ESPN.com is out of beta and re-launched this morning. It launches with a pretty cool prestitial from Ford F-150, introducing the new site. Ford also sponsored the banner ads and video units on the homepage.
The homepage and the sports front pages are most noticeably redesigned, with the video player removed from the right hand side and replaced with a 300×250 unit. The video player was moved to a tab in the center of the screen. There are also the two 924×50 ad units above and below the content area.
ESPN has a series of videos explaining the re-design and can be viewed here at the ESPN video section. All video content can be shared by email and embedded to an outside site, but cannot be shared to social networking sites (eg. a video on Hulu). Actually, ESPN does not allow for any of its content to be shared to social networking sites with tools like AddThis, which is something that a major news source like CNN does so well.
There is also story on ESPN.com that completely explains the site redesign. The major elements of the redesign are as follows:
- Front-and-center location across homepage and sports main pages to provide the top stories and videos.
- Larger video player
- Site personalization. Users can select teams, players, sports and columnists to track in the Personalization Corner. Selected teams will be highlighted in scoreboards, as well as MyHeadlines throughout the site. Coming soon: Fantasy teams will be available in the myESPN drop-down menu.
- Simplified navigation – can easily find all sports, columnists, Page 2, fantasy and games, video, SportsNation and The Life.
My first reaction is the site looks great. It is much cleaner and there is much more banner placement positions for advertisers. The larger video player is great, especially because the old video player was so difficult to watch. Other than the social sharing, there are three other things that immediately stand out to me as features that should have been added.
1) Facebook Connet. This was an opportunity for both Facebook and ESPN. I think the Facebook Connect technology would be a great fit with ESPN given the sharable content and a great way to increase user registration. I think the fantasy league features could benefit most from this because you could share your team to you friends, ask for feedback/advice and recruit for leagues all among your Facebook friend network.
2) Given the amount of promotion ESPN gives their HD channel on air, you would think they would provide HD video on the site. Video is a major part of the site, and I think from this perspective they should look to Hulu, especially in regards to HD. I think this could be done two ways; a seperate HD section for all video or a “video in HD” option on all of the video players. This would be a huge step forward for ESPN as “a leader in HD sports”.
3) Advertisers should be able to sponsor the scoreboard.
As I spend more time with the site I am sure more will come to me.