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Website Review: Cincinnati Masters

Website Review: Cincinnati Masters

As a tennis fan I’m constantly logging onto the current tournament websites to check the latest scores, look for press conference transcripts, watch video interviews and to check out any content they produce that I find interesting. I also know you guys are doing that too so with that in mind I’ve decided to look at tournament websites in a little more detail and post my thoughts on them here – mainly what they do well and how they could improve.

I also want your feedback on them too, I can only look at things from my own perspective so what I like about a website you may hate so it’d be interesting to see what the general consensus is on them. Also let me know if you find this type of thing interesting, I’ve never posted stuff like this before and it’s not exactly related to Fed or tennis per se but I have a good working knowledge of websites and they’re something we use everyday so I figured it might be a cool regular feature! Anyway, lets kick things off with the Cincy Tennis website and find out whether it’s one to bookmark or to avoid at all costs…

The Cincy Tennis Homepage

Cincy Tennis Homepage

As soon as you land on this site you’re reminded that you’re part of the Pro Tennis Internet Network and it gives you a list of all the other tournaments that use this network and shares the exact same style of website. Why they have to tell me all the other tournaments that are part of it by using a massive bar that takes up a huge part of the top of the screen (precious real estate) I’ll never know. I’m on the Cincinnati website, so I’m not really interested in those other websites immediately.

By all means let me know of all the other websites that are part of the US Open Series Network but don’t do it in a massive bar. If those things absolutely have to be there, the other tournaments should be listed in a drop down menu or in a much smaller bar that allows the user to close it and remembers my preference with a cookie so next time I visit it’s not right in my face.

Uniform Style Websites Suck

I have to say I hate the fact that all the US Open series websites use the same templated design and the only differences are in content and colour scheme.

I imagine they signed up to this scheme and got it subsidised but I kinda think that’s a little bit shortsighted. There’s probably a shit ton of politics involved too but I would much rather prefer it if each website had it’s own unique design. You can argue that this style is good for user experience as you instantly know where everything is no matter what site you’re on but to be honest that’s no good if the user experience is consistently bad.

Let me explain why this is a bad idea; each of these tournaments is promoting a unique experience if you visit their tournament, “more than just a tennis tournament” “don’t miss the drama of the Western & Southern Open”, all messages are geared around that theme yet they all share the exact same looking website. Talk about an inconsistent message.

If you’re like me you believe what you see, not what you’re told, so it doesn’t matter how many times you tell me that Cincy Tennis is the best, if you share the exact same website as Atlanta or New Haven why should I think it’s any different? The only difference is the top players a Masters 1000 attracts, but if that’s not my main concern then there’s nothing to differentiate each tournament. Of course the tennis community must function as a whole but I believe this shared style removes practically all competitive advantage that one tournament can have over one and other. The web is probably their biggest marketing asset these days yet they’re all bound into one crappy system that produces the same poorly laid out content for every site. Big fail.

My Big Issue: The Static Top Navigation

Stupid Scroll

Am I at the top or the bottom of the page?

If you’re on the website you’ll notice that whenever you scroll down the top navigation and consequently the huge Network bar stay in the same place. This sacrifices huge amounts of screen space and is a real annoyance. It makes reading things difficult and means if you’re on a small ish screen (I’m using a laptop 15.6″ and I find it difficult on that).

This creates such an unnecessary amount of scrolling and means you can hardly see anything in the primary screen area once you scroll down.

I imagine the conversation with whoever designed it went like this:

Self Proclaimed Usability Guru: “I want it so that whenever a visitor is on our website they can see the main navigation because that’s ultra important”

Yes Man Web Designer: “Good idea, I could do it like this” *shows demo of it on Cincy website.*

Self Proclaimed Usability Guru: “Great I love it!”

Oh dear oh dear.

I’ve also noticed it does the same thing with the article titles on the news section, whenever you scroll down the title and share buttons stay in the same place. Another poor implementation. I have no big deal about making share buttons prevalent, my own floating sharebar does it here, but it’s designed to be non intrusive and there if you need it, not make reading an article twice as hard as it should be. Check this article and tell me it’s not mega annoying:
http://www.cincytennis.com/news/the_morning_line_by_betsy_ross_-_august_11_2012/

Terrible Menu System

Sub Menu

I don’t know about you but when I hover over a drop down menu and each item has an arrow after it, I instantly assume that there’s another sub menu waiting to drop down again in another tier. Is that the case here? Nope, it’s just a feature for every menu item. So what happens if there is a second tier navigation? Who knows but they won’t be using an arrow to make it clear that’s for sure!

Difficult to Read

Difficult to Read

Generally I find this website difficult to read, if you look at the image above, the results page is actually just an image, which really presents a big usability issue. What happens if you want to enlarge the font or use a screen reader? You can’t.

I really think this website is laid out badly, it’s all just plonked in places, there’s no consistency and I think the font is too small and difficult to read. There’s also not enough spaces between the lines which gives everything a squashed feel.

The Mobile Site

I actually found the Cincinnati mobile site pretty easy to use, I guess the test will be how will it performs during the tournament with updates and live scoring but when compared to the desktop site it’s far better. They menu is more intuitive and it’s much easier to read articles and check scores so at least they’ve got something right.

Generally I’m not a fan of mobile sites on a specific URL and prefer responsive designs but no doubt with the Content management system used on the Cincy site that’s never in a million years a possibility.

