A new look for summer 2008

Posted in ECB

Welcome to the new-look ecb.co.uk- we hope you like it.

Why re-design and relaunch the website? It all worked okay; nothing was broken, as such; and we received very little negative feedback about a site that had served us so well in pretty much the same format - give or take a tweak or two - for over four years.

Chances are we'll get more negative feedback following this revamp than we would have done had we left things alone. So, all things considered, why couldn't we leave things as they were?

Well, times change; and internet technologies and tastes have certainly changed during this decade. If we could still see the sites we've produced since ECB first ventured into new media production back in 1997 we'd probably reel in horror. I like to think not; but the chances are...

We've always tried to stay ahead of the tide, or at least swim along with it. We've always tried to make bold moves, try out audio and video, and make dramatic photography an integral part of the way we present our editorial offering.

Now there's mobile, hoardes browsing on their iPhones and BlackBerries. A growing hunger for lots more video. The social netwoking explosion. Everyone who's anyone is blogging...

The tools have improved over the years, so why not use them? People expect bigger, better, faster, and more of everything generally. We want to satisfy that need for cricket information and entertainment as much as we can; while balancing it with our other objectives: ultimately using ecb.co.uk to communicate with as many people in the cricket family, as often and effectively as we can.

So a major thrust of our redevelopment plan was restructuring; giving better airtime to the growing mass of info contained within our sagging tree. And avoiding too many mixed metaphors.

ECB does so much, in so many areas of cricket as the governing body for the sport across England and Wales. And a lot of it goes largely unnoticed. So our website has always been as much about providing resources to those involved in the grassroots of the game as it has giving the majority of users what they want most of the time - scores and news from England games, domestic cricket and other internationals.

We spend as much time and energy ensuring thousands of club cricketers and volunteers can see video, pics, blogs and news about NatWest CricketForce 2008 each spring as we do bringing you what we firmly believe to be unrivalled coverage of all the major competitions.

And we've put plenty of time and effort as part of this process into bringing a lot of the work carried out within the development part of our Cricket Department to the fore. So there are lots of new sections across the grassroots sphere. Helping one 16-year-old user find a cricket club where he can start playing the game, or his grandfather to get in touch with the ECB Association of Cricket Officials because he wants to get into umpiring is just as important as improving our scoring applications to get the masses the latest from the first Test; maybe more so.

As ever, as hard as you try to structure information across a large organisation within a simple navigation set-up, you soon run into issues. Things still settle a bit deeper than you would like. So we've tried to augment our search tool with some better signposting for the things we know you want to find, and the things we know you'd be interested in if you only knew they were there in the first place.

An improved and more flexible site map that is right there front and centre when you need it, wherever you browse. Better promotional graphics, trying to cover all the bases (sorry, non-cricketing term). And on top of that, well yes more of everything, and bigger, and better, and sometimes a little faster...

Our blogging is embryonic, but we have plans for a lot more, from playground to Test arena as it were; and for you to interact with it far more often. So a user-friendly display and indexing throughout the site was key. And the Ajax-powered scrolling and other elements are kind of cool too. Ditto the photo galleries.

We use a lot of great pics from Getty Images and PA Photos and elsewhere, and it was a shame to keep our photo stories as hidden as they were previously. They really are bigger and better. And where the still image doesn't quite satisfy we've worked hard to integrate and showcase the best of our growing library of video material on ECBtv, our broadband channel; itself undergoing a reskin at the start of the international season.

As you flick through the major sections of the site, you'll find Flash players showing not just teasers for full content over on ECBtv; but in the majority of cases, the full content itself. Full-length interviews with England players, management, and lots more besides. And all split into relevant little player-channels of their own.

Go to the women's section and you'll get video about women's cricket. Makes sense really doesn't it? Go the TwelfthMan section, and you get video content behind the scenes, bringing you close to the England set-up. That's what it's all about.

Ah, TwelfthMan itself. Well you can take that whole new section in your own stride. It's an important new departure for ECB; and vital that new media plays a leading role in our communications with you, our fans, our website users.

On the news front, we've responded to feedback and broken it out more into specific sections, particularly in the non first class side of the game. All the official ECB competitions have their own news archives. And there will be more features, more global and European news - as well as more and more exclusives from the England camp and county cricket.

As for the design. Our benchmarks were: modern, crisp, clear, representative of the ECB brand, class-leading, dynamic, innovative...

So, why now? At this arbitary point in mid-May? Well the honest answer is, that's as long as it took. we hope you think it was worth the wait...even though you didn't know it was coming.

There's lots more innovations to come. And we'll keep you posted right here in the blog.

Enjoy the summer ahead, hopefully here with us on ecb.co.uk