paper Wings event is the largest paper plane throwing competition in the world and happens once every four years!
Red Bull wanted an event website and mobile app as training tool to help build hype for the event and get people engaged in this special event. The app would contain tools to help users practice their paper plane folding abilities and their throwing skills in the three main categories.
Two of the categories - Distance & Airtime - are held as events at a total of 404 Universities across 64 countries. The final category was Aerobatics which required the participant to fly their paper plane in a type of performance involving crazy tricks; this category required an online entry via Instagram using specific hashtags.
In addition, the app included an AR component which allowed users to play a fun paper plane AR game containing 30 levels; those who completed all levels were given the chance to win a Red Bull Air Race weekend. If that wasn’t enough, the app also contained personal achievements, a news feed to keep users in the loop on the latest competition updates, and a Team Room ; an exclusive area for finalists of the competition.
Finally, to manage all of the events, an event management system was also part of the requirements in allowing participant tracking from venue check-in to voting and submitting the results to be displayed onto the leaderboard system.
Due to the complexity of the competition the first thing to do was create a site map to identify how our pages link together and understand how users are going to navigate around the site. The user could be visiting for various reasons, but the primary reason we have to assume would be to learn more about the competition and get them to compete in an event.
What I love about creating user flows & site maps in this way (borderline low fidelity wireframes) is that it allows me to understand the tempo of the design and how we want to communicate. By sectioning parts off that can then be rearranged I can craft a “voice” of sorts that will build momentum where it needs and encourage user engagement.
Similarly, it was also necessary to map out how to streamline the registration as much as possible which involved other complex factors regarding sign in & account creation.
Similar to previous Red Bull events, we were provided a key visual as a guide and given notes from the client as to which elements were okay to take from the artwork. As the artwork consisted mostly of light grey, I decided to use white as my base colour across the site and guide the eye using the plane elements, iconography & strips of colour.
It was also important to keep the main site semi-subdued so that the app could feel like an extension of the web experience with a more premium design, as opposed to having something that felt like just a responsive version of the website.
As the homepage needed to be the most striking, I worked closely with the 3D team at Koffeecup to create a low poly, paper globe that looped with pinned location markers & paper planes circling the globe. This would then lead the eye down to the number of universities involved in the competition and a short introduction on how the competition works.
To ensure the likeness to the Red Bull brand, it was important to use elements of existing component styling such as fields, buttons and typography, particularly their behaviour. To maintain the integrity of the brand and too help it feel familiar, I utilised the spacing conventions of their guidelines which was similar to the 8-point grid system.
Of course, the colours used were the usual yellow, red and blue Red Bull brand colours, however, there was a heavier emphasis on the red which was used for various key elements such as dividers. banners, navigation and CTAs.
Once a user has decided to participate, they needed to locate an event.
Events are created in the back office (more on that later) and take place between specific dates, times and locations, so users can search via country and region to locate an event that works for them.
In order to register for an event, they must create an account first before selecting their chosen category/ categories as it is possible to compete in both at the same venue. Once confirmed, there’s a confirmation screen with the details of their registration which is also forwarded to their registration email address. Similarly, they can also find this by logging onto their account which stores all the events they’re registered to.
Aside from the main event website there needed to be a way in which competition data can be created and pushed forward throughout the process as it progressed. This was a crucial factor in creating & managing the 400+ venues, the thousands of participants and all the data relating to them, so an Event Management System was required.
Select members from the participating venues were assigned “Event Managers” and it was their responsibility to log in with their credentials to then create their venue which would then make the “event” available on the main website for users to find & register their participation.
This system not only allowed Event Managers to create events, but it also allowed them to check-in participants at their registered venue, submit results for their registered category, move entrants forward to the next round and push data live to the website as well as to the digital signage which was the leaderboard.
As an addition to the main website, Red Bull wanted a companion app which would encourage more user engagement and augment the hype around the competition. The app's primary purpose was to provide various means for the participants to prepare for the competition.
Features of the app included a news feed, a place to fold planes using an AR helper, then a place to practice their paper plane throwing skills for the three main categories; Distance, Airtime & Aerobatics. Aside from this, there was also an AR game which challenged the user to fly a virtual paper plane into a net, avoiding obstacles along the way.
Visually, the app needed to look premium yet still feel like an extension of the website, so using a card based system kept things tidy & contained, whilst the angled dividers & bursts of block colour gave it depth and dynamism.
The Fold section of the Hangar allowed users to select one of the five planes to practice folding. These planes were predefined planes using the same paper, weight and specifications that were stated in the rules of the competition. Of course all these were optional and users could create their own, but this was meant as a starting point of engagement.
Each plane had a difficulty rating and had stats pertaining to how they’d perform in each category. Once the user has chosen a plane they want to make, they’re then taken through each step of the process and once completed, the plane is added to their Runway.
Red Bull also used this opportunity to make an exclusive plane available through selected packs of Red Bull where a QR code can be scanned; if successful, the plane would appear as an option to be made.
The Runway served as an inventory of sorts for all the planes the user currently has. Any planes that were made in the Fold section of the Hangar automatically go here for the user to select to then take into either the Distance or Airtime categories. Users would select a category, select a plane - or upload a picture & stats of their own creation - and fly the plane using the related feature.
Once flown in either category, the results were shown on the card for future reference and provides a challenge to the user to beat their own score. Each of these cards show the stats of the plane and any past logs, so only the best score will appear on the front of the card and any progress can be seen inside it.
Aerobatics was slightly different in that plane selection wasn’t necessary as it can be any plane, any number of planes and any size plane.
The final section of the app was the Profile tab where users can track their app progress. This gave the experience even more of a competitive edge as injecting gamification encouraged users to use the app more and participate in the competition.
Among the gamification elements were stats, achievements and rank badges which changed based on the number of achievements the user managed to collect, so these would range from Attendant (0-2 achievements) all the way up to Captain.