Bad Designs?

by Ryan

There is always good news and bad news when it comes to new technology. The good news is that change is always happening and change means improvement. The bad news, however, is that change isn’t always such a good thing.

For example, website designs can change anywhere from never (take a look around here, for example) to every eleven seconds. With every redesign comes new features and an attempt to better serve the user, which sometimes isn’t the case with the finished product. A good example of this is Sabres.com, which is supposed to have a big year if the team has its way.

The problem with the site is that there just isn’t much they can do with it. The league gives them a template to work with and there’s just not much in the way of customization. If their web editor (who we may be Facebook friends with…) wants to give us a bit more insight that would be excellent, but if you take a look around the league you get the idea. The only difference seems to be the landing page, and those are clumsy at best.

Where the league does shine is with its home page, nhl.com. Over the summer the site went through a complete redesign with some pretty great results. The main flash box style is pretty tired at this point, but they did a nice job keeping it fresh with some interesting content and nice wide pictures.

The milestones box on the right rail is interesting, too. It’s a good way to keep fans in the know on some upcoming records, and in a league that has so much going on it is nice to give one player some credit for personal goals. As much as they have tried, the NHL just isn’t a star based league like the NBA. Something like this is a creative attempt to do so, though, and in a way it’s nice to see.

One thing that is apparent with this new design is their use of video. One of the things the league as a whole is trying to push is their video library, both on the individual team sites and especially on the main page. From what I’ve seen this year they have done a really good job with uploading videos in a timely manner. Although, the ads are freaking annoying.

The reason I bring all this up is because if you haven’t noticed, the Buffalo News site has gone through a bit of a redesign as well and I’m a bit curious to see what others think of it. To be honest, I’m not really a fan. The biggest problem is that it is in reality, only a few minor changes made up to look like a complete overhaul. The header is exactly the same along with the same too-short ad on top and clumsy link bar below.

In fact, aside from a few changes to a style sheet there isn’t much different at all, which to me is a mistake. The front page was redesigned to look like Google News, whether for better or worse. All this means is the exact same content is just shuffled around on the page, which isn’t all that much of an upgrade if you ask me.

The purpose of a redesign is to make things look better, and that isn’t really the case. The header is still clunky and now looks too small with the bigger font below it. The video modules look tiny as well, and I suppose fonts are a personal preference, but whatever they are using looks kind of goofy. Since the new launch it appears they have fixed some byline problems, or maybe they have someone else uploading content. That’s not something I can answer, but I give them credit for working out the kinks.

This all may seem petty and kind of stupid, but the Buffalo News is one of the major sources for sports news in the area. A redesign of their site is a big deal, especially in the modern newspaper age. More and more publishing companies are turning to the Internet as a means of staying alive, and how serious they take their website is indeed a big deal.

From what the News has done recently, it looks like they are trying a bit harder than usual. I give them points for the effort, but all in all not much has actually been improved. The purpose of site overhauls is to make things easier for readers, but not much headway has been made there. Sabres Edge is still at least two clicks away on the home page. For something that has become a must-read on game days, they sure aren’t pushing it as such.

It’s a start, but there are still things that can get better. Ad revenue in conventional newspapers is disappearing fast, and it’s important that newspapers see the benefits of having a decent web site to supplement their daily paper. In my opinion the News isn’t there just yet, but its good to see them trying.

Any thoughts on the redesign, or am I the only one thinking about things like this?

3 Comments

  1. Heather B.

    I hate, hate, hate the lack of bylines on the front pages of each section. How hard is it to put a name in there?

  2. Ryan

    Yeah I’m with you. They had to have looked into it, so maybe it took up too much space and they wanted another line of story in the box. Either way, it looks… messy. The goofy fonts don’t help them, either.

  3. Zach

    Yeah, the fonts on there drive me nuts. If the rest of the site looked like the sports pages, I would be a big fan but the overall look of the site isn’t all that impressive.