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Due to the global appeal of the Premier League and the fact that most fans buy tickets online you would have thought that e-commerce was a valuable revenue earner for top flight football teams.

However a quick look at the homepages of the nation’s top clubs suggests that they don’t see UX as a top priority.

It would be easy to say that with the amount of money in football they should probably spend some of it on user-testing, but I’ll rise above that and instead I’ll simply point out some of the more obvious flaws that clubs should be looking to address.

For more information on the digital strategies of Premier League clubs, check out our blog which ranks the teams' search and social performances.

Splash pages

A surprising number of Premier League teams force you to negotiate a splash page before you reach the homepage, which to me is a relic from a bygone age of the internet.

Imagine if you entered a clothes shop on the high street only for a salesman to stop you and try to flog you a credit card then force you to solve a riddle before you can enter the store. It’s not great for the customer experience.

West Ham, Spurs and Arsenal all have them, but Liverpool and Newcastle are probably the worst offenders.

Newcastle’s splash page offers you a free belt (complete with a spelling error in the sales copy) and has four blue calls-to-action enticing the visitor to buy or order products.

In contrast, the link that allows you to enter the site is far less prominent and took me a few seconds to spot.

If you enter Liverpool’s site then you are hit with a massive ad for a credit card and six other links trying to sell you things, but the links to enter the site are much smaller. 

Homepages

One of the worst homepage designs comes courtesy of England’s most successful club. Man Utd’s page is extremely cluttered and displays several moving ads that are quite distracting.

The links on the left of the screen were quite small on my screen and the third one is for something cryptically named #IAMUNITED. No matter what you’re looking for, it isn’t particularly fun trying to find it. 

Several clubs follow a similar template to West Ham, which isn’t the worst design in the world but certainly lacks creativity and again has too many flashing adverts.

I’m also not entirely sure why one of the links at the top is to allow you to print the page.

Arsenal’s homepage is also particularly bad, with a confusing number of links to different sections across the top and left of the screen and no fewer than seven banner ads.

In my opinion, the landing page would be greatly improved if they simplified the design by reducing the number of links and ads. At the moment there is too much going on which makes navigation more difficult than it should be. 

Exceptions

There are of course exceptions to the rule, with Manchester City and Fulham successfully avoiding the common pitfalls.

Manchester City has one of the most user-friendly homepages in the league, with a simple design that uses large icons to link to news and ticket details.

It has a much cleaner look than most of the other team sites and isn’t cluttered up with flashing ad banners, although this could be because the club can afford to ignore the potential ad revenues.

The design itself is fairly simple, so it’s puzzling as to why more clubs haven’t adopted similar layouts. 

Fulham’s website is also noticeably better than most clubs in the league, with a clean, simple design that has large icons at the top linking to the different sections.

It uses attractive full-page images to illustrate the day’s four main stories, which contrasts favourably to more common approach of including small images and loads of text links. 

Unfortunately these examples are the exceptions rather than the norm, with most clubs needing to put a lot of work into improving the UX on their homepages.

David Moth

Published 30 October, 2012 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

1684 more posts from this author

Comments (21)

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Bhavini Parmar

Man City - probably have bigger budget to spend on these things?

almost 4 years ago

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Ben Goodwin, Email marketing manager at Personal

Man City spent £2m on their site so that might explain it.

I don't know if it's the same for Premiership clubs (It is for mine, Norwich) but most FL clubs use a system provided by an external company, so they all work very similarly and they're all rubbish.

almost 4 years ago

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Paul Keers

The simple fact is that they don't need to improve their user experience, because the fans will put up with anything and still come back.

Of course selling tickets online is a priority. Yet they can hide away the links, they can charge extortionate "online booking fees" (despite the fact that online booking saves them money in staff and admin costs), and they can introduce elaborate membership schemes to gain upfront revenue in order to qualify to purchase - and STILL the matches will sell out.

If the stadium is selling out anyway (and Newcastle are particularly notorious for being sold out to season ticket holders), why on earth would they bother improving the purchasing experience?

almost 4 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Editor & Head of Social at EconsultancyStaff

@Ben, that may be the case but it doesn't necessarily take £2m to design a decent website.

A lot of clubs use FL Interactive - http://www.flinteractive.com/clubs/who-we-are/the-fl-interactive-network.aspx - which aren't too bad but aren't as good as Man City or Fulham in my opinion.

almost 4 years ago

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Tom Sanderson

The process for e-commerce on the sites for the top clubs is actually efficient at least for Arsenal. I understand the point about the business of the home page though as it can confuse first time users and doesn't exactly point people towards the e-commerce function.

almost 4 years ago

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Anthony Hook

The main issue with Man United is that is was built several years ago and was built right at the cusp of the web2.0 era, when information overload was the norm. It's now looking outdated, I hope they take the initiative to update it soon and not get left further behind!

almost 4 years ago

Rob Oubridge

Rob Oubridge, Founder at AqueductSmall Business Multi-user

Ben, David... the design for the City site (lead by Poke and implemented and subsequently developed by Aqueduct) was achieved for entirely normal, even relatively modest budgets. It's in its third season and stands the UX test because of the quality and clarity of the thinking, backed by a client brave enough to eschew the accepted commercial models in club websites... not because of the budget. The new Sunderland site (safc.com) is also worth checking out - again clean, simple and uncluttered by advertising, it is also responsive which means fans can access it more often when they want to without having to buy native apps. While I'm happy for our clients to stand out in this way it is a source of constant surprise to us that big clubs and their big agencies aren't developing better, more usable, digital assets

almost 4 years ago

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Ben Goodwin, Email marketing manager at Personal

