Fairly distributing a few tickets between thousands of people

TicketSwap is a safe and fair marketplace for e-tickets. Most people use the platform when the official ticket sale has been sold out. Sold-out events often have a huge demand for tickets while the supply is low. People enable ticket alerts to receive a notification when a ticket becomes available.

Ticket demand is high and many people wait for alerts. The first person to press the buy button gets the ticket, leaving others disappointed. This has caused some people to lose trust in the system, thinking bots are getting all the tickets or the app is broken.

Together with my colleague designer Jim, I started a design sprint. I primarily focused on creating the design and prototype, while he focused on research and user testing.

This is the experience of most people after tapping on a notification. The ticket is already being paid for.

The current technology

Our research started by investigating how the current system works and what was tried in the past.

We learned that many people are opening the ticket alert while they don't have a chance of actually purchasing it. They either are being notified too late or have an old device or slow internet connection that loads the page too slow. This is unfair and causes frustration.

High-level visual representation of how ticket alerts are being sent out in random batches of users.
High-level visual representation of how ticket alerts are being sent out in random batches of users.

Understanding current behaviour: interviewing and data analysis

By interviewing users and analysing data we found out that the majority of users are trying to get tickets in three ways:

  • They tap on the place where the notification appears and on the spot where the buy button is positioned (if you are fast enough).
  • They refresh the event page that shows available tickets and wait for a listing to appear.
  • They try to use bots, which is unfair to other users.
Currently, the highest chance of getting a ticket is by continuously tapping on the spot of the notification and where the buy button will appear.

Possible directions

After brainstorming we ended up with two viable directions that each had their own challenges.

Raffle or lottery

Tickets that become available will be distributed at random. A lottery approach is interesting but can also be very demotivating because of the lack of control and low chance of getting a ticket.


The first person that subscribes to the list, will get the first ticket that becomes available. The length of a waitlist will make it impossible for new users to get a ticket. This could potentially decrease growth.

The raffle

After taking a closer look at all three directions we decided to explore the raffle/lottery approach. The concept we came up with is as follows:

  • There will be a raffle for every listing.
  • After two minutes the raffle will be drawn, to ensure that the seller also has a quick selling experience.
  • The chance of winning the raffle will be increased each time someone loses. This will be the reward for putting in the effort and a mechanism to keep people motivated. We visualised this "luck boost" this using a four leaved clover.
  • During the draw, we will show that a lot of real people are trying got get the ticket. This way we want to reduce the impression that only bots get them.
The happy path of the raffle concept.
The happy path of the raffle concept.

Design, Prototype, Test, Repeat

We spent a few days designing, prototyping, and testing to ensure that the concept was easily understood and perceived as fair. I created the initial prototype, and we went to the university to quickly validate the designs with our target audience. While Jim gathered feedback, I made iterations to the design. This allowed us to make a lot of progress in a short amount of time.

The clarity of the "luck boost" significantly improved by replacing the thundericon with a universally recognized four-leaved clover symbol.
The clarity of the "luck boost" significantly improved by replacing the thundericon with a universally recognized four-leaved clover symbol.

The outcome

The raffle showed promising results with smaller events. We couldn't test the raffle on a bigger scale due to the pandemic, which meant there were no big events. We were concerned about how it would perform during big events with a high demand for tickets.

After I left TicketSwap during the pandemic, I learned from my former colleagues that the chance boost did not work out on a larger scale. The differences in the chance to win became too significant. The clover system has now been removed to give everybody the same chance.

In the end most users still prefer the old system because they have a higher chance of getting a ticket if they are persistent. The raffle system is now only used for events where specifically requested by the organizer.

Losing the raffle, but still getting a chance boost.