Last week, UCLA and the Morgan Center puled the wrapping off of their new baby- a completely redesigned UCLABruins.com, which is the official athletics website of the university. It was time for UCLA to upgrade their athletics website as their old one was incapable of handling the new technologies that make up such a big portion of college athletics and the world as a whole. The video player was poor, there was little way to incorporate social media and the look was unimpressive to say the least. So, before we take a look into what the new website has going for it, I think it's only fair that we acknowledge the Morgan Center for realizing that it was time to step up their website in what is one of the bigger improvements to a better online UCLA Bruins experience that they have been working on for a few years now.
The first thing that one notices when they check out the new website is the look. It's a much darker look, utilizing darker blues and a deeper gold, as opposed to the light blues and yellows that adorned the old website. In my opinion, it's a much sleeker look than it was before and the background image at the top of the page, the NCAA Championship trophy case, looks great. The various ads, calendars, ticket links and so forth all look much more connected than before and don't give off the disjointed feel that they used it. They're also more defined and informative.
Of all the changes that they have made with the new site, the best of them is the video player. Now, there is a video player incorporated into the rolling stories across the home page and on each team's individual page so while you can click to read the article about the news story, you can also just watch the video for the story or game, if there is a video. This is in addition to the video player on the right that is much clearer than the past version. With the Morgan Center's recent focus on video, led by Ralph Irvin's great work, this is a welcome improvement so all the great videos can be better shown off.
One that that needs to be upgraded about the video player, though, is the lack of embed codes. There's no reason that fans shouldn't be able to embed videos all over the place and share the news, highlights and information of UCLA athletics. It's a great way to spread the brand, inform fans and bring in new ones. It is a smaller detail that can easily be fixed though so hopefully that can be done.
Another noticeable change to the website is the navigation bar at the top. Now, when you scroll over donate, tickets, camps, recruits or any of the headers, there are a ton of options that drop down to click on. It makes the navigation much easier, but I think they may have gone a bit overboard on this one. For example, is it necessary to have 16 different options under donate? I think some may find it a bit intimidating and end up skipping whatever they intended to do because they're not exactly sure where to go. Improved navigation is definitely the right direction for the new website, but it could be better off if they reigned it in a bit.
After the improved video player, my favorite addition to the new website is the emphasis on social media. There are Twitter and Facebook links everywhere. It's featured on the homepage and there's a social media link where you can check out every Facebook and Twitter link that any program or coach has. It's a great addition to the site and one that shows that the Morgan Center is embracing some of the technological and social changes. The only suggestion I would have in this area is to put a Twitter box on the right of the homepage or somewhere with the latest tweets from the UCLA athletics Twitter or any team or coach Twitters.
One thing that I think will be worth keeping an eye on is how coverage of some of the non-revenue sports changes. The video coverage is a definite plus, but I was hoping that a new website would bring some new ways to keep fans informed on the non-revenue sports. Things that aren't big enough for entire stories need a place to be shared. It doesn't look to me as if the amount of coverage, besides added video, will be increased with the new website, which I think is a shame. That said, it's too early to make a final judgment on that. Let's see what happens when the seasons get going.
Those are the initial things that caught my eye. I have thoughts on some other things as well, things that they did well and things that can be improved, but on the whole, I think they're going in a positive direction. One thing that has to be kept in mind is that changes will be made to the site in the near future. As is the case with anything new like this, tweaking will be done as they see how it's working.
So, with that said, what do you guys like or not like about the website? What's working well and what were you hoping to see that's missing. What issue have you come up with and what things did they do that you like, but think can be taken a step further. Air it out everyone and get any and all thoughts out there.