Usability for future OlympiansPosted August 28th, 2012 by David Hamill
Imagine you’re a starry-eyed teenager having just been inspired by the recent Olympic games. Your country has one a bag full of medals and you’re inspired to get involved. It should be easy to find out how to do this shouldn’t it?
In this post I’m going to have a look at the websites of a few organisations involved in delivering medals of Team GB in London 2012. I’ll briefly discuss the good and bad points of each site for newcomers to the sport.
British Cycling probably receives more Lottery funding than any other sports organisation in the UK. This is because they deliver the most medals at Olympic Games. So they aren’t short of funds when it comes to attracting people to the sport. However the website lacks discipline and organisation.
The British Cycling website seems to have fallen into the trap of trying to include as much as possible on its homepage. This is compelled further by the inclusion of gimmicky features such as the rotating ‘hero messages’ and advert type promotions. There are 2 horizontal navigation menus each with over 12 options to choose from.
Many newcomers to cycle racing will be overwhelmed by the number of options available. There is an option down the page for ‘Getting into Cycling’ but many people will have chosen their favoured discilpline from one of the menus (e.g. Road) before getting the chance to see it. Even those who do choose it will be bombarded with lots of confusing sounding options when they arrive at the following page.
Like many sports, the organisation and set up of competitive cycling is a little confusing and the site doesn’t do a very good job of trying to explain this in simple terms.
This site would be improved if they…
- simplified the structure
- prioritised the content
- rewrote key pieces of content
It’s often the things you don’t include that make a useful website rather than those you do.
In comparison, British Rowing seem to show a lot more discipline in the design of their homepage. The newcomer is greeted with a homepage that lacks the kind of clutter shown by British Cycling. This makes it very easy for the newcomer to find out how to get into the sport.
The primary menu is easy to spot and there are only 7 options on it. One of them is called ‘Taking part’. The resulting page provides a simple explanation that the first step is to join a club. It provides a club finder to help the user do this. Unfortunately the club finder is poorly implemented so many people will struggle to find their local club.
If British Rowing were to do a bit of usability testing of this club finder they’d find some ways to improve that would make it a lot easier for people to get involved.
British Amateur Boxing Association
The BABA is responsible for managing Team GB’s boxing squad. Its website is a little shouty in terms of the number of features begging for the visitor’s attention but it’s relatively easy for the newcomer to find out how to get started. The main menu has a nice number of options that are mostly quite easy to choose from. I would suggest they include a quick explanation that they are the BABA before offering a menu option of BABA.
Within Amateur Boxing there are a few similar sounding options but one is called Getting started in boxing. The resulting page is concise and well-written. It sticks to the basic information where other organisations might write a thesis on the subject. The page could be improved with some paragraph headings however.
The user experience takes an unfortunate plunge in the next step of the journey. There is no single way of finding your local club to join. Instead the approach differs between England, Scotland and Wales. Only England delivers a club finder. In Wales there is a phone number and the website for Scotland it sends you to is devoid of any useful information.
The website takes a shortcut in the important job of welcoming newcomers to the sport. There may well be separate organisations in each of the Team GB countries but important user journeys like this should be seized by the central body so a consistent, useful experience can be delivered.
Interestingly Northern Ireland isn’t even mentioned. Like many sports in Northern Ireland I’m assuming this is because they are managed by and All-Ireland association rather than the GB one. It’s an explanation worth giving on the GB Boxing site though even if it isn’t their responsibility.
Both British Rowing and BABA provide relatively simple and appealing websites which make them easier for newcomers. British Cycling is disappointingly complex. However they all fail newcomers in one way or another and this will have an impact on the take up of their sport.
Many successful websites prioritise newcomers over returning users and it makes sense to do so. If you have a pleasant first experience then you’re more likely to return. So it’s worth taking time to make sure the experience they get is a good one.