Rob,

That's interesting to know. I was going by the numbers in the press. I guess a lot of that budget is to do with gathering the rich content on the site then? (If it's true at all) stuff like the tunnel cam etc. You've certainly done an excellent job with them and I agree, it's strange more clubs don't follow suit.

almost 4 years ago

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Shawn Cabral

Just to add to the conversation, it’s all about the web strategy each Club adopts. If you have the right mind-set and the vision a lot can be achieved digitally even with small budgets. It is indeed nice to see both ManCity and Fulham sites (as well as Sunderland!) are all powered by Sitecore!

almost 4 years ago

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Sally Jenkinson

No doubt Manchester City have more money to throw around than others, but Fulham's recent redevelopment shows what can be done when clubs really want to put their fans first, coupled with some great work from some smart UX-ers. It doesn't need to cost a fortune, it just needs to have some clever thinking behind it.

Unfortunately a lot of Premier League clubs are tied in to platforms which impose a lot of restrictions, which are often forced upon them for contractual reasons. Props to anyone who dares to think a bit differently and try something new rather than sticking with what they know.

almost 4 years ago

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Ben Goodwin, Email marketing manager at Personal

It's definitely worth acknowledging that the gains for some clubs are much less. Clubs with huge fan bases who'll lap up anything they'll sell won't need a perfect UX - much like Apple really, people will buy in spite of it. For a club like Fulham, who need to innovate to stay competitive, it's much more important. For City, they're trying to build a global fanbase so it's critically important that their web presence captures potential new fans.

almost 4 years ago

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Howard Gadsby, Organisation X

Rob and Shawn have hit the nail on the head. The commercial model and clubs / partners being brave is where these sites get stuck. Moving away from this is naturally a tough task.

Let's also not forget that there are different priorities and aims for these clubs digitally. e.g. Do we know if MCFC's site is a commercial success in it's own right, or part of a bigger overall strategy?

almost 4 years ago

Rob Oubridge

Rob Oubridge, Founder at AqueductSmall Business Multi-user

Yes Ben, City have put an enormous effort into creating content and it is paying off for them as part of a wider strategy to position the brand as they want - entertaining, global, fan-centric etc. The "is it successful in it's own right?" question is probably one on the minds of the less progressive clubs, causing them to look at the revenue from that splash page and feel like they can't give it up. But digital is a part of your business, a part of your life, a part of the fan's total experience... an intrinsic part, not a separate part. E-commerce for match ticket sales is the most obvious example of the interdependency of digital and non-digital facets.

almost 4 years ago

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Ken Roberts

I fail to see how the fact Man City have money reflects on the fact they have a good website as some of these comments would have you believe. There is probably some correlation but i don't believe it is the major factor in their site. Fulham have a user friendly website as do Sunderland and neither of those are mega rich. The 'Man City are rich therefore everything they do is redundant' view point is rather stifling and boring.

almost 4 years ago

Andy Williams

Andy Williams, Digital Marketing Manager at Koozai

I have to say, the Arsenal site drives me nuts at times. As the review above highlights there is just so much going on with no real direction.

A majority of the time I only go on for News updates which are on the Home page but now and then I want to look for stats or old news, etc and trying to find the right section is a nightmare.

The membership section is also a nightmare, trying to update membership details takes for ever.

almost 4 years ago

Zara Weller

Zara Weller, Business Development Manager at 20.20 Limited

I think it's very difficult for football clubs because of the demands on content from such a varied audience. Everyone wants something different, but primarily they need to sell tickets/ merchandise.

It's not just the premiership either, championship clubs perhaps need help on the online customer journey, case and point Leeds United (sorry Leeds) but the website is so difficult to use, neither myself or my Dad can get the information we need within the first minute or two of browsing.

almost 4 years ago

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Martin Harrison

@David FL Interactive sites 'aren't too bad'? - You must support a Premiership team! Most FL websites I've encountered (particularly after the recent move to a new template) are a complete dog's breakfast.

almost 4 years ago

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Chris H

It would be easy to say that there is a lot of money in football: it would be incorrect. Whilst numbers from the TV deal and the salaries of their top earners are eye catching, the clubs are not actually big companies.

Only 5 of the premier clubs made a profit in 2010-11, and Man Utd, the UK's largest club in terms of turnover, are only about as big as Bury cleaning company Servest Multi Service (and I've never heard of them either).

The clubs don't spend money on their web sites or UX because in general they don't have it to spend. That doesn't excuse the fact that their sites are rubbish, it does help explain it.

NB: splash page adverts are often a mandatory part of the team sponsors deal.

almost 4 years ago

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Ray W

City's website is all about one thing, video content. As a regular user I can take or leave everything else. Dipity timelines, horrendous use of QR codes, augmented reality that was poorly designed and implemented and a fixtures page that is the worst in the league. But the video is out of this world. The rest of the digital offering is hype and that alone.

almost 4 years ago

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Justin

David Moth, you are kidding right?

FL Interactive sites are amongst the worst offenders for poor site design, functionality and UX design. I for one refuse to use my clubs site because of it.

over 3 years ago

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Justin Crosby, Founder at Boom Dialogue Ltd

Premium TV websites, with their slow-loading speeds and irritating entry pop-up pages, have never been particularly user-friendly, however so many clubs continue to use them that there must either be a significant financial ROI or it's just too much of a headache to create a stand-alone website like Arsenal, Manchester City or Fulham.

Fulham, I think, were the first Premiership club to have a professional web presence, and Arsenal's responsive website is currently by far the best website in the Barclays Premier League now.

Both Manchester United and Liverpool have a long way to go with their websites - neither of which are with Premium TV.

about 3 years ago

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