You've already seen a taste of the future of Swish Appeal (and SB Nation United) with the recent unveiling of the new Swish Appeal logo - and a redesigned look for every site in the network.
But that was just one small part of much larger changes to the interface that the SBN design team has been working on, guided by the concept of "united individuality". Those changes will be implemented soon and after playing around with some of the new features, I have to say that I find them exciting.
There are essentially five major ways that SBN United will affect Swish Appeal community members & writers. The following is just a primer - with visuals - of how those changes will affect Swish Appeal specifically.
"United Through Individuality"
- Improving usability: SB Nation United is going to make the experience on our sites run seamlessly from every platform, whether mobile, tablet or computer. It is going to make our sites load faster and run better meaning you can get to the content you want faster. No matter where you are, the experience will not change.
- Unifying the brand: SB Nation United is going to bring unification to the network-wide brand through the logos that we come to identify with individual sites.
- Customizable site layout/navigation: SB Nation United is going to make sure that you're seeing the best and brightest content up front with our flexible layout, modern design and reduction of clutter.
- Updating developing stories: The community elements of fan posts and game threads that we use here to share our basketball watching experiences will still be around, but we're going to add the ability to follow breaking news and developing stories in a more robust way than we have before.
- Content sharing: SB Nation United will allow us to bring in content from other sites in the SBN network (this applies to college basketball more than anything else) much more easily.
There's actually much more to SBN United than this, but those are the things that will likely affect this site most. What you'll begin to see is that this is not only an aesthetic change, but an entire change in how we do things at SBN sites.
The following is a brief overview of what that will look like with screen shots (with more on usability coming later).
Unifying the brand
Ted Irvine, the designer who did all 300+ logo redesigns for the SBN network, recently posted a detailed description of his design process with an explanation of the logic and the steps he went through to get a rather large job done.
From our end, the process involved two steps: we got a mock up of a new logo, we gave feedback on that, and we got a second draft. To get a sense of what that looked like, here's the mock up...
Actually, you know what...I'm not going to embed that image. Click here to see it. Then immediately forget it. And then click here to see what we ended up with. All that is to say that the original mockup almost makes you appreciate the final version even more.
Anyway, the new logo look is just a small part of establishing a more unified look and feel across all SBN sites, which is intended to make for a better experience for sports fans as they stay updated and comment on all of their favorite teams [check out all the new SBN logos here]. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that all 300+ sites now have one will, one resolve, and one course that will prevail through the suppression of individuality. In fact, the most exciting part of this from our end is that it will give us more publishing tools to tailor the way we present - and you access - content.
The first change you'll notice in the site is the "cover", which will be a large set of header slots where we will place our top stories, featured analysis, and game day material.
Sample "3-up" cover layout.
One of the things that makes Swish Appeal unique is that we're not only covering multiple teams, but also multiple leagues (NCAA and WNBA) - as James Bowman wrote just today, there are six seasons in college basketball and some of them bring different topics to focus on. For writers, one of the most frustrating things about the current linear layout is that "feature" content that might be relevant to one aspect of women's basketball quickly gets bumped down the page as new content about another is published.
The cover allows us to do two things: highlight stories from multiple leagues/conferences at once (e.g. WNBA draft prospects and the NCAA tournament) and keep content that you, the readers, are most interested in at the top of the page in a way that makes sense. For example, instead of a post on draft prospects falling off the main page in a few days, that post could potentially be frozen up top for fast and easy reference, complete with updates on specific players.
Under the "cover" is the "river" (yes, the one thing that the 1984 Apple commercial missed was implementing "one language" and SBN United will come with a new language for thinking about blogs), which is similar to the linear format you're familiar with at SBN.
The "river". Click to enlarge.
While what we'd currently consider "front page content" is still organized in a similar manner, you'll notice that fan posts and fan shots are organized differently. Admittedly, that will take some getting used to. But there is a simple way to help us highlight fan posts: rec the ones you like. We can still put them on the front page and make them easy to find.
But there will also be a shift in how content is organized, which we'll get into later. For example, the "hub" where you access "fan shots" will look like this:
Fan shots hub.
We'll get to more on that when the full site is released.
Updating developing stories
One of the most exciting additions with SBN United is the implementation of "storystreams" at every blog.
Storystreams enable us to aggregate news about a developing story together in one place to see how it unfolded without clicking back through a zillion pages to search for relevant related information. You might have already noticed this feature being used at SB Nation's regional sites: SBN Arizona has a storystream that documents the entire Phoenix Mercury season. SBN Atlanta had a storystream to follow the Angel McCoughtry saga after the Olympic break this year. SBN Seattle has used storystreams in the past for single Seattle Storm games, bringing together previews, in-game updates, and post-game analysis/quotes.
Here's an example of how those will look at the individual sites.
Some obvious uses for storystreams can be found at the existing regional sites and there are probably some other ways that we can use it to bring things together on this site.
There will be some other content management changes that will affect how writers do things more than they will readers, but another exciting element of becoming more "united" is that we'll be able to bring in content from other sites into our "rivers" and "streams" - shall we call the site as a whole an ocean? - to add more voices into our community. Blogs like Rocky Top Talk and California Golden Blogs do an excellent job of covering their schools and conferences during the women's college basketball season so that's something we can bring in more of here.
Obviously, there will be a learning curve and adjustment period but we're going to try to ease you into things and make it all as easy as possible. For now, feel free to leave questions in the comments and we'll answer what we can.