Saturday, June 13, 2015

ATP World Tour Unveils New Look to Website

On June 12, atpworldtour.com came out with a new look, and while it isn't the first time the site has been redone, this is one of the largest changes to the site in recent memory. Just about any time a website that is frequently visited gets redone, the immediate reaction is negative, and such was my reaction within a minute of going to atpworldtour.com.

However, I have come to see some of the benefits in the new site, while also noticing a handful of ways in which the new look is not good for tennis fans. I'm going to break down some of the positives and negatives of the changes, starting with the positives.

I'm going to stay away from color-scheme analysis and those kinds of things, because I don't know the first thing about it, but I will talk about information as what as what is presented and how it is presented. I'll also stay away from criticizing the small bugs, because that is too be expected with such massive changes and will soon be cleaned up.

Positives:

Rankings - About 90% of this section of the site is better than before, and since this is the section I visit most, it weighs heavily on my opinion of the new site. The last time this section of the site was redone, it was a disaster in that you had to go through a rankings home to get to what we all really wanted. Most of that disaster has now been cleaned up allowing fans to get directly to the 52-week singles rankings with a simple drop-down menu.

Also, in the rankings page, there are now columns for age and the amount of points a player is defending on the particular week. This update is way overdue. The WTA has had a column for DOB for a long time and the ATP is just now catching up. This update does not apply to archived rankings however.

My favorite part of the change to the rankings is the new tab "Former No. 1s" which is dedicated to current and former world No. 1 players. It includes No. 1 ranking stats that I previously would have to go to wikipedia to find. The information isn't as complete as what wikipedia has, but it is nice to have it on the ATP site now too.

Player profiles - Overall, I am pretty disappointed about the way this section of the site came out. However, there is one tiny positive. Tennis has for a long time had an issue with commentators and fans not knowing the pronunciation of players' names. Now there is an audio clip on each players' profile with them saying their own name. It only exists for a limited number of players, and I would prefer to simply see the written pronunciation, but this is certainly a step in the right direction. (Funny enough, the written pronunciation does exist for some players, but it doesn't always line up with how the player says their own name. See Mahut)

Scores - Scores are now on the side of the page instead of the top, which means that they can fit more than three at a time, which is great. Only problem is that the scores are hidden and hard to find at first. If you zoom out on your internet browser, it becomes visible. Seems like an unnecessary hurdle. Hopefully its just a little bug that needs to be fixed.

Win/Loss Index - I'm a fan of this section. More information, which is exactly what I want. You can find and compare the win/loss records of any player in any kind of match. This information has been available before, but now being able to compare all players with the click of a few buttons is a massive leap forward.

I thought to myself once a few years ago that if I were in charge of the ATP website, I would add a tab with something very similar to what they now have. I don't know the first thing about how to create a website though, so it's a good thing I'm not the one in charge.

Negatives

Photos - It seems that the main objective of this change was to make it look better with more photos, bigger photos, and more photoshopped photos. I know that some people really appreciate the photos and that is their main reason to visit the site. That's not the case for me, so maybe I was blind to the photo issues in the past, but I would have to be blind to miss the photo problems on the current site.

On the home site, almost everything starting with the second ad bar and below is hard to look at. The ranking section of the home page and head-to-head section has pictures of players that are way too photoshopped. They look more like cartoon superheroes than people. It looks way more like cartoon network than a professional sports website.

Then between the second and third ad bars, that section is okay other than the fact that we already have four ad bars just on the front page. That section used to be just words, so the addition of smaller photos is fine.

Then between the fourth and fifth ad bars, is the "feature gallery" which is just a photo gallery. There are no features there that I have found yet. The photos are of a great quality, but putting a bunch of random photos on the front page shows one of the major problems with the new change, which is that it focuses more on presentation than information.

The site is now completely covered in things that really do look nice, but the function of the site is to be a source of information. The general trend of emphasizing how the site looks over how to make the maximum amount of information available is a problem.