Final Thoughts

Overall I think this site is poor. I believe it has all the content on their to make a great site, there’s lot of information from what you can eat at the venue right through to the latest news from the days play but the way it’s implemented is terrible.

No pages are consistent in layout and it’s tough to read information, some text is an image, some are .pdfs and there’s random bits dotted all over. Like I say, they have all angles covered, social media, scores, news, and all the information a visitor would need but it’s just so badly laid out that I don’t know where to look or what the site wants me to do when I’m on there. I guess buy tickets but there’s so many distractions.

The problem these tennis sites face is surely – how do they get people to return onto the website on days that aren’t between the August the 11th-19th and I can safely say I have no desire to return to that site once the tournament is over. In fact I’ll probably just use the ATP for scheduling and live scores and only ever use this one for Press conferences.

I think as more and more people become web savvy and consume content online more than anywhere else then they have certain expectations about how a website should look and perform as well as the content it should deliver so it’s not something a tournament can overlook. I’m pretty picky on this type of thing but I do generally think this website lets itself down in quite a few areas which could cost it visitors both to the grounds and to the website. As they say, in retail it’s all in the detail and this websites main aim is to to help sell tickets so with a little work I’m sure they could do far better!

Let me know what you think and give me your thoughts on what you like and don’t like about the site! Oh and also let me know if you think this should be a regular feature.

About Jonathan

Huge fan of Roger Federer - I'll pretty much try and watch all his matches from Grand Slam level right down to ATP 250. When I'm not watching or tweeting about tennis I play regularly myself and use this blog to share my thoughts on Fed and tennis in general.

20 comments

  1. Hello, I read your blog so I decided to finally comment.
    I just today looked at the website and indeed Cincinnati Masters
    have a terrible failure! THANKS FOR ALL THE ARTICLES AND GREAT
    GREETINGS FROM BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

  2. I’m not expert of web design, but first thing that came to my mind when I opened a web page is that they have a horrible designer! I’m glad to share the same opinion with you! I apologize for my terrible “English”! :-)

    • That’s more useful though because the people who use that website aren’t web designers so your opinion counts more!

      And I understood your English just fine. I think my Bosnian/Serbian is far worse ;)

  3. I’m magister of business informatics with no expirence, but I now some things about it!:-D
    Hahahha, Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian like only Novak, Tipsarević, Čilić… understood! But my best player is Roger!

  4. Sid TheCookieThief

    Ok, I am a web designer and I do agree that these websites universally suck. What do you think of RolandGarros.com (other than the Nadull picture)? And Wimbledon.com (other than Williams and Murray on the same page)? :)
    A website (non-tennis) that really caught my eye was uefa.com/uefaeuro/season=2012/tournament-calendar/index.html
    It has a tournament map and those lines you see keep moving forward as a team progresses. The tabs at the bottom to jump to specific stages of the tournament are really cool. What do you think?

    • Cool, what kinda websites do you design?

      I quite like Roland Garros as I used it quite a lot this year.

      Wimbledon, not so much, I loved the photography they used but not sure of the practicality of that as a background, they used awesome photo but I felt it was abit overwhelming. I also didn’t like the fact you had to be within the frame to scroll. But overall not bad, although when you consider the amount of money that will have been spent on that I think it could be better.

      The UEFA thing is pretty neat, looks good but I always think things like that aint always practical, seems to do a good job though.

      • Sid TheCookieThief

        I do all types of websites. Anything from restaurants to full blown business automation :)
        The Euro website: that design suits the tournaments. They should come up with something cool for tennis. By the way, london2012.com sucked. Don’t ask me why, it just sucked! :)

  5. Hey Jonathan
    As well as being a tennis blogger I have my own biz in online marketing related services and I totally agree with your review, especially about the fixed navigation being really weird. Unfortunately a lot of tennis tournament websites aren’t as good as they could be. I particularly dislike when a misfit looking splash page comes up first trying to get me to buy tickets, when surely they can detect that I’m not in the country where the tournament is. And ideally I should only see the splash page once, not every time I visit (and I visit the tourney website a lot for updates while play is going on. Anyway thanks for the chance to share my frustrations.
    Cheers
    Mel

    • Hey Mel,

      Hadn’t been on your winclicks site before but I have now!

      Yeah I’d say 75% suck. The tickets thing is pretty annoying too, especially when most of them take you to another third party seller or a general tickets site when you click it!

      Cincy is worst one I’ve been on in a while. Will probably make this a regular thing so stay tuned for the US Open review.

  6. I use ATP World Tour.com, the website has an excellent design and is easy to use.

    • Yeah ATP is pretty good, like the fact you get scores on homepage in the top bar so there’s no messing about, it’s the only thing I ever use that site for.

  7. Website design does really make a difference. I also use ATP for tennis info. I usually don’t bother with the tournament sites. Indian Wells is quite good…getting info on tickets, the view from your seats, etc.
    Hope Fed does well in Cincy! Rogers Cup was a bit of a bust. Top players out, rain delays.
    Looks like Nadal probably won’t be playing USO. I really think his knee problems flare up when he is emotionally down. That loss at Wimbledon, I think, put him in a tail spin. His knees were bad when his parents divorced.

  8. Sid TheCookieThief

    A little exercise for anyone interested: Try finding out what day Roger’s first match is. Forget time etc. just the day Roger plays. I couldn’t find out. Maybe I’m not looking at the right place. That web site is unusable!

  9. Roger plays on Wed 7pm Cincy time.

  10. I prefer atpworldtour.com & tennistemple.com

    Rolandgarros.com was very useful during fo12

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