Refreshing the site’s look

I have been mulling about a few things I would like to do to the site:

  • Develop iPad/iPhone/Android Mobile versions of Smart Football.
  • Polish up the sidebar — what would be most useful to have on it?
  • Clean up the header, title, etc.
  • Add Google Plus to the social share at bottom — any other sharing tools people wish they had?
  • Embed advertising in RSS feeds.

I’m also open to any other suggestions or ideas. If you or someone you know has design and/or programming capabilities feel free to reach out to me at chris [at] smartfootball.com. Much appreciated.

  • mike ketchen

    Chris,
     
    I stumbled across your site when I googled fangraph style football sites (random I know) I just wanted to say I have thoroughly enjoyed your site in the last few months I have discovered it and I am totally blow away by the depth of your articles, yet the clarity you can present the information with. I look forward to all the stuff you post going forward and please continue to keep churning them out!
     

  • Chris Lindsay

    I know you didn’t ask for this, but may I suggest you consider starting a weekly audio podcast?  I know you are a guest on podcasts, but you should consider starting your own.  Like your other readers, I also find the information you provide here to be informative and interesting.  And while some of what you write requires visuals, I’d love to hear your expertise in a talkshow type format.  I stopped listening to most football podcasts, because it’s the same cliched, superlative-filled talking points that are made over and over again.  There’s very few outlets for football fans who enjoy the analysis that you offer.  Maybe find yourself a host who can ask you questions or do a solo podcast?  It might be a good next step that gets you increased exposure.

    Regarding the sidebar, I would keep the “featured posts”, trim your recent posts to the last three articles,  get rid of “recent comments” , “blogroll” , and “links.”  Unless the Amazon.com reading list is being updated regularly, I would probably get rid of that too.  In my opinion, the best blogs don’t have content for content’s sake.  Too much stuff is likely to get ignored (and clutters an otherwise nice looking blog/website).  If you want a blogroll, I would only keep those that you contribute (Grantland, etc.).  I know you want to give attention to other sites, but in most cases, your readers are either familiar with them and subscribe to them, or don’t because they don’t find it interesting.

    I don’t know if you need to invest time/effort into making an app, since there are good RSS feed apps that accommodate this blog.  But it might be something to keep on your to-do list for down the road.

    Regarding the header/title, you may want to put a bit more color up there to contrast the webpage color.  Maybe a forest green background in the header field? 

    That’s my $.02.  No matter how the website looks, the quality of the content is the most important thing – so I’ll always keep reading what you have to say.  Keep up the great work.

  • http://twitter.com/noahchestnut Noah Chestnut

    Chris,

    Disclaimer: I started reading this site on your last design & I usually read your posts in Google Reader. In response to your questions:

    –iPad/iPhone/Android: Since you are on WordPress, go with OnSwipe: http://onswipe.com/ Clean, easy to use, insanely fast. My recommendation is to start with this, see how your readers like it and then iterate. 

    –Sidebar: The status quo works. New readers who like your content will scan it and may find the tag cloud or archives useful to navigate. Repeat readers will ignore and may occasionally scan recent posts. There is little harm with the current sidebar. One thing I appreciate about Grantland is that they removed the sidebar and replaced it with footnotes when reading an article. This is a much more pleasurable reading experience.

    The best sidebar right now is probably the redesigned article template at Harvard’s Nieman Lab, such as http://www.niemanlab.org/2011/12/a-very-natural-thing-for-me-politico-reporter-ben-smith-on-his-move-to-buzzfeed/ 

    Why? Easier to separate content and when you scroll over recent news, it becomes more visible. The “fog of war” feature helps with the reading experience.

    If I were to design your site from scratch, I would remove the sidebar and insert a minimalist navigation menu below the header. 

    I’m not sure if fit the demographics of the majority of your readers (26, male, work in policy/communications, watch football but don’t coach, I equally enjoy your reading recs on finance as well as your play breakdowns). In my ideal world, SmartFootball.com would be laid out as:

    Header, sponsored by _____
    Nav: Who is Chris Brown, Chris at Grantland, Featured Articles, What to read (Amazon links + recommended reading + blogroll), RSS, Follow Chris on Twitter & Search
    Articles/Feed – as is
    (If you wanted to keep a sidebar): Similar articles (sort initially by metatags), Recommended people to follow (link each article to 3 to 5 people on Twitter you like for this type of content, this may be repetitive, but it would be a great feature to test) & Your one/two line ads on the bottom of the current sidebar. I actually prefer to read and click on these text ads compared to a banner for Scope.

    –The header and title are actually fine by me. The football icon is a tad clip-arty, but overall it is good. I’d think about how to better place ads, so possibly moving the scope banner from ad choices to a sponsorship deal (obviously this is more difficult to pull off and you may need a serious uptick in traffic). 

    –Google+ makes sense. I would also reach out to the folks at Pinterest. One idea – move away from the generic share button and include icons for Facebook, Twitter, G+ & StumbleUpon (the big 4). I don’t know what your metrics tell you, but people are usually more likely to share when there is an obvious icon staring at them. The share button doesn’t compel behavior as well because it hides the request you are making with your readers.

