As a tennis fan I'm constantly logging onto the current tournament websites to check the latest scores, look for press conference transcripts, watch video interviews and to check out any content they produce that I find interesting. I also know you guys are doing that too so with that in mind I've decided to look at tournament websites in a little more detail and post my thoughts on them here – mainly what they do well and how they could improve.
I also want your feedback on them too, I can only look at things from my own perspective so what I like about a website you may hate so it'd be interesting to see what the general consensus is on them. Also let me know if you find this type of thing interesting, I've never posted stuff like this before and it's not exactly related to Fed or tennis per se but I have a good working knowledge of websites and they're something we use everyday so I figured it might be a cool regular feature! Anyway, lets kick things off with the Cincy Tennis website and find out whether it's one to bookmark or to avoid at all costs…
The Cincy Tennis Homepage
As soon as you land on this site you're reminded that you're part of the Pro Tennis Internet Network and it gives you a list of all the other tournaments that use this network and shares the exact same style of website. Why they have to tell me all the other tournaments that are part of it by using a massive bar that takes up a huge part of the top of the screen (precious real estate) I'll never know. I'm on the Cincinnati website, so I'm not really interested in those other websites immediately.
By all means let me know of all the other websites that are part of the US Open Series Network but don't do it in a massive bar. If those things absolutely have to be there, the other tournaments should be listed in a drop down menu or in a much smaller bar that allows the user to close it and remembers my preference with a cookie so next time I visit it's not right in my face.
Uniform Style Websites Suck
I have to say I hate the fact that all the US Open series websites use the same templated design and the only differences are in content and colour scheme.
I imagine they signed up to this scheme and got it subsidised but I kinda think that's a little bit shortsighted. There's probably a shit ton of politics involved too but I would much rather prefer it if each website had it's own unique design. You can argue that this style is good for user experience as you instantly know where everything is no matter what site you're on but to be honest that's no good if the user experience is consistently bad.
Let me explain why this is a bad idea; each of these tournaments is promoting a unique experience if you visit their tournament, “more than just a tennis tournament” “don't miss the drama of the Western & Southern Open”, all messages are geared around that theme yet they all share the exact same looking website. Talk about an inconsistent message.
If you're like me you believe what you see, not what you're told, so it doesn't matter how many times you tell me that Cincy Tennis is the best, if you share the exact same website as Atlanta or New Haven why should I think it's any different? The only difference is the top players a Masters 1000 attracts, but if that's not my main concern then there's nothing to differentiate each tournament. Of course the tennis community must function as a whole but I believe this shared style removes practically all competitive advantage that one tournament can have over one and other. The web is probably their biggest marketing asset these days yet they're all bound into one crappy system that produces the same poorly laid out content for every site. Big fail.
My Big Issue: The Static Top Navigation
If you're on the website you'll notice that whenever you scroll down the top navigation and consequently the huge Network bar stay in the same place. This sacrifices huge amounts of screen space and is a real annoyance. It makes reading things difficult and means if you're on a small ish screen (I'm using a laptop 15.6″ and I find it difficult on that).
This creates such an unnecessary amount of scrolling and means you can hardly see anything in the primary screen area once you scroll down.
I imagine the conversation with whoever designed it went like this:
Self Proclaimed Usability Guru: “I want it so that whenever a visitor is on our website they can see the main navigation because that's ultra important”
Yes Man Web Designer: “Good idea, I could do it like this” *shows demo of it on Cincy website.*
Self Proclaimed Usability Guru: “Great I love it!”
Oh dear oh dear.
I've also noticed it does the same thing with the article titles on the news section, whenever you scroll down the title and share buttons stay in the same place. Another poor implementation. I have no big deal about making share buttons prevalent, my own floating sharebar does it here, but it's designed to be non intrusive and there if you need it, not make reading an article twice as hard as it should be. Check this article and tell me it's not mega annoying:
Terrible Menu System
I don't know about you but when I hover over a drop down menu and each item has an arrow after it, I instantly assume that there's another sub menu waiting to drop down again in another tier. Is that the case here? Nope, it's just a feature for every menu item. So what happens if there is a second tier navigation? Who knows but they won't be using an arrow to make it clear that's for sure!
Difficult to Read
Generally I find this website difficult to read, if you look at the image above, the results page is actually just an image, which really presents a big usability issue. What happens if you want to enlarge the font or use a screen reader? You can't.
I really think this website is laid out badly, it's all just plonked in places, there's no consistency and I think the font is too small and difficult to read. There's also not enough spaces between the lines which gives everything a squashed feel.
The Mobile Site
I actually found the Cincinnati mobile site pretty easy to use, I guess the test will be how will it performs during the tournament with updates and live scoring but when compared to the desktop site it's far better. They menu is more intuitive and it's much easier to read articles and check scores so at least they've got something right.
Generally I'm not a fan of mobile sites on a specific URL and prefer responsive designs but no doubt with the Content management system used on the Cincy site that's never in a million years a possibility.
Overall I think this site is poor. I believe it has all the content on their to make a great site, there's lot of information from what you can eat at the venue right through to the latest news from the days play but the way it's implemented is terrible.
No pages are consistent in layout and it's tough to read information, some text is an image, some are .pdfs and there's random bits dotted all over. Like I say, they have all angles covered, social media, scores, news, and all the information a visitor would need but it's just so badly laid out that I don't know where to look or what the site wants me to do when I'm on there. I guess buy tickets but there's so many distractions.
The problem these tennis sites face is surely – how do they get people to return onto the website on days that aren't between the August the 11th-19th and I can safely say I have no desire to return to that site once the tournament is over. In fact I'll probably just use the ATP for scheduling and live scores and only ever use this one for Press conferences.
I think as more and more people become web savvy and consume content online more than anywhere else then they have certain expectations about how a website should look and perform as well as the content it should deliver so it's not something a tournament can overlook. I'm pretty picky on this type of thing but I do generally think this website lets itself down in quite a few areas which could cost it visitors both to the grounds and to the website. As they say, in retail it's all in the detail and this websites main aim is to to help sell tickets so with a little work I'm sure they could do far better!
Let me know what you think and give me your thoughts on what you like and don't like about the site! Oh and also let me know if you think this should be a regular feature.