too fast for me. I don't have a chance to really get a handle on what each slide shows and says before it's onto the next one. Is it possible to lengthen a couple seconds the time each slide is visible, maybe reduce the number of slides?
i come to the forum. sorry. its so much more effective to chunk out news.
in fact when people mention that something is on the front page, you have to scroll all the way down and read everything to see the point. the links are hard to decipher since they are light grey. the hierarchy of information is not working well. the theme as far as wordpress sites go is about 8 years behind what can be done today. it's not responsive.
does BBI want to be a news site competing with the beat writers, Bleacher Report, Fansided, etc.... or a robust interactive fan forum? The latter is already working.
Front page is too busy and page format is too long
Take the links along the right, under 'Pages' away and put those as a new drop down menu, 'Content', between 'Home' and 'Corner Forum'.
The "Content Sections" drop down list only bears some resemblance to the rest of the site organization. Convert that to tags, or a tag cloud.
"Featured Content" and the polls are good but they are so far down the page, you won't get any real activity. They need to come up. One way to do that is squeeze news and notes vertically. There is a lot of white space there.
Maybe featured content can be scrolled vertically along the right.
A major design rule is that all important elements should fit in the browser view with no scrolling. So basically near the top of the page. Scrolling is then to see the content of open-ended design elements.
I like "Corner Forum Highlights" and hopefully that is automatically generated by either total views - or better - rate of views. I suggest you make it reflect rate-of-views and call the section something like "Trending Now"
Generally, you should go a little wider and less vertical on the format and go with less vertical whitespace.
BTW - I think you have pretty much nailed the corner forum format. There is always room for improvement but I like that format the best of the many forums I browse.
"A major design rule is that all important elements should fit in the browser view with no scrolling. "
this was a rule in 1999. no longer a rule. currently with tablets and mobile technology ruling design decisions -- scrolling had never been easier or more intuitive.
scrolling in and of itself is not a problem, it's the way the information is displayed that makes it hard to parse through. but that's my opinion -- i much prefer the forum for quick bits of info. im not looking for a detailed post to read most of the time when I'm on BBI.
know all you are getting is side seat driving and everyone is a designer, but seems like moving to a standard publishing tool (not sure if you are using one) would give the site access to a ton of pre-canned templates with great UIs. For example, if you used wordpress, there are literally hundreds that work out-of-the-box, just CSS changes.
The thing that jumps out the most to be is the banner placement, basically sacrificing 70 pixels at the top of every page, pushing down the content. Could you not just load the banner to the right of the logo?
you may be right on the scroll rule with the new scroll modes out there, but BBI isn't utilizing them. So the basic issue is that you don't know what is down below the fold and far down the page. So if you are not an "explorer", you don't find it.
That said, I am in your came, I am corner forum user only. I have feeds for all the news articles.
It's still true. Scrolling is important, but for content, not important design elements. Esp. on a tablet, you do want stuff on the main 'screen', then you scroll for more of the same.
Look at Yahoo.com for example, when you scroll, you see less important content boxes along the right, but mainly you scroll through more news content in the main window. You don't scroll all the way down to see 'featured content' and polls.
First of all, yes, the BBI front page is a WordPress install. BBI's Front Page has been run off of Wordpress since I took it over in 2007.
The previous iteration was based on a theme called Sandbox. The current site uses a theme called Suffusion, which is a pretty popular theme with a ton of different options. I've used Suffusion for several different projects recently and I'm pretty happy with it overall.
As I went over last time we discussed the Front Page layout, I am always open to and appreciate specific suggestions about elements of the design and layout. I'm not really interested in general criticism, bitching or complaints, especially not from people who don't look at the front page at all.
I am still tweaking the design and I have some ideas based around suggestions given here previously. Making the logo smaller. Moving the banner down. Etc.
There is a design group that discusses BBI design issues. If you have some background in a relevant area, especially if you are a graphic artist or designer, and you'd like to join, shoot me an e-mail.
I posted "How To Use BBI" because Eric and I had questions, especially from old timers, about where everything was.
I created the new design to try and drive more traffic to the articles and such. I wanted to bring that content, which was often buried several links deep, up to the surface. And, based on preliminary Google Analytics data, it's been a success.
A lot of the issues with the site design are due to the fact that we don't have a graphic design person. I do everything and, while I'm a decent programmer, I don't have much artistic talent. If there is a design person out there who would like to do graphics for BBI, please shoot me an e-mail.
Anyway, all that said, I like the new design. It's not perfect, but it works. For a fan-run site, I think it's pretty good.
the new front page seems functional and straight-forward to me. While I don't visit the front page very often, I do frequent sites like NFL.com and other sport pages who have a similar rotating item format. So while things may be busier than before, they still familiar enough to me to quickly find what I want with only a little bit of EFFORT.
And if you insist on a new format please keep user friendly.
And Please please put a date on the front page.
