I think of football (soccer) club websites much as I do automotive websites; traditionally pretty poor and, dare I say it, a reliable indicator of little digital knowledge at a board or senior management level.

The stereotypical Premier League club website would have a big interstitial with a button to 'enter site', then a clunky UX that's too busy, not mobile-friendly, or both.

On top of that, the average ticket buying experience is usually enough to make you tear your hair out.

Thankfully, over the last two or three years, most Premier League clubs have improved their websites, but there is still not much to get excited about.

Take West Ham United as an example. The club launched a new website in early 2015.

Improvements were made but you can still see evidence of 'enter site' interstitials, alongside arguably too much display advertising (retargeting from retailers etc.), and a slightly confused homepage that includes, amongst other things, social media posts which are surely better consigned to their own channel.

Interstitial when you arrive at West Ham's website

west ham website 

The usability of the site is also compromised by less than elegant UX and formatting (see below).

I'm being a little picky, but the point is that Premier League websites have improved but still aren't great.

west ham website  west ham website

Southampton FC

However, Southampton FC launched its new site earlier this month claiming it would rethink the fan-club relationship and be measured against world-leading brands, rather than simply other football clubs.

So, does the site look promising? Here are some of the things I noticed.

Newsfeed as homepage

This is a sensible idea. Homepages are too often a confusing hodge podge of content blocks.

Southampton's homepage defaults to 'Saints Live', the name Southampton gives to its newsfeed. For anything else, you can dive into the menu.

Above the fold sits a carousel which shows the latest news story and a marketing message (when I visited this was discounted tickets for an upcoming cup game).

It is slightly annoying that I can't swipe this carousel, but the transition does at least grab my attention.

Below this carousel and still above the fold is key information (next match and league position), which is presented clearly.

southampton fc website  southampton website

From then on, you can scroll down through the newsfeed (ordered chronologically) and pick out a story or video that interests you.

It's nice that stories can be closed easily, via a button at the top of the article, so the user doesn't have to navigate back to the newsfeed.

Easy to open and close news items

southampton fc website

Promotional blocks are interspersed throughout the newsfeed, but not so frequently as to annoy.

Social posts from players are also featured in the newsfeed. I'm not sure they work particularly well, as the formatting is poor - for example, Instagram posts do not show any text or comments when previewed (see below).

Users can click through these social posts and be taken to the player's Instagram post in-app, so this undoubtedly will bring followers to the squad, but it doesn't exactly provide edifying content on the site itself.

Cross-channel content like this can work well, but too often the integration is a little clunky.

Social content is poorly formatted

instagram

Elsewhere, nice details include 'related content' suggestions at the bottom of articles, which work well. 

And search, too, was competent.

Suggested content and search

southampton fc website  search on southampton website

All in all, the newsfeed is exactly the sort of content football fans look for from publishers, and Southampton does well to make it so accessible and prominent.

Simply put, give the fans what they want.

Registration for video is a good idea

The video content available is pretty good. Interviews, match replays, highlights etc. are presented appealingly within the newsfeed.

To watch videos or listen to matchday commentary, users must register either using their email address or via social log-in.

This is a nice way of capturing customer data.

One small niggle - the copywriting here could be improved. 'Access digital content' doesn't mean much and takes the fun out of football.

southampton fc website

Simplicity of UX

The menu is easy to use and pleasingly limited with five main options and no niggly submenus (see West Ham's site).

Less visited webpages are tucked away in the 'more' tab, and this is a model of efficient information architecture.

As one would expect, the site is mobile-friendly (using Google's testing tool), and its pages score pretty well (homepage at 70/100) when put through Google's Mobile Page Insights.

There are also few distractions in the content itself (no display ads) and the design is simple enough to avoid niggles.

southampton fc website  menu southampton fc

Perhaps a lack of inventive content?

Southampton FC has more product development planned, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see some more sophisticated and interactive content on this platform.

It feels like something that's missing at the moment.

