(FAIR WARNING: This is long. If you don’t like reading long articles, please don’t bother to criticize it for its’ length.)
This is my first post ever, in the history of my world, on any possible topic, throughout the entire vastness of cyberspace. That in itself sounds so bombastic that I’m tempted to stop right now. I’m going to continue though, because I have received so much benefit from the contributors to this site – both the staff and the members who comment – that I’m willing to risk making an ass of myself, or boring you to tears, or incurring some of your wrath, in the hope of contributing in my own small way.
WHO AM I?
I am a life-long lurker. I watch and listen and analyze and conclude. I may be quite wrong in my conclusions, but as a lurker I’m often spared the ignominy of discovering so. Time to put that to the test.
I was an athlete of the sort that people made me sign contracts so that they had exclusive rights to my services, and paid me to do so… but not very much. It was not to play football. With regard to football I am a fan, not an expert.
My family moved to Colorado at Christmas of 1977, just in time for me to jump on the Broncos first Superbowl bandwagon. But I am genuinely a home-town kind of person, so it has been Orange and Blue for me ever since.
Discovering MHR was, for me, like receiving a really great gift from a random teenage niece who picked your name in the family Christmas-present-lotto. You don’t expect much – maybe a tie, or a sweater – but are left surprised but just how much you like it, and how often you use it. I had no idea that there was such a thing.
I have been coming to this site, multiple times a day, day after day, for three or four years. It has been my primary (silent) stomping grounds for all things Denver Broncos, even while I have discovered and spent time at other Broncos-related sites. I feel like I have gotten to know and appreciate – alright… or be aggravated by – many of the people who come here to participate. I have recommended the site to any of my friends who are also Broncos fans.
I finally decided to sign myself up just a few short weeks ago. Enough about me.
WHY DID I DECIDE TO POST NOW?
It feels like a pretty important time around these parts. I’m going to accelerate this and get much more point-specific in a moment, but first I want to be sure that it is known that this will be for the sake of brevity only, and that:
I absolutely appreciate the efforts that so many people make to create this arena, and the benefit I get from it.
In general, I much prefer to make assessments, rather than judgments.
I am trying to express regrets, rather than criticisms.
With the change to the layout of the site, has come a fair amount of criticism. People like criticism just about as much as they like change to their favorite things. In addition, once the criticism ball starts rolling, it tends to expand, and can come to include criticism of things that weren’t even being changed to begin with.
I have heard the rejoinder from the staff; “pleeeeaaase… bring specific suggestions!”. I agree, and here we go.
THE SITE LAYOUT
GENERAL: I believe there are two main problems with the layout. The first is that there is too much shifting around of the content. The second is that there is too much redundancy. Both of these things together create a lack of orientation, which means people feel lost.
THE MAIN SBNATION MENU BAR: I recognize that I only visit Mile High Report because it is about the Denver Broncos. I also recognize that MHR doesn’t stand alone… it exists because of SBNation. I like that the top menu is other SBNation links.
THE MAIN “STAFF” STORY BOARD: “User friendly” is the mantra. To me, this storyboard shifts around, and causes confusion. Sometimes there is one story across the top (with several below), sometimes there is a story on the side (with several beside it). The shifting is not beneficial. Keep the NEWEST story at the top, slot the next three below, and drop the last one down the center when the next newest Staff story is posted to the top slot.
THE MAIN MHR MENU BAR: I like that this is placed where it is. I do not like what it contains. I feel it is an enormously wasted opportunity.
THE TEAM HEADING:
STORIES : It is redundant. Get rid of it.
SCHEDULE: I like it. Perhaps add internal links to previous years’ results.
ROSTER: I like it. Add Injured Reserve and Practice Squad sub-sections.
STATS: I like it.
TICKETS: I understand why it’s there.
THE COMMUNITY HEADING: I would call it the ARCHIVES.
FANSHOTS: I like it.
FANPOSTS: I like it.
STAFF ARTICLES: I would add this here. With this third section, when anyone wants a story from the past they know that they can come to the ARCHIVES, and find any contribution, by anyone, ever written.