Now Eric pointed out to me that each article is dated, but when I go into BBI I would like to know upfront what day the BBI NEWS IS.
I was wed to the old page because it is what I knew and was used to. I did not direct Gary to create the page that he did.
But after he created it, it made much more sense to me.
For one, our stats showed that folks simply were not moving beyond the front page. In other words, they were not aware or not interested in the other BBI original content (Marty's training camp reports, my game previews, game reviews over the years by Joey, rnargi, and I, draft previews by Sy'56, historical articles, etc).
We felt that folks weren't aware of the content as it was not easily found via the front page. It was buried in other "News and Notes" links.
The new page really only had three sections and to be honest, I'm a bit dumbfounded that some are having trouble figuring it out. Maybe it's me, but I think three sections is pretty simple.
From top to bottom...News and Notes, Articles (non-News and Notes original content), and then "Featured Articles" (which is basically the second section sorted.
So if you want to quickly see the latest top four News and Notes updates, they are all there in the top section.
If you want to see the latest four original content articles (camp reports, game reviews, salary cap article by Optimus, etc) is is there in section two.
The bottom section organizes it by subject matter...the latest camp reports, the latest game reviews, the latest salary cap articles, etc.
So three sections. Isn't that simple? Doesn't it organize it better and bring the previously buried content to the forefront more? It's going to be interesting to see what the stats show. Maybe it hurt. We'll see.
If you want the old news and notes, you can still do that by simply using the content menu and selecting "news and notes", as Gary pointed out.
we will continue to tinker. I think the right-side is too cluttered. We need to get rid of the topic box and add those links to the drop-down menu.
I think we can possibly get rid of the skyscraper ad.
I think the hypertext links should be more obvious (not the subtle gray color by blue or red).
Gary talked about reducing spacing/header/border so it is more compact.
We want to make it more clear that you can organize the site better with the content box. (Maybe even a "view the site by old news and notes option"
We'll work with it.
But the new front page is in line with what other sites are doing in terms of highlighting original content. I think new members are actually more aware of all the original content we are creating now more so than old members. Hell, our twitter followers have rapidly expanded and now rival total forum membership.
the homepage design is simple enough -- and i like the rss feed for the forum as i can now track the most popular / curated stories via my smartphone rss app.... my favorite thing about the new site.
i will tell you how i found out about this site -- mike garafolo mentioned that the forum scooped a story several years ago and I had no idea what site he was talking about. i came in, poked around -- skipped right past the homepage which frankly was awful and came into the forum and fell in love.
the #1 best thing about the site as probably 99% of your users will tell you is the forum. i can be in clearwater florida and ask the board what I should be doing there or eating, and in 5 minutes have a few really solid answers. from fellow giants fans... which lends a bit of trust to the recommendation. that is a special thing. and its one example of the great things that happen here.
I think you should consider what you want to highlight on the rest of the site. To me it revolves around the forum, as I said. That is the unique feature and probably always will be.
If it's traffic you're seeking than an even more blog style site with individual posts down the page with updates multiple times a day and getting recognized as a google news source is going to be important. We can argue all day about design but if you want to get butts in the seats and clicking around the site -- look at what Bleacher Report does. Look at Big Blue View. There is a reason they look the way they do.
It's just, I do get a lot of conflicting opinions on the site and it can be a little overwhelming at times.
Everyone's got an opinion, and that's OK, but I have the data. Page views are up. Bounce rate is down. While it's not perfect. I think we're headed in the right direction.
What you say about the forum is undoubtedly true, yet I've had numerous people tell me that I should update the Forum with some more modern software like vBulletin or SMF or whatever. That's not happening.
I don't really like either Bleacher Report or BBV. Bleacher Report is just way too busy for my taste and I don't like the Sports Nation sites at all. The only way I read Amazin Avenue is though RSS. Which just goes to show you, people like different things.
I know I say this a lot, but unlike a lot of these sites, BBI doesn't have any IT support team or editorial staff. Eric is the editor. I'm the tech guy. Both of us have day jobs. We have a few people who write for us and that's pretty much it. The site is built to work with a minimal amount of management.
There are a lot of things I'm still not sure about. Is the content slider at the top of the page a good idea? Do we need the News&Notes section underneath that? What really should go in the sidebars? Bleh. It's a lot to think about.
Anyway, I appreciate you taking the time to give your thoughts.
Most of your competition is looking at the same thing. I would also look at new vs return traffic. I'm going to give you some consulting instead of donating this year, take it or leave it.
To get a better idea of the micro I think you should use another tool not just Google Analytics. Clicky is a good one that tracks individuals in real time and there is an asynchronous script so it doesnt affect loading time. http://clicky.com. You can literally see a new user come in from an external source, track what they do, and how they use the site. It's a very interesting and can be enlightening tool. I find clients like seeing clicky's stats much more than Google Analytics. I always use both. There's a WP plugin by yoast for it too... it's simple to install the script without it but if you change themes it can be forgotten about and then you're missing a chunk of data whereas the plugin is always active. But obviously you'll have to install the script manually on any non-WP pages in BBI if you use the plugin.
