Good morning, and welcome to the first day of the new Uni Watch! As you can see, we’ve made some significant changes to the site — our first makeover in more than a decade.
The most obvious changes are cosmetic — new fonts, new layout, stuff like that. But our longtime web designer/developer, John Ekdahl, and I have also added lots of new formatting and functionalities that I’m really excited about. Allow me to walk you through the new landscape:
The Home Page
Instead of the long scroll of complete blog posts, we now have a more modern home page featuring at least one pinned post at the top and a listing of other recent posts below it. If you’re away from the site for a few days, this should make it much easier for you to catch up on what you’ve missed, and it should also allow newcomers to get a better sense of what Uni Watch is about.
If you scroll down below the list of recent posts, you’ll find the list of recent Tickers, because Tickers will now be their own separate posts. (More on that in a minute.) Right now there’s only one Ticker listed there — today’s. There will be more of them listed there as we move forward.
The Header Menu
The menu bar at the top of the home page is now “sticky.” Scroll down and you’ll see what I mean — it’s a big improvement!
The site is now mobile-optimized and should look much, much better on smartphones and tablets.
As you click around the site, you should notice that it responds much, much faster than before. As the person who probably spends more time on the site than anyone else, I particularly appreciate this improvement!
The Publishing Schedule
Instead of doing one massive post each morning that includes the lede, multiple sub-ledes, the Ticker, and so on, I’m going to start breaking things up into separate posts. There will still be a daily lede each morning (my aim, as has always been the case, will be to get it published by 9am Eastern), and that lede may also include a few other small items, like “Too Good for the Ticker” or “What Paul Did Last Night.” But if I have a sub-lede that seems substantial enough to function on its own, I’ll publish it as its own post. The Ticker will also be its own post every day — usually published within an hour or so of the lede — and Collector’s Corner will be its own post each Tuesday. Certain occasional features, like Culinary Corner, will likely be separate posts as well. (Weekends may be the exception to this new rule, as I’m giving Phil the option of sticking with one long post per day if he prefers to do it that way. Stay tuned.)
Why are we making this change? Several reasons:
- First and foremost, many of our posts are just too long. People tend not to consume internet content in such big gulps. It makes more sense to break things up a bit.
- Second, sometimes there are two (or more) significant news stories on a given day. For example, last Monday MLB unveiled its All-Star jerseys and the Spurs unveiled a new throwback. Under our old format, the Spurs news got buried beneath the MLB news. That’s bad for our SEO, bad for site indexing, bad if I ever want to link back to the Spurs sub-lede (it’s doable, but cumbersome), bad for people who want to share my Spurs sub-lede on social media, bad for readers who care more about the Spurs news than about the All-Star news, and so on. It would have made more sense for the Spurs sub-lede to be a stand-alone post.
- Third, sometimes I can knock out a sub-lede (like that Spurs item) fairly quickly, and then it sits around waiting for the next morning’s post. Under the new system, I can publish new blog entries whenever I want — in the afternoon, in the evening, whatever. This will help the site be more timely and, we hope, will also help spread out our site traffic throughout the day instead of having it all bunched up in the morning, which has long been the case.
Of course, there was nothing preventing me from doing multiple posts per day under the old site design — I simply chose not to. This new approach will be something of an experiment for me. Sticking to doing one post per day has helped me maintain a fairly dependable rhythm in my life, and I don’t want to feel like I suddenly have to scurry to write about breaking news within 30 minutes of it happening, or that I’m now “on call” 24/7 — that’s not healthy for me, and I think I also produce better work if I take more time to think about what I’m writing. But I recognize the potential advantages of breaking things up into separate posts, so I’m going to try it out and see how it goes. In fact, I already have a short post in the hopper that would normally have been a sub-lede today, but instead I’m going to post it later this morning. (Update: I have now published it.)
As it happens, today is going to be a busy day in the uni-verse: The Cavs are unveiling new uniforms, MLB’s Home Run Derby is tonight, and today may also be the day that the Bengals unveil the new white helmet that they’ve been teasing. Under our old format, all of those would be lumped together in tomorrow’s post; under our new format, they’ll be covered in separate posts, and maybe I’ll even get the Cavs and/or Bengals items published today. Or maybe not — considering how busy I’ll probably be today with the rollout of the new site, I may not have time for anything else. But at least I have the option. (Update: I’ve now published the Cavs piece.)
