Building a Better Mobile Sports Site

One of the greatest effects to emerge from the iPhone influence is that web designers care a little more about alternate browsers. We've had technology to present alternate presentations of content for years, but other than working around browser quirks, few did anything with the knowledge that a user might have something other than a full screen 1024x768 browser running.

Today, many major sites have a mobile version, and quite a few have mobile versions specific for the iPhone. This is great for users. They get the content they want, in a package suitable to their device. Well, mostly.

There is still work to be done. Even the mega-brands, like pro sports leagues, seem to trip up a bit when building their mobile sites. As a sports fan, and a mobile Internet user, here is my take on two of these sites. The NFL and the NBA.

This image shows both the homescreen you get, along with a full page of scroll to give you a better idea of the experience you'd have if you were actually holding an iPhone in your hand.

What strikes me immediately is how little of the first screen actually contains content. Both sites include their logos and a Menu button. I don't know why I'd need a Menu button, but I get why the logo is important.

The NFL site hits me with some ads. I guess I can understand that. The NBA site does as well, but for its own products. I especially like how the NBA ads say "Click Here". For starters, no one clicks on mobile devices. They tap. Second, I really hope we get to a point where we don't have to tell people to "Click Here". It's like painting "Drive Here" in the middle of a highway lane. Are there still people waking from their Rip Van Winkle and whipping out an iPhone?

Both sites contain worthless headers like "GAME CENTER" and "SCORES". How many helmet to helmet contacts does it take before you are unable to recognize a score? Do we really need to waste the space to tell me something I already know?

Overall, I really like the NFL site. Once you scroll down a bit, you get a perfect mobile view. You see teams, scores, and the network they are playing on. That is perfect. That is exactly what I want and expect. Move the "Week x" links to the bottom and we're really talking.

Then there's the NBA. Here you see 3 views of the site, about a month apart. The most you can ever see without scrolling is the scores of two games. Even then, they don't seem to bubble the in-progress games to the top, so you have to scroll past info you've already been alerted to, possibly for a few hours while you follow the games of the day. The rest of the screens are filled with even more worthless stuff like a "Mibox" (what the hell is that and why should I care) and links to the D-league.

Hey NBA, NO ONE CARES ABOUT THE D-league. Why would you waste this precious space on routes out of the site that your user specifically just came to? The funny thing is if you go to nba.com, the D-league link isn't prominent at all. What made you decide that mobile nba.com users were the ones that needed to see giant links to the D-league and the WNBA?

I guess what I'm asking for is a simple experience.

  • Don't treat me like an idiot with labels for things that don't need labels. You don't label the free-throw or 3-point line on the court do you?

  • Today's games are more important than tomorrow's or next week's. Move that navigation to the bottom.

  • Don't give me personalization features unless I opt to have them. Welcoming me as "Guest" is annoying, not helpful.

  • Tell me where I can experience your product. That means, tell me what TV network is showing the game. Gold star to the NFL for already doing this. I absolutely LOVE this feature and it keeps me coming back every week.

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