The newsfeed content is great, but without anything to appeal to younger demographics, does the site neglect the next generation?

Below are two examples of fun content from Arsenal, the kind of interaction that Southampton should look to add if possible.

This kind of content, albeit more expensive to produce, draws more traffic from social media and may be a valuable weapon for data collection.

Identify former players and predict who will get 10 goals this season

arsenal fc website  arsenal fc website

Buying tickets

There are some nice touches to the ticket buying experiences. A user can set a favourite seat section which is selected each time they buy.

There is a handy 'where should I sit?' prompt, which, although it loads a non-mobile-friendly PDF, is helpful if you don't know the stadium (e.g. which stands are family-friendly).

Like pretty much all football club websites, I can only go so far down the ticket purchase journey before I have to register.

This occurs pretty early on and I can't help but think these clubs are missing a trick.

Allowing guest checkout surely wouldn't be such a bad thing? After all, I would still have to provide an email address and a billing address.

southampton ticket buying  southampton ticket buying

Continuing with ecommerce, the club online shop isn't great. However, this is on a microsite and I suspect hasn't been updated in the revamp.

I would expect the shop to be another point on the club's digital roadmap.

In summary

I enjoyed using the Southampton FC site.

Having moved from the Football League's limited website platform to this new design, the club will hope this site will serve the purpose for the next three years at least.

By eschewing bells and whistles, sticking to a simple design that puts content first, the fans should be happy.

Especially if Nathan Redmond and Charlie Austin keep scoring.

Ben Davis

Published 26 October, 2016 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (5)

Tom Dougherty

Tom Dougherty, UX Director & Partner at DeleteSmall Business Multi-user

Thanks for the review of the Southampton site Ben. As delete's UX Director I'm pleased you found the user experience enjoyable. Your points are valid and some of the things you identified for improvement we are currently already working on so look out for some updates in the near future.

about 1 year ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Editor at EconsultancyStaff

Thanks, Tom. Congrats on the site. One thing I didn't bring attention to, but is nicely done, are the pages for each member of the squad.

The way stats are displayed and the newsfeed is filtered to show content relevant to the player is really smart.

e.g. https://southamptonfc.com/first-team/dusan-tadic

about 1 year ago

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Stephen Dench, Freelancer/Owner at Web App Designer

As both a UX designer and football fan I have to agree with most of the points raised here.

Football websites for the revenue the generate have some shockingly poor UXs. However this Southampton site is clearly one of the best I have seen and its taking the right steps.

As you know there's never really such a thing as a perfect UX and what works for some is a broken unusable pattern for another.... however i'm sure the journey continues and more and more of these niggles will be ironed out as time goes on...

I'd be really interested to hear about what user interaction their was during the design process from focus groups to usability testing, if available for disclosure?

about 1 year ago

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Andy White, CEO at Spectre

Thanks Ben - I enjoyed this article. As both CEO of an early stage tech company, and huge sports fan, Im all too aware of the shortcomings in digital offerings from many of the top sports teams (most notable soccer). As a Saints fan, I can confirm there's still some backend niggles with the e-commerce and ticketing systems (likely legacy platforms), but the new website itself is unquestionably a big step up to the norm.
Well done Saints on the appointment of Delete - Tom and the team have done a sterling job so far!

about 1 year ago

Dane Skinner

Dane Skinner, Digital Insight at Nationwide

Some of the concepts explored here are really interesting and the insight that Soton will pull out of this revamp should allow them to iterate this further.

Specifically around the registration point, I do think there remains lots of barriers to this action.

If Soton are seeking increased registrations I think the customer needs more reassurance/reason to hand over their information. Is it possible customers are suspicious of handing over all of their social/email information for match highlights which they could get just as easily on YouTube. What's the catch?

Do customers know it will be ad free?
Do they know it's high quality?
Do customers know their information will not be shared?
Do customers know WHY registration is required - what will Soton do with the data?
It says 'free to register' but this doesn't imply free content...

about 1 year ago

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