Site business: let’s talk more about this redesign, shall we?

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Let’s start with something really obvious: I understand that you’re not happy with the redesign. For what it’s worth, I’m not terribly happy with everything about it myself. But that’s kind of the rule with redesigns, yes? I expected there to be a lot of negativity about it. Mostly because, just like every single website that has been around for a bit, we’ve seen this before.

Those of you who have been around here for a long time will remember our last big redesign. It happened in 2010, and consisted of the changeover to the format we had until yesterday. There was outcry about it at the time. Many of you old timers — or shall I say Old Gators? (Hi, OG!) — told me it was terrible and that you couldn’t see coming back to HBT anymore. One of the most common complaints in 2010 was that we went from having the whole story on the page to having only an excerpt plus a “read more” button. I think the second or third most common complaint since yesterday was the fact that we got rid of the “read more” button and now have the whole story on the page. Plus ça change, no?

That anecdote notwithstanding, and contrary to what some of you have said, I am not being dismissive of your displeasure at the redesign. Your displeasure is both palpable and understandable. I am dismissive of the comments and emails which offer nothing beyond “this sucks,” of which I have received several, including from some of you who are typically the most thoughtful and engaging commenters. That sort of disappoints me, primarily because that does nothing to help me explain to NBC what needs to be addressed or fixed. (note: to answer a comment I saw this morning: no, I’m not deleting comments that are critical, even the “this sucks!” comments. For Christ’s sake, when have I ever deleted comments merely for being critical? Give me some credit).

It is an iron clad rule in the Internet world that designers and users think of things totally differently. Just as the need or desirability of many changes the designers have made are lost on you as readers because they don’t concern your day-to-day experience, many of the reasons you guys like a web site are lost on designers because they don’t use it like you do. With that understanding, know that I am not dismissive of the comments and tweets which actually explain in clear terms what you hate about it and why. They read the comments too and I am passing along other criticisms and observations. Help me explain to them what sucks about this and why rather than simply raging about it.

In the meantime, let me update you on at least one thing: we are WELL aware of the problems with respect to comments format and functionality, particularly the issues with replying to comments and the fact that reverse chronological order makes no sense. We should have fixes to that stuff soon. No, I don’t know exactly when. But I have been assured that NBC is addressing the problems with the comments.

As for some of the other things such as navigation between posts, header positions, between-post ads, etc., all of this is being looked at. Not gonna lie: some stuff you don’t like is going to stay here because they are features and not bugs (i.e. we’re not going back to the green header and the old design). Some of the things that alienate a certain group of readers is going to draw in a larger group of new readers. Not everyone’s interaction with the site is the same. It’s impossible to please everyone but, at the end of the day, NBC is a business and it is within NBC’s best interests to maximize readership and revenue. That sweet spot, which every single commercial website seeks, is no different today than it was yesterday. If we had truly maximized the reach of the HBT community to baseball fans, we wouldn’t be doing the redesign. Everything we’re doing now is aimed at doing just that. I would hope that’s not shocking or controversial to any of you.

Anyway, I appreciate that the redesign stinks in some important ways. I, more than anyone as I’ve been here since Day One, understand the importance of this site to so many of you and the importance of the community which has been created around it by you. We will do everything we can to smooth this bad boy out and address your concerns going forward. As our official corporate press release about all of this yesterday said, we didn’t view yesterday as “Redesign Day” and now wash our hands of it. It’s a process that people have worked on for a year and will continue to work on to give readers the best experience possible. Is that toeing the company line? Sure it is. But in this case it also happens to be true.

So, please: bear with us. Know that we’re trying to make this site as good as it can be. And help us fix the stuff that keeps us from doing that.

–Craig