While the Seattle Seahawks have certainly been making plenty of news during the offseason for changing the look of the team that will take the field in 2018, the organization has also been busy changing its look online.
The Seahawks and every other team in the National Football League will be rolling out new websites that will do a better job of optimizing content for mobile devices. Seattle became the second team to launch on Thursday morning, following the San Francisco 49ers, whose site went live on Tuesday. The rest of the teams will complete the process throughout the spring and summer with a goal of having all 32 up and running by training camps.
Kenton Olson, director of digital and emerging media for the Seahawks, is in his 12th season and he’s looking forward to changes that will make it easier to display content across multiple platforms.
Since 2008, the teams have all been using an older software called TeamSite, and Olson called it woefully out of date.
“A lot of the websites really weren’t compatible on mobile devices,” Olson said. “The content and the data were very intertwined with each other so it was really hard to adjust to the mobile space. So the league for a while now has put some effort towards redoing all the websites to be more modern and really be something optimized for the way our fans are consuming content — which obviously is the mobile device.”
Depending on the time of year, the Seahawks see a great deal of their web traffic come from mobile users. During the 2017 regular season, the team attracted 96.3 million page views across all digital properties, and of that, 87.2 percent of page views came from mobile web and the app.
But there’s a big difference between a site that simply works on mobile and one that was built specifically with mobile in mind. For greater uniformity, the NFL has turned to an Italian company called deltatre that does a lot of work in international sports, such as with FIFA’s official online presence or the 2012 London Olympic Games. The NFL sites will now use a product called Forge to bring the 32 websites up to speed with modern demands.
“When I started here in 2007 it was really all about the website, and that’s really all we had and there was a lot of emphasis put there,” Olson said. “As things shift, and as social media has grown and mobile apps, the way people consume content is more fragmented and different. So for us, it’s all about creating content and putting it in these platforms and having a website that allows us to do that it in a more efficient manner.”
The design of the team sites will look familiar to fans who pay regular visits to NFL.com. But teams are free to play with the layout and feature content as they see fit.
“Really, where our fans will notice once the sites all launch is, for once the sites will have parity and content across mobile, tablet, desktop — any device they happen to go to Seahawks.com on, or any of the 31 other websites it will be a great experience across all those platforms,” Olson said.
There will definitely be commonalities between Seahawks.com and say, Patriots.com or TheRams.com. But the team sites will be unique, versus Major League Baseball, for instance, in that teams will still have complete control over all content.
“Every piece of content that’s on there, we choose to publish,” Olson said. “It’s not a centralized NFL person publishing content to our website. There’ll still be a lot of uniqueness to the teams as they customize their experiences. There’s a framework that we’ve got some freedom within and it’s up to the teams how to utilize that framework.”
Content that fans know and appreciate will still be available on the Seahawks website. But the layout is cleaner in story pages, with advertising that is less obtrusive. There will be more stats for individual players and the team overall because the old website didn’t have the technical sophistication to display much of that. And the team will have the ability to do more with game-day stats for fans who are unable to watch and want to follow along online. The video experience has also been improved and optimized for mobile.
Fans won’t notice any difference in the app, which is not changing at this time.
A more nimble code base means the league can roll out a specific widget or feature faster for all 32 teams. Imagine the old process, in which 32 different code bases and 32 different styles and templates all had to be tweaked to conform to an NFL request.
“There are technically templates, but it’s more like Legos, in the sense that we can put whatever Legos together and make whatever we want,” Olson said of the new modular format. “Our [old] website was very templatized so if we wanted to go in and change the content that’s on the homepage for a game day it was a much more heavy technological change. I think long term it’s really exciting because we’ll be able to really do a lot more cool stuff that in the past we haven’t been able to do because the underlying code was just so old.”