THE SECTIONS HEADING: I don’t like this at all. It seems to be just another arrangement of all of the content that is already elsewhere... which to me means redundancy, uselessness, and more confusion. I would eliminate this heading altogether. Other people may find it useful, but from the feedback I’m guessing not many. If you have to keep it, I’d move it out to the very end.
(A new) PARTICPATE (or some other name) HEADING: In the place of the SECTIONS heading, I would add a heading for the things that people participate in.
OFFICIAL MOCK DRAFTS: By year.
OFFICIAL PICK-EM COMPETITIONS: By week.
OFFICIAL MHR FANTASY LEAGUES: Drafts, results, playoffs, trades, etc.
OFFICIAL “OTHER STUFF”: Tailgate food recipes, the “Meet Up” sports bar list.
THE LIBRARY HEADING: This seems particularly weak, as if no one has had the time to get to it yet. It currently houses a 2009 Mock Draft. I would have sections that were especially valuable from the past, or that are powerfully informative.
MHR UNIVERSITY SERIES:
OFFICIAL NFL RULEBOOK:
OFFICIAL NFL CONTRACT/FREE AGENCY GUIDELINES:
OTHER VALUABLE “Xs’ & Os’” THEMES:
THE ABOUT HEADING:
MASTHEAD: I like it.
GUIDELINES: I like it.
HISTORY: I would add a storyline for people to get to know how the site came to be, what it’s all about, and how it has evolved over the years.
THE SECTION BELOW THE MHR MENU BAR, AND JUST ABOVE WHERE FANPOSTS STARTS: This section is important. I would keep the HORSETRACKS storyboard in there, and ALSO house the GAME -WEEK STORIES storyboard there. People read these all the time; let them find them easily.
These are two very distinct and very important sections. DO NOT add any other articles in this section, outside the storyboard boxes. When a new HORSETRACKS comes along, feed it in the top, let the last one drop out the bottom and migrate down the page. Same with the GAME-WEEK stories; let the (Broncos) GAME-DAY THREADS push the older content down the page.
Keep the advertisement where it is, but GET RID of “LATEST NEWS”… again, it is redundant and confusing. Use the box to add a picture of the weekly swag, or a member-submitted Bronco picture.
These four elements could be offset for balance. The Ad, then HORSETRACKS; below that the GAME-WEEK STORIES, then the graphics box.
FANPOSTS: It is fine where it is… just don’t let it move around. I agree with the person who suggested increasing the default of “recommended” stories back to 5, from the current 2. Also, I thought that the old criterion was for at least 10 recs to get it up there, but I have seen some with less. I don’t have a strong opinion on that.
FANSHOTS: It is fine where it is. I understand and like how it is offset from the FANPOSTS, with the Staff stories populating the interior space, and dropping (all of the way) down to the bottom as new content is added from above.
SBNATION VIDEOS (in cross-section): I’m fine with this.
ACTIVE SECTIONS (another orange side bar): Once again it is redundant (to me). Replace the content with killer video clips like the Drive, Fumble, Helicopter, Atwater/Okoye hit, McCafferey Superbowl block, DThomas Playoff OT TD, etc.
TWITTER FEED: Is fine.
MOST COMMENTED (another orange side bar): Again redundant. Use the space to post past MHR Radio broadcasts.
Enough of all that. To me, the important objective is to anchor the content in a way that is comprehensible. The only things that would be moving around are the Staff stories as they move down the page, being pushed directly by the newest content added at the top.
Avoiding story redundancy is key. The new HORSETRACKS goes only in the HORSETRACKS storyboard, NOT in the TOP STORIES, and HORSETRACKS, and ACTIVE, and MOST READ, and wherever else it may pop up. Post it once, let it migrate down and out to ARCHIVE.
Too much information is “User Unfriendly”. Too much information that is caused by redundancy is “fake TMI”, which is then Unfriendly and annoying.