Speaking of Yoast -- I notice you're not using an SEO plugin. Any reason why? You should have Yoast's Wordpress SEO installed and running immediately. Turn on the XML sitemap feature.
Secondly, make sure you're adding the Google News SEO module for Yoasts plugin. That will help your results, page rank, and inclusion in google news stories. Here is the link: http://yoast.com/wordpress/news-seo/
And an example for how it looks on the back end:
Then submit the sitemap to Google and Bing webmaster tools. None of this is hard, just can be time consuming if you've never done it before. Time is money though.
Then, rethink your category and tag structure. That matters as far as how your sitemaps are created and what key words are associated with your content.
just a counter example -- not the gold standard or anything but certainly effective in getting the keywords out there people are searching for.
the same thing happens with tags. you are probably already thinking about this, maybe im just confirming what you already knew. maybe you just dont have the spare time to execute the game plan. understandable.
but keeping your users happy for why the come to BBI while at the same time improving the invisible force of the site you've already built -- completely independent of design -- will help you.
I've never been too strong on the SEO stuff. It all seems like black magic to me. I've played around with the Yoast SEO plugin, but I wasn't quite sure what I should be doing with it, so I left it off the production site.
I'm going to look into Clicky when I get a chance.
I look at the categories as more as a site organization and navigation tool than an SEO tool, so I don't know that I want to add that many categories. We should probably think about better tagging for the individual posts, but there's that time budget again.
seo is important, it works overtime for you automatically
1) post names
2) category names and tag names
3) the seo plugin with the xml sitemap feature turned on and google news module
4) physically creating a google webmaster tool page
5) physically creating a bing webmaster tool page
6) linking up your sitemap index from yoast to google and bing wmt.
what I'm describing is not black magic -- it is simply hooking up your site effectively into Google so that every time you update the site, it's reflected in your sitemap and effectively -- google knows about it.
google has become more and more of a news / blog aggregator over the years -- you have a free platform in wordpress that is very effective in getting your content up page ranks along side ESPN, FOX, hell even NFL.com stories. You just have to configure your WP install in the manner im suggesting to take advantage of your unique content that gets published here daily.
its not link building, not content farming, it's not doing anything google will punish you for -- it's simply taking better advantage of the organically updated material of the site and allowing google and bing to be made aware of when you make these changes automatically so you're not reliant on bots coming around checking out what's new.
its not black magic, it's more effectively structuring the information you already publish for search engines. google is then more up to date, and your content is more effectively out there and accessible. over time the sites page rank will likely improve from where it is -- but these structural changes need to be made to see results.
it has gotten a bad rap and the spam im sure you received daily about instant SEO boosts does not do well to disprove your initial conception. however, the platform you have is a great one and with a few tweaks you are most of the way there. the site already gets updated by many moving parts -- the heavy lifting is all but done. just have to connect the dots in a direct way.
don't get overwhelmed its actually a lot simpler than it looks. most of the default settings will be fine - you dont have to customize everything.
wp_title is used to rewrite the title tag on ever page, it happens automatically. every post title and description will be auto written.
meta tags like keywords and descriptions are less important today, you can set those up in one place and forget about them.
the important piece other than activating the plugin is setting up Google and Bing webmaster accounts -- which all you have to do is click the links from the SEO panel as the screenshot shows and it will take you right in there. The meta tag method of verifying you own the site is really easy to do -- but there is an FTP method where you upload a file that Google and Bing have you download if you'd rather do it that way to verify you are the site admin.
the XML sitemaps can then be generated and submitted into webmaster tools.
be sure to do the extra step with the Google News XML sitemap -- that is key for BBI to get into the news feed upon publishing. not all sites need that module, BBI would certainly benefit from it.
The fact that Gary felt he had to write on this topic should speak for itself. Has any other popular site ever had to explain itself? I agree with what BBI is trying to do, and that with some hunting you can find what you want, but the UX is poorly done. Needs something called 'human factoring'. It's like the designer is left brained and the rest of us right brained or something.
can three sections be complicated? Seriously? After the slider, which gives you a quick summary of every thing, you have "News and Notes" (hasn't changed), Articles (non-news and notes content), and then the non-news and notes content organized by subject.
It's people who are complaining for the sake of complaining. If users want to offer suggestions to make it better, that's one thing, but to flat out say the old version is better? Those who say that are not worth listening to. It's obviously better now.
I installed the SEO pack this morning. Thanks again for all your help.
Part of the USA Today Sports Media Group
BigBlueInteractiveSM provides news, analysis, and discussion on the New York Football Giants. This site is owned and operated by Big Blue Interactive, LLC. If you
have any questions or comments about this website, please see our contact information page.