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SB Nation United is still making changes in response to user feedback and today they rolled out a whole new set upgrades, as described below in a message from the tech team.
- Increased the amount the number of recommended and recent FanPosts on the homepage
- Changed the styles to improve scanning of FanPosts and FanShot headlines and new comments on the homepage
- Added author bylines on Articles in the cover
- Added indicator if articles or features are from another SB Nation site when placed on the homepage
- Added article headline to comments on user profile recent activity list for better reply context
- Reinstated the ability for users to add polls to FanPosts
- Reinstated accurate comment counts on StoryStream updates in the cover
- Reinstated ability for authors to add custom captions to photos
- Trending Stories are now relevant to league of the team or sport the blog covers
- Fixed issue with Shift-A keyboard shortcut for comments not working properly in large threads
- Fixed issue with logos that break out of the circle getting cropped
- Fixed issue where new comment count was incorrect on FanShots posted from another site
- Fixed issue with filters not working on FanShot index page
- Fixed Facebook login issues
- Improved visibility of next and previous arrows on photo galleries
- Added correct author names to the FanPosts page
- Mobile optimization improvements
We have more work queued up including some substantial changes based on feedback from your members and a better set of data on how the entire audience are using the new sites.
They've also set up a page with the full SBN United version history (click here) but while we're on the subject, a few notes on how we've come to use all the new features:
That sidebar on the right will have every story related to the story you're reading, if there are any. It helps us because we don't have to reiterate the full background of the story every time we want to update you on it and it helps you in the event that you'd like to jog your memory about what has happened previously - whether you're in a game thread or a post-game summary, you can easily go back and see comments and content posted previously.
Anyway, here's the main point: they are responding to feedback to some extent and trying to make SBN United as easy to use as possible. Blog a Bull made a great point recently as well: there is quite a bit we can control to make the look and feel of the site better for you and some that we can't. But the bottom line is that if you have any thoughts at all on how either we can do things better with the new features or how the tech team can improve anything about the design of the site, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments and we'll pass them on.
From the SB Nation tech team: post-launch update #3 (recs, FTW!).
1) Streamlined the mobile web layout to be easier to quickly scan. I encourage everyone to load it up and check it out. We'll continue to make tweaks, but this was a big step forward and these changes were based directly on community feedback we received. We removed a lot of clutter and put an emphasis on the stories in the river: bigger headlines, added blurbs and added timestamps. We also cleaned up the fonts on mobile to be easier to read.2) More decreases to the size of mobile web pages in order to improve performance.3) Turned off auto-updating comments on mobile by default so that it doesn't inadvertently drain mobile battery life.4) Fixed the issue with not properly showing the number of new comments for logged in users on the homepage.5) Fixed the issue with missing content in the iOS and Android apps.6) Added the Recommend button to articles.7) Several other fixes to link type FanShots, Video links, Login/Signup links in the footer, issues w/ Facebook shared links, headline fonts too big in the cover and more!What we have up next:- Fix the issue with Shift-A not always working to clear unread comments for logged in users- More mobile improvements- IE 8 visual tweaks- Many small thingsThanks folks. Keep the good feedback + bug reports coming. We'll keep knocking them out.
As changes and improvements are made to the new format, much of this may become obsolete, but at least, for now, those who need it will have somewhere to start. There are 7 pages to the guide, and each page is represented by a small picture of that page, which when clicked, should open in a new window so that it's legible.
It's definitely worth checking out if you're still trying to get used to things not only because of how thorough it is, but also because your tour guide is former Golden State Warriors wing Corey Maggette.
And you know he's an expert at walking people through things.
Pay attention to the bottom corners for slow motion documentation of each of his travels.
Anyway, that's worth checking out even if you generally feel comfortable with the site. If you have any Swish Appeal-specific questions, feel free to leave them in our comments.
The SB Nation tech team has been hard at work trying to improve the interface after the launch of SBN United and the following updates have been confirmed today:
Over the past couple days, including early this morning, we released some major changes to improve the load time on mobile. We cut down the size of the pages more than half their original size and we're still exploring more ways to decrease what we send down to mobile devices to make performance better. We're now seeing load times in the range of 8-15 seconds depending on the device. In addition to the size of the page we are going to work on streamlining the UI as well so that it's easier to scan the page and look for new stories and comments on mobile.
The reports sent in to firstname.lastname@example.org have been very helpful in this process for feedback and bugs and hints on which devices are particularly problematic. I strongly encourage folks to continue sending these in - we really appreciate it. We are taking this issue very seriously and will not rest on improving the mobile experience until we're satisfied that it's the very best it can be.
During the process to improve mobile, we also found some opportunities to improve the performance of pages on all devices, including desktop. We continue to work on IE 8. We've fixed bugs related to logging in and commenting in that browser, but we continue to resolve visual issues. And as always there are many other smaller fixes that we are continually deploying.