THE SITE LOOK AND FEEL
GENERAL: I recognize that SBNation is trying to unify their look and feel, and I don’t begrudge them that. In addition, I am not a graphic artist by any stretch of the imagination. That being said… wow do I suddenly hate looking at this site. To me this is a nightmare. It is a color catastrophe. It’s a nightmare about a color catastrophe.
It is Optical Armageddon.
There are five distinct elements that I find visually jarring about the new look of the site:
THE LOGO: I have heard that the artist that created the logo is someone who is well regarded. I am sure he worked earnestly at his task. Personally, I don’t care about that at all, and from what I have been hearing, neither do the other members of this site.
Here is where I think SBNation made their absolute most gargantuan blunder. EVERYONE that comes to these sites – all 316 of them – identifies with their particular team. It is a colossal mistake to mess with that identity. There is no way in hell or on gods’ green earth that one individual is going to create 316 team logos, spanning more than a dozen different sports (and even more leagues), crossing many national boundaries, and expect to make almost anyone happy.
The only solution I see for resolving this is to have the SBNation graphics cats outline the constraints of the logo (it will be this big, it will sit within this circle, etc.), and let the community mine their own member base for a designer that will make something that qualifies. Let the members vote on it. Then send it back to the designer for them to drop it in place.
THE COLOR SCHEME: This is a continuation of the logo discussion. It is utterly ridiculous to expect a fan-base to accept that someone will arbitrarily change their team colors, or – worse yet – not get them right. Ask yourself what kind of message is being sent there. I wouldn’t expect a fan to accept any reason that one could possibly give them for doing so. (“It makes us more marketable”? STFU).
So you have now messed with the logo, and with the color scheme.
Let me emphasize this… nearly every one of your members is going to be unhappy with you about what you have done to one the most visceral and beloved aspects of your service offering.
To me the logo is marginally understandable, but the color scheme isn’t even discussion worthy. Get this right.
THE COLOR BLOB: The intense orange in a really big uninterrupted block is off-putting. I like orange… but that is not appealing. I would describe it as “garish”. Perhaps the section box and its’ heading/footing are the primary (orange) team color, and the story titles sit on a white background within it. Makes it cleaner.
Perhaps the thin-line section dividers, and section box in-lines and outlines, could be the offset color (for teams that have one). Make it sharper. Right now MHR colors are much more like those of the University of Tennessee Volunteers than they are of the Denver Broncos.
THE ORANGE MATTE OVERLAY: It doesn’t look good at all to me. It looks like either my screen, or the image, is dirty. I would lose this “effect” wherever anyone thought to apply it. What was the reason for it? To “soften” the look? So we have garish coupled with soft?
TIME TO WRAP THIS UP
I feel the site has come under criticism because of the changes that were made. It is not solely because of change that people don’t like it. Some things are a matter of opinion, but I think some of the changes are objectively bad.
Too much information, shifting information, redundant information… is confusing.
Couple that with a garish and cluttered look, and people have to work too hard to make sense of it.
I won’t be storming off saying I’ll never come back. I still like coming here. But I find myself coming by less often. I find myself spending far less time when I do come by. Remember that there is truth to the idea that, in a relationship, disinterest is far more concerning than anger.
If my reaction is also true for a fair percentage of the membership, then that is something that should be taken pretty seriously by the people who hope to capitalize on our being here.
I would love to see the Staff take these issues and say:
Which issues are completely up SBNation, where MHR has no control. Then let us know if they will try to fix them or not.
Which issues are available to MHR to fix. Then, will they be changed or not.
If the rest of you agree with parts of this, “rec it way up” to keep it at the top. Even if you disagree, use the comment section to hit the specific issues (as was requested) that you deem important to your continued enjoyment and patronage.
I haven’t touched on mobile issues because I don’t experience them.
I haven’t touched on the actual CONTENT as provided by the writers, as it is a whole separate issue. If this post gets any feedback, perhaps I’ll do one of those.
(ANOTHER FAIR WARNING: I have spent a lot of time on this, and I really didn’t have it to spare. So please don’t be upset if I don’t show up much to respond in the comments, or if I answer someone else and not you. No disrespect intended.)