One other slight photo problem is that since they insist on using more photos, the lack of photos for certain players is suddenly a problem. In the win/loss index, there is a photo next to every name, but when you look at all-time records, there are only silhouettes next to almost all players that aren't still active, including Borg, Sampras, Agassi.

Size - Everything is bigger in Texas and on the new ATP site. Photos are bigger. Numbers are bigger. Letters are bigger. Columns are bigger. I have already decided that when I go onto the ATP website, I'm going to set it to 90% just to undo some of the extremeness of how big this is. I don't know how big the ATP thinks my computer screen is, but apparently they thought it was big enough to fit all this.

When I open the story on Andy Murray, the Scot takes up my entire page. In fact, I have to scroll just to see the entire picture. If the picture is so big it can't fit on my screen, that's a hint that it might be too big. Same with just about everything else. It is so big that very little can fit onto the screen.

I know Stan Wawrinka had a very successful run at Roland Garros, but it couldn't have been so successful that the ATP really can't fit all of his results onto the screen without me needing to scroll, right? Wrong. His results are spread out by such unnecessarily large rows that they can't even fit on one page.

Part of the reason so little space is available is that when you scroll down, the drop-down menu goes with you, taking up about 20% of the screen. If I want to see the drop-down menu, it is not that hard to scroll up. It's meant to help the viewer, but it isn't doing anybody any favors.

Overall the issue is that I don't want to have to scroll a page to see an entire picture, any more than 10 players in the rankings or a player's results at multiple tournaments. It's not that I'm too lazy to scroll. The problem is that it is nice to be able to see a certain amount of information all at once.

Symbols - I guess these days it's just to ask young people to read a couple words or even at times letters. At least, that's what the ATP thinks. Everything that can be changed from a word into a symbol or icon is changed. They stopped just short of using emojis.

Even three letters is too much to ask tennis fans to read these days. Instead of the three-letter abbreviation for countries, there are now flags. Instead of the word "draw" there is now a picture of squares that looks like a draw. Instead of singles and doubles, there are silhouettes of one person and another of two people. There are many many more examples of this, but we can stop there.

Player Search - I guess they kind of forgot about this feature. It was weird before that the site always had two player search bars. Now there isn't even one. What they have instead is a tiny magnifying glass (the one small thing on the entire site, so I won't complain) and when you click on it, you get a pop-up screen. It seems to be a very nice search engine and much faster than the old one once you get to it. Only problem is that it isn't something you can type straight into one the home page.

FedEx ATP Head2Head - This has always been one of the coolest aspects to the website, which I have never stopped appreciating. However, they managed to find a way to make it worse instead of better. Now, it is impossible to search any head2head record if it is not the featured one, which I'm hoping is simply a bug that needs to be fixed. But also, when you open the featured head2head details, you get another pop-up.

I think it's safe to assume that the main purpose of this feature for the fans is to find the match-by-match results in the head-to-head. However, that is the last part that you find, and it lacks a lot of information that it used to have before. Most importantly, the surface column.

For some people the lack of that column might not be a big deal. Most people know off the top of their head which surface is Roland Garros. However, most people can only guess what the surface of the tournament in Philadelphia was in 1969 or the surface of the majority of challenger events. Having to look that up separately is a hassle tennis fans now have to put up with.

Overall
There is a lot more to look at. Some of it good, some of it bad. The ones that are most frustrating are the parts that were great before and either don't exist now or simply aren't as good as before. It will take  little while to get used to navigating the new site, and eventually I will forget about my frustrations with the new site. However, the positives don't outweigh the negatives though, and it would have been better to just leave it as it was before.

2 comments:

  1. Hello, I'm Noel Alberto, the lead editor with the @VAVEL_USA tennis section. http://www.vavel.com/en-us/

    We're looking for more tennis writers, and with your knowledge on the sport, we would love to have you. We're a professional growing site which gets hundreds and thousands of views on our articles and will be paying our writers shortly. If you like more information about us, please e-mail me at noel_alberto61594@yahoo.com

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