The long-awaited redesign of most Football League websites is so bad it’s funny, writes Adam Haworth.
For this article, I will refer to the first iteration of the new design to be launched, the Barnsley official website.
For those who aren’t as interested in these things as me, there’s been somewhat of a revolution in web design over the last few years. It was clear that the pre-2010 websites that filled the internet were inherently cluttered, hard to use and totally beyond the point of what the website is trying to achieve. From that was born a kind of new web, one without intrusive ads, one without cluttered content and one without such terrible usability. Most sites now, when redesigned or re-thought, try to become more minimal, cutting the chrome and focusing on the purpose of the site.
You’ve probably noticed the new look on this very site, which was most definitely aimed at reducing pointless design elements and aimed at focusing on what actually matters: the content and the reader. I could bore you with theoretical rubbish, but let’s cut to the chase – the new Football League design does not, in any way, move towards a better designed web. It’s a regression and looks awful to the technical eye.
I was actually looking forward to the new design, which this time was carried out and moulded by a new company, SapientNitro, which took over the duties from a rather terrible predecessor, Perform.
The new iteration of sites is by design wildly adaptable. I can only assume from the difference in designs that I have seen so far that it is a club-side decision as to the layout (which have been designed by SapientNitro too, by the way) and colour schemes used on the sites. That’s the only plausible explanation of the terrible nature of the Barnsley design. Who thought black-on-white text was at all readable? Whose idea was it that there should be vast amounts of screen estate wasted by blank gaps? The idea is that the bigger a screen is, the more you can utilise the space for something useful, not for putting nothing in.
Football League Interactive (FLi) have sanctioned this redesign and I don’t really know why they haven’t demanded better from SapientNitro. The nature of allowing club-side content producers to decide how the site looks and the use complicated and busy designs means things can look very, very bad, very easily. That’s no offence to those people making the decision – it would be more sensible to simply force them to actually make a wise design decision as the current one is. It’s like getting commissioned to buy someone a really nice, fast car that looks smart, then encouraging them to stick those fake annoying eyelashes on, put blue neon lights under the bumper and a tuneful horn. You’ve done so well in buying the car, but you’ve just made the stupid, stupid mistake of allowing anyone without any prior knowledge of cars to completely ruin the decent car you’ve bought.
That isn’t to say that the layouts are faultless. In fact they are far from it. On the two designs I’ve seen, there have been basic attention-to-detail errors. On highlighting Halifax’s menus, a weird box comes up over the top and there is a lack of responsiveness in the menus – how the hell did those blank spaces get through the net of bug-fishing? I read a quote the other day which could apply here – “A designer shooting for usable is like a chef shooting for edible.” On a food scale, this redesign rates very much as edible, if not below that, requiring seasoning and a little touch of piquancy, not forgetting higher quality ingredients.
I trust the media department at the club, particularly Adam Riding – the club’s graphic designer – will make the correct choices as to colour schemes and layout styles. They’ve done excellent work with the design of the match programme in the past and hopefully Adam will check the new site to see if it’s acceptable to his designer eyes. But who knows, it could be as bad as Barnsley’s – which none of us want – it could be as average (yet still awful) as Halifax’s, or it could be better. All I can say is that this redesign is a massive anti-climax and a really poor show.
What do you make of the redesigns? Comment below.