So, last week you got a peek at the new logo that will be gracing the soon-to-be-released re-designed ADTSTC. This week we get a sneak-peek at what's in store for this community in the future, care of our SB Nation overlords.
As I wrote previously, we all know people fear change and that Internet people equate change to the destruction of the fundamental basis of our human existence. Here's the big thing about the SB Nation United changes: they are overwhelmingly cosmetic. If the great majority of your time on this site is reading and commenting on news stories, handicapping previews or race results, your experience will be roughly the same. On the back-end, I'll have a lot more control over how and which stories are featured, including the addition of StoryStreams from SBNation.com. But for the readers, the main change is appearance and organization which, in due time, will be quite simple.
If you just want to read stories and comment, then the process is essentially the same. Take your mouse, point it at the title of the article you want to read and click the link. Want to comment? Scroll to the bottom of the post and write a comment with the same manner you previously used. It's that easy.
StoryStreams are going to be a perfect addition to a horse racing community because it will allow us to have a one-stop spot for all posts related to a particular event. Here's an example of how things worked before StoryStreams: let's say it's Travers week and on Wednesday the post positions and morning line odds are released, after which I write a post for the front page. A couple days later I'll write a preview post and put it on the front page. Perhaps in between that time, one of the horses gets injured and has to scratch from the race - most likely a quick FanShot. Then, on race day, we've got an open thread and all Saratoga results. And finally, a results post.
Every time I write a new post in the old format, the previous posts get pushed down the page. Additionally, if we post something non-Travers related, it gets squeezed into the mix, creating a mash-up of various themes and topics. Enter the StroyStream.
With StoryStream, we'll be able to start a single topic, like Travers 2012, and post all stories and updates under that stream. Entries, injury updates, race preview, under-card results, stakes results - they'll all flow under the StoryStream. So, if you come to the site on Saturday and are trying to catch up on the entries and all the pre-Travers news, all you'll have to do is click on the StoryStream and you'll have all those articles right at your mouse pointer.
The mobile experience should be a lot betting in the future, as well. Right now, our mobile site isn't too bad but you've probably noticed that the standalone mobile apps are pretty glitchy. The new design will deliver the same content on laptops, tablets and phones, instead of the current differences we see from device to device. You won't need the apps going forward as the mobile sites should be a huge improvement.
So, without further ado, here are some screen shots as to what the new layout will look like (based on the beta for some of the other sites).
Below is the new "cover" template; it's actually not a cover but will be at the top of the site when you first navigate to it from the other regions of the Internet. There are several different templates for the cover which allow me to highlight between one and five different feature stories or topics. This will be very nice to use on things like Derby Day or the Breeders' Cup when there is more than one story to tell. This provides some presentation flexibility to the site managers that we haven't had before.
Here's another shot of the cover but with a different layout than the previous picture.
Okay, the next shot is of the FanShots and FanPosts sections which will you'll navigate to via a drop down menus instead of from the sidebar. This move was made to help clean up the sites as they tended to get cluttered with an abundance of information on the left and the right. Yeah, it looks different but the functionality is still the same: point, click, read, comment.
One of the best new features of SB Nation United is the new mobile environment. As I wrote above, the apps are pretty much obsolete after the re-design, instead the site will scale to fit the device you are using at the time. The shot below is an example of how the site will render when used on a smart-phone. All the content remains the same regardless of the device you are using to visit the site.
And the final screen shot of the entire "front page" as you'll see it if you navigate to the site and simply scroll down to the bottom. Yeah, I know, it looks very, very different. Essentially, once you get past the cover, the stories are in reverse chronological order, just like they are now. The recent FanPosts and FanShots are integrated into the flow of the page as you move towards the bottom (and are also available on the drop down menus at the top).
The BIGGEST change, at least to me, is the elimination of the sidebars from the layout. I have the ability on the back-end to make that content available but you'll navigate to it through a drop down menu. Sections like the links to the scratches and changes at tracks across the country will now reside on it's own "page". Ditto for things like links to other industry sites and blogs. And while the simplicity of the sidebar navigation is gone, moving the sidebar information to their own pages will actually allow me to better organize and present that information.
If you'll notice, I've been using variations on the words "organize" and "present" a lot in this post. That's really what this comes down to: creating tools and a platform that allows those of us behind the scenes to deliver content more effectively and efficiently to the reader.
One of the great things our horse racing community is that it's smaller and doesn't have the "mob mentality" that exists elsewhere. I think our adjustment period to the new layout will be relatively painless but there will be an adjustment period, by me as much as by everyone else. As we become more familiar with the tools on the back-end, it should create a better environment on the front-end.