Hang in there IE8 users: help is still on the way.
SBN's support team is also on Twitter @SBNSupport.
Aside from the "cover" a major change to Swish Appeal that you might have noticed is the presence of something SB Nation is calling "storystreams".
Brian Galliford of SBN's Buffalo Rumblings has a good description of what storystreams are.
Think of a StoryStream as an organizational unit. It collects a bunch of smaller stories within a larger overall topic. The word "story" is in the title for a reason: it allows us to tell a story as a situation unfolds, such as the Moorman release, or the various injury updates we get on a weekly basis.
Various updates appear in a story chronologically, but they do not all appear on the page by default. We as editors have the ability to identify important updates, and those are what appear by default (again, chronologically). To see all updates, click the "All Updates" tab that appears in the left-hand pane of the stream...
Clicking "All Updates" gives you a reverse chronological view of every single story covered - or, more generally, every single angle of the bigger overall story. Each "sub post," if you will, gives you a clickable headline and its own individual comments section. Different types of content can be collected - articles, short updates, videos, FanPosts and FanShots, and more - but it will all appear reverse chronologically in the StoryStream.
However a storystream is not always used to tell the story of a single event or, perhaps better stated, the scope of the event that people use storystreams for can vary.
For example, some sites have storystreams tracking a team's entire offseason. Many regional sites have storystreams tracking games. During the NBA lockout, SB Nation had a storystream with every story about that.
Right now on Swish Appeal, we're using a storystream to publish quick updates about the playoffs at the top of our page. But, as Galliford mentions, sometimes you can be in a storystream and not even know it - for example, you're in a storystream right now.
On the right hand sidebar of this article, there's a sub-menu titled, "In this storystream" with all the updates we've published about the new features with SBN United. And that's pretty much the "story" I'm following in this stream: notes on some observations I'm noticing as we adjust to using SBN United along with you. In our playoff storystream, that sidebar is used as an organizing tool so you can navigate between our playoff-related storie
The downside of storystreams - from my perspective - is that comments easily get lost. Take the playoffs stream, for example: there are now multiple updates some of which are available for viewing on the cover, some are easy to find by opening the full stream, and some (things that we determined aren't major developments) are hidden. Here's where there's an important distinction: we have the option adding updates to the storystream - meaning creating content that only appears inside the stream - or placing articles in streams - meaning the article shows up on the site's home page and in the stream. If you comment on an article, chances are you can easily find it elsewhere, either by finding the relevant "section" it was placed in or by scrolling down the site. However, if you comment on an update, you have to navigate through that whole stream to find it again if you wanted to look at responses, say, two days later. Because of that, it seems that the best strategy is to keep that playoff stream at the top but place external articles in it - that you can also find elsewhere on the site - instead of adding updates.
In contrast, for the WNBA awards stream that you also see on the "cover", we've been just adding updates much in the way we would have used "fan shots" (the blue boxes that would show up on the site prior to the launch of SBN United) previously: as a quick update on some news that isn't necessarily our original content but we figure is major news. On our end, publishing updates is quicker for something like that for a number of reasons that I won't go into now. On your end, the developing story of who got what awards is probably just as good together as it is apart (if not better) and because there are only a limited number of distinct events in that postseason awards story - rather than 50+ over the course of a month - it's easily manageable as a user because the scope of that event is already narrowly defined. Anything we publish beyond the basic list of awards can be an article that we place in that stream.
I know that's really confusing, especially given the jargon; I'm thinking it through here because there's an email thread going on between SBN-NBA managers about whether to use storystreams or sections to publish content for NBA training camps (Wait, we can use a section too? Yes, we can post sections in the cover). But I'll break it down this way: in most cases for the playoffs, barring publishing something small like score updates or a funny tweet that just doesn't make sense elsewhere, we're going to post articles you can easily find elsewhere and add them to the storystream. For something easily bounded where we're just filling in the blanks like awards, we're probably going to just update the stream.
That's all to help you find the content and comments you want around the site while trying to maximize the power of this new tool that we haven't had available to us here before.
What do you think of our use of storystreams thus far? Helpful? Distracting? Indifferent?
Let us know in the comments.
One of the the major developments with SB Nation United was that sites across the network were optimized for use across all mobile platforms, which made the apps rolled out last year obsolete.
Speaking of mobile, the SB Nation application is not being supported any more. If you have the Android or iOS app, you may as well get rid of it. (The reason is it doesn’t make sense for them to develop five different applications for each ecosystem out there to interact with a website when a single HTML5 website can dynamically respond to the device resolution.)
Eric Eldon of Tech Crunch has more about SB Nation's new mobile functionality.