I realize many of you have your own dependable Uni Watch rhythms, whether it’s reading the site each morning over coffee, or during your lunch break at work, or whatever. You’ll still be able to do that — if you come to the site once a day, you’ll still see all the content that’s been posted in the previous 24 hours. You’ll just have to open a few separate tabs in order to read that content, instead of having it all in one post.
Lightboxed Photo Links
Obviously, we link to a lot of photos, especially in the Ticker, and I realize it can be a pain to have all those images opening in new tabs. So going forward, most of our photo links will open in a pop-up lightbox. To see what I mean, click here. Much better than seeing the image in a separate tab, right?
Because of the way some photo links are formatted on other sites, the lightbox functionality may not work for every single image link. In those instances, the photo will open in a new tab. (There’s also no lightbox for links to articles, tweets, and other non-image content, obviously.) But the lightbox should be a big improvement for most of our image links.
In the past, if I wanted to show you, say, six different photos of a new uniform, I had to embed all six photos in a row and you’d scroll through them. Now I have the option of doing this:
Fun, right? I’m not sure it’s actually better than the old way (it’s basically a question of scrolling vertically vs. scrolling horizontally), so I’ll probably use it sparingly. But I think it’ll come in handy now and again.
We’re making two big adjustments to the Ticker. First, as I mentioned above, each daily Ticker will now be a stand-alone post. My goal will be to get it posted by 10am Eastern, which should make my mornings a bit less frantic. (Editing the Ticker is usually the first thing I do when I wake up each morning, so now I’ll have a bit more time to do that, and/or maybe I’ll be able to sleep a little bit longer instead of getting up at 7am, because that task won’t be tethered to the lede anymore.) Today, however, I published the Ticker at the same time I published this entry you’re reading now, just so they’d both be available for you to see. You can see today’s Ticker here.
Second, we’re changing how the Ticker looks. I’ve always liked having the Ticker sections sequenced in the dot-dot-dot format, which I intended as a throwback to how old-school sportswriters would format small news tidbits in their columns. But I’ve grudgingly accepted the reality that this format is no longer practical in an era when so many people read Uni Watch on their phones, and when we have so much info jam-packed into the Ticker each day. So instead of having a series of dot-dot-dot paragraphs, which can be hard to read, we’ll now have a series of bulleted lists. We’ve also added several sub-categories within several of the sports. So the baseball section, for example, will now be broken up into MLB, MiLB, softball, and everything else, like this (this is a screen shot, so the links aren’t clickable):
Similarly, the football section will be broken up into NFL, college, CFL, and everything else; basketball will be NBA, WNBA, college, and everything else; and so on. We’ve also given a few more sports their own Ticker sections (including golf, auto racing, and a few others), so that the Grab Bag isn’t such a catchall. This should make it easier for you to find the news you’re most interested in while skipping over the stuff you don’t care about so much.
Uni Watch Plus
Starting soon-ish — probably around the start of September, when I return from my annual August break from the blog — we’re going to launch something called Uni Watch Plus, which will be sort of like Patreon, but without the Patreon interface. For a set subscription price (we haven’t yet decided on the amount, but I promise that you’ll be able to pay it without Facebook!), UW+ members will get the following benefits:
- You will be able to read the blog without ads.
- You will receive a checkout code for 25% off all our Teespring merchandise.
- When posting a comment, you will have a special badge or avatar identifying you as a UW+ member.
- You will have exclusive access to a new discussion forum, where you’ll be able to discuss uniforms, logos, and other topics with other UW+ members. (We’ll need a few moderators for the forum. If you’re interested in doing that — and especially if you have experience doing it on other discussion boards — let me know.)
Other benefits will likely be added as we go along.
Okay, I think that covers most of it! You probably have some questions. Allow me to anticipate some of them:
What about all the old posts?
