Redesigns are always stressful. There’s always someone that won’t like it for whatever reason. Most of the time, it’s just people unhappy with change. As a designer and administrator, I’ve been involved in many redesigns over the past twenty years.
I’ve worked for a few media companies, and I’m familiar with the politics involved in a redesign and the user experience that people expect. Most projects will involve someone in a powerful position that doesn’t have the experience or training to make decisions that they are responsible for making. People often make frivolous statements like, “It’s too busy” or give advice on how things need to operate or look without taking into account how things should operate and look. By the end of the process you have a website that doesn’t have the users’ best interest in mind.
So when I read Mike Florio’s post this morning on ProFootballTalk.com regarding their launch and rollback of their new look, my first thought was that he was one of those aforementioned people.
“For a company like NBC, the website for its sports properties is one piece of a much bigger puzzle. For PFT, the website is a one-piece puzzle. So it’s critical that the site looks and operates the way that I want it to look and operate, because my guiding principle since flipping the switch on November 1, 2001 is that I wanted to create an online NFL destination that I would want to visit every day, multiple times a day.” — Mike Florio
Florio states that you can look at the design live over at CollegeFootballTalk.com, so that is what I did.
Let’s be frank, though. PFT isn’t an impressive-looking website. It’s not supposed to be. It serves one purpose, to be a blogroll of information to football fans. The navigation is simple. It’s got big ad slots on the right and header. It’s about as basic as a website can be.
So then when you visit the new CFT site, It’s a user experience mess. There are several different navigations and several levels of navigation. This is a college football news site, and the team selection navigation, which should be prominently displayed, is buried and very poorly executed. Instead, NBC Sports has injected a ton of ancillary information that is not important to the user.
At top, you’ll see the NBC Sports navigation very prominently displayed. This navigation has nothing to do with the site and everything to do with the network.
It’s clear that NBC wants the NBC Sports brand to be most important on this site and that CFT is a sub-brand of the network.
For some reason, NBC thought THIS was the level of navigation that needs to be sticky for this site.
Under that, you’ll see another level of secondary navigation for Tickets, betting, etc that also doesn’t have anything to do with CFT and takes you to somewhere else within the NBC Sports network.
After that, you have a lot of wasted space consisting of a container that centers a leaderboard ad and nothing else. This is often seen at the bottom of content pages, but not usually at the top.
Under that, you’ve got a very large ticker for NASCAR. Really? A Nascar ticker is more important that the site navigation?
UNDER THAT, you’ve got the CFT masthead, minimally displayed in the literal middle of the page, with a subscribe strip that really should be labeled “Follow on Social Media”, and THERE is the navigation, in a small, muted, weird little button labelled “Team”, THERE is the navigation for your favorite collegiate team. In the middle of the page.
But we’re not done. UNDER THAT, is THE SITE NAVIGATION, which also isn’t well thought out or prominently displayed. You’ve got HOME, then Latest News & Rumors (which, isn’t that what the homepage is?), then Gear (away from the site), a link to PFT(Away from the site) About, and Tickets (to Stubhub).
The most important navigation element is a little button nested with the “Subscribe” elements that aren’t really subscribe elements.
Once you scroll down to the bottom of the site, you see navigation to what you are looking for, with the conferences listed in an accordion menu and the ability to drill down to your team. Notice theres a ton of empty, wasted space on the right of the page where there is a nondescript search bar, an arrest ticker, and a handful of most commented links in a strangely short container.
Along the left of the page, you’ve got a responsive, sticky container that has more links off to NBC programming (and off of CFT) that additionally have nothing to do with College Football.
You take that all in. You appreciate the improved aesthetics. Then you remember what Mike Florio wrote on PFT about the version of this design for PFT:
“After having a chance to study the new site and to explore its functionality, I decided that I prefer the old site. So we’ve switched back to the old site.”
“The goal isn’t to stay the same indefinitely, and we’re open to any and all changes that enhance the user experience for the unique users (like me) who use PFT. But I can’t change just to change, especially if there’s any chance that the user experience will be diminished in even the slightest way.”
And you nod your head. Smart move, Mr. Florio. Let us know if you need help.