Moving along with our second annual edition of the Bloodshot Eyeball Awards, Eye on Sports Media is pleased to announce that the 2009 Bloodshot Eyeball Award For Best Online Media Guide Solution goes to...
...Brigham Young University.
One of the more controversial issues in collegiate sports information in 2009 was the decision by many conferences to abandon print media guides as a "cost savings" measure, and to move the guides online. In fact, the NCAA has been looking at this as a possible mandate to Division I member schools.
Many of the efforts at presenting the information online are failures. Many schools and/or the companies managing their web sites have confused the real needs of working media with the goal to go with new and sexy interfaces or by uploading large PDF versions of the media guides. The best way to describe it is that they have forgotten that they are in the business of information management and distribution.
The PDF files are too unwieldy to work with and move quickly through. The "online magazine/book"style of presentations, such as the approach being taken by East Tennessee State University, is totally unusable becase you cannot copy and paste material from it for repurposing. While the PDF versions are not the best, at least users can copy content from them.
So let's look at what makes BYU the exception.
If there is one thing the Mormon Church excels at, it is data management. They work with so much historical data, they have learned lessons that many other groups have yet to grasp. It is a big jump to assume that this translates into what the BYU sports information department is doing, but even if it is not related, the folks in this department clearly get it.
What is "IT" and why is it being singled out? Very simply, a point I made on a CoSIDA conference call last year is that if the NCAA was going to insist that schools stop print media guides, the information put online had to be easy to find, easy to access, and easy to repurpose. How could they do that? By putting each piece of the media guide up as a HTML page without fancy bells and whistles. After all, is the media guide for the media or for the recruits? OK, you can stop laughing, we all know that is has evolved into the latter.
BYU gets this and this is exactly how they present their information. It is simple and easy to access, and you don't have to pull your hair out trying to get it and use it.
The first thing you will find when entering a specific sport web page on the BYU web site is that you don't have to guess where a link to the media guide is buried:
Once you click on that link, you are presented a page showing links to ALL of their online media guides:
You then select a sport, and you are given this interface:
You can then click on a link like "Bios" and you get the next step (with persistent navigation on the right):
I think you can see where this is going: the site is designed well with good use of white space, has persistent navigation, is designed well (i.e. attractive in its simplicity), and makes the information easily reusable.
The bottom line is that BYU is and should be the model of how ALL sports organizations, professional and amateur, should design and present their information. They should not listen to what the vendors are trying to sell them. They should not listen to people saying that unless you push the technology envelope, people will not use the resource.
They should talk to BYU and take a look at their online media guides.