The more subtle but still significant upgrade today is about making the same product work across any device. The text, images, and even ads are responsive to screen size. If you open any of your sites on your phone or your tablet, each piece of media will automatically adjust (try resizing your browser on any Vox site to see for yourself). The multi-pane "cover" display will move images down from a big box to a long-thin column. Text will move down into new lines instead of getting cut off. Background wallpaper ads will shrink down and collapse. Tech-wise, this last set of features is just HTML5 and CSS. The difference is that the product looks great for readers, and doesn't ruin the ads.
If you're having problems accessing this or any other site in the network on your mobile device, please contact email@example.com or contact them via Twitter @SBNSupport.
If you have ideas about how we can improve the mobile experience just in how we organize content on the site (e.g. where things are placed on game days, where game threads are, what we privilege), leave your thoughts in the comments. Just as the excerpt above alludes to, it's hard to know what that experience is on every device so your feedback is valuable.
With SBN United came many changes, the biggest being some flexibility in how we lay out our sites.
We know it can be disconcerting - already here, we decided to switch from a "cover" with 3 stories to one with 4 stories because it allows us some room to highlight multiple things at once (e.g. WNBA playoffs, WNBA awards, WNBA draft, and whatever the latest story is).
Mike Prada of SB Nation's Washington Wizards site Bullets Forever has put up a pretty nice overview at the options at our disposal for the top of the site, including the new jargon for it: "the cover".
To start, we're going to discuss the cover, which refers to the arrangement of stories at the top of the page. We'll walk you through the different layouts at our disposal and work together to figure out how to best use them.
First thing's first: the content we put in the cover is recent content. While the posts may not always be arranged perfectly in chronological order, if it's a new thing we've published, it will almost always stay in the cover for some time. We just might choose to highlight a longer piece in the top slot instead of the daily links or something smaller. Below the cover, the stories will generally flow in reverse chronological order just like before.
At the end of his piece he asks how they should use the cover and I'll ask the same thing here with a twist: given the breadth of basketball coverage/analysis we try to provide compared to a single team site, how do you think we should best use "the cover"? What do you think of the 4-up strategy now?
Let us know and help us help you adjust to all this change.
For another perspective on SBN United's features, visit SBN's Clemson site Shakin' The Southland.
Ted Leonsis - founder, majority owner, chairman and CEO of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns the WNBA's Washington Mystics - has taken notice of SB Nation's site re-design and given the sites covering D.C. sports (including Swish Appeal for WNBA coverage) a shout out.
For SB Nation sites. A bit jarring at first as it is so radically different, but we will all get accustomed to it.
Emphasis is on design and photos, the stinging pixels are of secondary importance on the page.
One interesting thing just looking at those sites from a design perspective is just how many different options we have for presenting information, though I have to commend Bullets Forever for doing some nice things with posting whole sections in the stream and coming up with some great feature ideas enabled by all the new features.
Just cruising around the network over the last day or so yields plenty of ideas.
The SB Nation design team is listening to your feedback and responding as fast as you offer it.
The following is an email from the tech team describing the first round of updates in response to user feedback:
As always there were a few folks who gave us very detailed constructive feedback and that has been helpful. Here is what we released this morning and should be live on sites NOW:- We tweaked the brightness/contrast on the green for rec'd comments and the yellow on new comments so that they would be easier to distinguish.- We adjusted the size of the fonts and the line spacing- We adjusted the padding on the commentsThis should address feedback about size, whitespace and readability. We'll keep iterating on this and everything, but wanted to share this since we're hearing it A LOT.Other things we are working on, but have not released fully yet:- Improving load times- Streamlining the mobile experience- Improving the experience in IE 8- Tightening up layout of articles so that comments are closer to content- Overall individual site navigation issues- Lots and lots of other bugs and tweaksThere will be more soon! I'll keep you updated as best I can. Please continue to send your own requests/feedback/bugs to firstname.lastname@example.org and ask your communities to do the same.
In addition to all of the changes you've already seen around SB Nation this week, Charlie Warzell of AdWeek reports on another coming development: long-form feature writing.
Following in the footsteps of web native properties like ESPN's Grantland, SB Nation is making investments in long form feature writing, which will be run by Glenn Stout, editor of the "Best American Sports Writing" series. SB Nation plans to publish three or four long form pieces per week.
On the design and technical side, the re-launch is enormous. The site will boast a responsive design across desktop, mobile, and tablet platforms, which means the user experience and design will be largely uniform and intuitive across individual platforms. "It's the biggest lean into adaptive, responsive design in the publishing industry that I've seen," Vox Media CEO Jim Bankoff said.
3rin already pointed out one example of a long form piece posted on SB Nation's baseball hub yesterday and as it turns out we're apparently going to get the tools to do similar long form writing here at Swish Appeal too (and you know at least a couple of us are already No (Word) Limit Soldiers).
What do you think of bringing more long form writing to SB Nation? How are you liking the interface after Day 1?
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