A Digital Experience Agency

Photo by leecullivan / CC BY-ND 2.0

Baseball, apple pie & score bugs

It’s the top of the ninth, bases are loaded, 2 outs, the count is 3-2. Infield has shifted. And how do I know? Because the little ever-present score bug tells all. Since 1953 when sports were televised and the first score flashed across the screen in white text we’ve been hooked on the on-screen real-time data that keeps us updated and informed. And boy have they evolved.

Almost 40 years later, the first sports bug was introduced in 1994 on ABC for a NASCAR event to display a count down for the number of laps left. It was called a digital on-screen graphic. And for the 1994 World Cup they provided the time and score of the game. From there all other networks jumped on the sports bug wagon and began the evolution to what we see today.

With this year’s MLB playoffs in full swing we’ve actually turned on the TV and my 5-year-old has shown a huge interest in the teams and that little score bug. (She’s either in love with baseball or the fact that the TV is finally on!) She’s figured out teams abbreviations and associated team colors, if it is top or bottom of what inning, number of outs, ball & strike count, pitch counts and how many players are on base. She’s loves being so empowered and usually cheers for the team in grey because that’s her favorite color.

But it got me thinking. This little score bug tells so much in such a condensed space. AMAZING. The UX of it is impressive even as the UI design evolves. It serves as your dashboard to make sure you cruise along knowledgeable about the status of the game.

  • Hierarchy reigns. The highest priority information of team and score is featured most prominent– like any good interface should do.
  • Location cues are present. The inning is indicated with some bugs clearly writing out the top or bottom and others using up or down triangle cues.
  • The details don’t go unnoticed. The number of outs, the ball and strike count and bases occupied are also represented.


  • Anticipation of audience needs are accounted for. Pitch speed, pitch count or series score are variable depending on the network but when displayed really help feed that stat hunger baseball fans crave.
  • Context is king. Content within the bug changes throughout the season playing on significance, urgency or context of the game. The importance of the series increases as postseason arrives so bugs will display which team is leading the series, but midseason this isn’t a necessary level of detail.


  • Subtle attention grabbers delight. Some bugs include animation as pitch speed, score or strike counts change to grab the viewer’s attention without detracting from the game action.


  • Consistency holds true to the experience. Each network has their own bug placed in the same position as to not retrain the viewer each time (but across networks there is definitely ownership of their own designs).


As we anticipate the World Series it will be fun to see what wiz bangs the networks include. Let us know what score bugs tickle your fancy or make you go crazy and your prediction for the World Series champion. I know my 5-year-old will be rooting for the team in grey that day!