They’re still there. All the old URLs still work, all the old content is still active. Most of the old posts look fine in the new site design; others look a bit glitchy or wonky, because certain bits of coding don’t translate as well to the new format — an unfortunate but unavoidable reality of site-wide redesigns.
Six months ago you paywalled your Bulletin articles. Now you’re gonna paywall the blog too?
No. Uni Watch Plus will be optional, not mandatory. You can keep reading the blog content for free, but you’ll have to deal with the ads on the site and won’t get the other UW+ benefits.
Obviously, though, we do hope lots of people sign up for UW+. As I’ve explained before, our traffic is steady, but ad revenue is down all over the internet, because advertisers are bidding less to have their banners run just about anywhere other than Facebook and Google. It’s a real problem, and it’s definitely not sustainable. We’re hoping the ad format on the redesigned site generates a bit more cash (if you scroll, you’ll see that some of the ads are “sticky,” which helps with revenue), but the reality is that we need support from the readership. Once we launch UW+, we hope you’ll consider joining.
If I subscribe to UW+, will that also give me access to your Bulletin articles?
No, those are separate subscriptions. But we may find a way to bundle them into a single purchase — stay tuned.
How will the UW+ discussion forum differ from the blog comments?
The blog comments tend to be about the specific post they’re responding to (and will probably be even more so now that I’m breaking up the big daily posts into separate posts). But on the forums, you’ll be able to talk about, well, just about anything. No need to stay on-topic — you can just start a new topic thread if you want!
Also, I’m hoping the forum will provide a chance for the Uni Watch comm-uni-ty to bond, get to know each other a bit better, and so on. Maybe there’ll be threads for regional or local users, or people with a particular sub-interest (typography, colors, cap collecting, whatever). Ideally, it’ll be easier to achieve that on a moderated forum of passionate Uni Watchers than it would be on, say, Facebook, where a couple of cranks and trolls can ruin the experience for everyone.
Also, while I’ll probably pop into the forum now and then, I won’t be monitoring the forum the way I oversee the blog comments. So you can criticize me, or criticize Uni Watch, or carry on about pretty much anything without having to worry about me saying, “Actually…” or “Let’s move on.” That doesn’t mean we’ll tolerate people getting abusive or troll-y, of course, but we’ll try to let the discussion be more freewheeling than the Uni Watch comments tend to be.
Is there a way to be notified when posts are published?
One way is to follow me on Twitter. But we may also be able to offer a feature where you can sign up for push notifications. John is looking into this — not sure how much it will cost us. If it isn’t expensive, and if enough people are interested, we’ll do it.
I like some of what you’ve done here, but I dislike some of it too.
That’s to be expected. Honestly, I’m still getting used to a lot of the changes myself. In general, though, I’m very pleased with the new setup, and I know from past experience that most people (myself included) tend to be more adaptable than they think they are, so I’m hoping we’ll all adjust to the new format without too much trouble (again, myself included).
That said, we’re definitely interested in hearing your feedback, so feel free to let us know what you think in today’s comments. I’ve also set up a dedicated email address — firstname.lastname@example.org — in case you’d rather share your thoughts that way. I can’t guarantee that we’ll act on every suggestion or critique, but I promise that we’ll consider every bit of feedback we receive.
Are more changes coming?
Probably. The new site has been built in a way that should accommodate new features, new bells and whistles, and so on. So unlike the old site, which stayed more or less the same for years and years, the new site should be able to evolve.
Before I wrap this up, two last thoughts: First, while we’ve done our best to tie up all the loose ends, technical glitches are inevitable with an overhaul of this scale. Thanks in advance for your patience as we work out any bugs that pop up.
Finally, I want to give a giant thanks to Uni Watch web designer/developer John Ekdahl of Astroluxe Innovations. It was John’s idea, way back in 2006, to create this blog in the first place, so he’s been working with me for a long time (and as I’m sure he’d agree, I’m not always easy to work with!). John also built all the architecture for the Unified podcast last year and has helped me out with other projects over the years, but this site makeover is by far the biggest thing we’ve ever done together. Thanks, John — I’m excited about what we’ve achieved here, and about what still lies ahead.