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The NHL revamped its website and it's terrible

NHLAfter its debut on February 1, followed by a fair amount of Internet pushpack, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman now says that the league’s site and app redesign is “phenomenal”.
Bettman’s endorsement should be a red flag, in and of itself, that the redesigned NHL.com along with the rebranding of GameCenter Live as NHL.tv are… What word is the opposite of “phenomenal”?
A quick swipe of your mental thesaurus might offer a few choicer terms, like “amateurish” or “confusing” or “garbage”, which is the overriding sentiment of a Reddit thread bluntly titled “New NHL.com website design is GARBAGE.”
One disgruntled commenter on the HFBoards forum (remember forums?) quips, “Everyone that works there should be fired and fed rice cakes.”
Responding to a question about the redesigned NHL.com posed by Chicago Sun-Times hockey writer Mark Lazerus, Bettman defends the site, saying, “The digital platform and apps are great. People are historically resistant to change, and you’ve got to learn a different navigation pattern. If you’ve been using something for the last six years, and we change it up, no matter how good it looks, you’re not comfortable with exactly what you’re doing until you play with it a little bit. I’ve been playing with it, I know a lot of our staff have. We’re watching the comments. But we think that what we’re delivering now is terrific and only going to get better.”

While criticism that runs along the lines of “garbage” and “dumpster fire” might seem harsh to the point that makes you question whether it can possibly be that bad, the new NHL.com really does rise to the challenge of being almost totally useless.

So that’s Bettman’s advice for extracting a satisfying user experience out of the new NHL web site. You just have to “play with it a little bit” before you can really enjoy it. Jokes really just write themselves sometimes, don’t they?
Even after you’ve gotten the image of Gary Bettman and his staff “playing with it a little bit” out of your mind, you’re still at a loss for how the damned thing is actually supposed to function.
Former NHL-er Alex Semin, now playing in the KHL after a brief stint with the Montreal Canadiens earlier this season, has panned the new look, as translated by Russian hockey writer Igor Eronko, “I don’t like new NHL site, now it’s much more difficult follow the league”.
For Semin, and anyone not actually playing in the NHL, like all the rest of us sitting at home, the site is supposed to represent a quick and easy way of checking up on league standings, schedules, game highlights, summaries and player stats.
Instead, Gary Bettman and the NHL marketing department decided that the middle of the season would be a good time to surprise hockey fans with a wholesale and incomprehensible reboot of the league’s website.
While criticism that runs along the lines of “garbage” and “dumpster fire” might seem harsh to the point that makes you question whether it can possibly be that bad, the new NHL.com really does rise to the challenge of being almost totally useless.
Where to begin? The site now basically looks like Instagram, full of pictures and white space. And it’s now got that tacky feeling of an endless scroll, a fairly recent web design strategy that needs to die as quickly as possible.

One of the recurring criticisms of the new site is that it looks more like a blog than a useful site aimed at fans of a professional sports league. Another recurring critique of the redesign is basically, “The old site was fine. Bring back the old site.”

We can imagine Bettman and the NHL marketing department sitting in a meeting at NHL headquarters listening to the new generation of bearded, flannel shirted marketers prattling on about the importance of “engagement” and how to appeal to the elusive Millennial demographic.
At the end of a whimsical power point presentation, probably soundtracked by a ukulele, it’s fairly easy to imagine Bettman asking, “Is this what everyone is doing now? Fine, let’s do that then,” before standing up and announcing that he’s late for a meeting with a wholesale cufflinks manufacturer.
The new NHL.com is missing the old news box on the right that contained a handful of germane news stories, jettisoning that for the long, essentially random scroll, a feature which appears to be an attempt to make the site “responsive”, if the response you’re fishing for is sputtering rage.
The site now looks terrible on laptops, desktop computers and mobile devices.
Navigating the site has become a nightmare, with useful information that used to be ready to hand with one click now requiring five or six clicks to find.
Individual player pages used to list each player’s draft year, team, and draft number, which is now completely gone.
One of the recurring criticisms of the new site is that it looks more like a blog than a useful site aimed at fans of a professional sports league.
One benefit of the fallout over the new site design has been watching online communities recommending other, more reliable sources of hockey information.
Another recurring critique of the redesign is basically, “The old site was fine. Bring back the old site.”
And this is where the NHL, Gary Bettman and the league’s marketing department really need to answer some questions, instead of condescendingly saying that the real problem with the new site is that “People are historically resistant to change, and you’ve got to learn a different navigation pattern,” as if people were mice in an ever-shifting maze who can no longer locate cheese.
The main problem, aside from the actual design of the site, is that the NHL decided to unveil a wholesale change to its primary method of interacting with fans on February 1, in the middle of the season, instead of spending the rest of the year studying how people actually use the site and then working with user feedback to do the rebuild during the summer, when almost no one is actually using it.

One of the benefits of the fallout over the new site design has been watching online communities recommending other, more reliable sources of hockey information.

But that kind of tone deafness to fans’ needs has become a hallmark of Bettman’s tenure with the NHL.
From the mishandling of the John Scott All-Star Game fiasco, from which only John Scott emerged looking like a gentleman, to the dubious fun of three-on-three overtime, Bettman’s NHL seems bent on underestimating fans’ intelligence while actively pursuing a lowest-common-denominator demographic, the kind of person who gets life confused with Snapchat.
We’re probably lucky he hasn’t yet figured out how to reintroduce the glowing puck.
But as Bettman says, you’re not going to be entirely comfortable with radical change until you’ve, you know, played with it a little bit.

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