    I would also add a Read It Later/Instapaper feature for longer posts. Make this an optional addition in your CMS.

    –Please do embed advertising in RSS feeds. I’d be happy to do what I can to help you make money. Your content is A+.

    Other thoughts:
    –Be creative about content. One thing I would like to see if more of your Twitter content on the site. I enjoy your back and forths with different writers and an occasional Storify of these exchanges would be great. 

    –What you are reading is great. A post about your favorite #longreads with links/read it later functionality. I enjoy your non-football reads as much (and sometimes more). 

    –Some sites to take a look at for ideas: 
    http://www.niemanlab.org/ 
    http://bostonglobe.com/
    http://www.walkerart.org/
    http://www.theatlanticwire.com/

    Feel free to drop me a line on Twitter or at noahchestnut@gmail:disqus .com if you have any questions. Thanks for writing,

    Noah

  • Paul

    An app would be awesome, as would a podcast.

    Completely and utterly awesome.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Noah, a lot to chew on. Regarding the long-reads ideas, I had something for a time similar to what mgoblog.com does on its sidebar, but gave in because delicious got discontinued (though I guess there are still pockets of use) and I got self-conscious as it would go a month or so sometimes without being updated and I felt like it probably needed to be updated daily.

    The answer may be to do more straight up no-frills “links” posts without any original content or color, but that always takes time too.

  • CleanXMen

    ya, a podcast would be great-

  • Rusty

    Chris,

    I’ve been reading your site for years, it’s great. My brother is an independent web designer, so I forwarded this post to him. Hope that’s cool.

    Thanks,
    Rusty

  • mccook2002

    ” while some of what you write requires visuals, I’d love to hear your
    expertise in a talkshow type format.  I stopped listening to most
    football podcasts, because it’s the same cliched, superlative-filled
    talking points that are made over and over again.  There’s very few
    outlets for football fans who enjoy the analysis that you offer.”

    Yes. This 1000x.

  • http://twitter.com/cnbuff410 windstorm

    Chris:

    If you consider having a better publish way than RSS, you should give Google currents a try:

    http://www.google.com/producer/currents

    It naturally cross platform and has a very nice interface.

  • http://twitter.com/noahchestnut Noah Chestnut

    Understood. Del.ic.ious rebooted but I don’t trust Yahoo! to keep it alive. I currently use diigo but that is unsatisfactory for posting to a sidebar. 

    Twitter and the rest do a fine job alerting your users as to what you read without having to worry about stale content. 

    As a reader, my preference is that your time is spent where you want it, not where you feel obligated. Content usually suffers when that is the case. 

    Windstorm’s idea about Google Currents is interesting. It is still in its infancy, but something to look into.

    Kindle Singles: Since you are probably attracting new readers via Grantland, an eBook (priced accordingly) introducing readers to the best of Smart Football would be a good product to offer. Even if it was priced at $1.99 or $2.99 and was limited to 30-40 pages, it would be worthwhile. 

    Podcast: Great idea, but time is a constraint. While I don’t know how this works, it probably makes more sense to test the waters with The Grantland Podcast than go on your own. 

  • http://twitter.com/noahchestnut Noah Chestnut

    I am not a web designer by trade (I work in content strategy), but if I had to recommend a firm, I’d include http://www.hardcandyshell.com/ in my short-list. E-mail Kevin [at] hardcandyshell.com. They built Shanoff’s Quickish.

    I have yet to work with them (we work with firms based in DC/Northern Virginia), but am impressed with their portfolio. 

  • Guest

    Yes, I’d also be glad to have embedded advertising in the RSS feeds. Glad to support!

  • Chris Lindsay

    And if you would like someone to help you with the production, I’d be happy to assist.  If you don’t want to handle the recording, post-production, and whatnot, I’d be more than glad to help.  I’m somewhat of a hobbyist, but I enjoy the behind-the-scenes stuff quite a bit.  You can check out my work at criticalwitpodcast.com

  • http://www.naomediacon.com Christopher A. Craft

    Hello Chris,

    One of my firm’s team members is a big fan of yours and he sent this post to me. Either one of us will be contacting you about your various web/mobile needs. I know we can help a good deal. One of our clients is Bomani Jones – http://bomanijones.com and http://theeveningjones.com (we designed both of the sites)

    Our site is at http://naomediacon.com or you can call us at 855.WE.BRAND (932-7263)

    -Chris Craft

  • Thehoodie

    Along the lines of the podcast idea would be to do webinars like the Glazier Clinics people do. A lot would depend on the guests you could bring in of course, but something visual to go with the commentary would be ideal.

  • Mr.Murder

    The other site that gets most of my reading is not very phone friendly(nfp). They banner so many links to the the site for headers that it takes up most of their content on longer stories, and a lot of the time it does that to all of their comments.

    They’ve also gone to two pages for one page stories, perhaps as a technical merit to the same link/header issues. More likely to double ad clicks.