When is a website not just a website?
When it’s a NCAA college athletics department’s official website.
Think about it. If you’re a high school recruit checking out a college school athletics scene for the first time, that website better be easy to navigate. What is this team’s history? How do I fill out their recruiting questionnaire? Do they have summer basketball camps? Does their athletics staff know how to craft an aesthetically pleasing website? (If it’s Cornell, the answer to the latter question is no.)
And you know what? The same questions apply to Ivy hoops bloggers! Certainly, when I was a sportswriter at The Daily Pennsylvanian, I checked out the official Ivy team websites every day and got used to their quirks and designs. In fact, when Penn Athletics updated its site in 2013, it made me appreciate the work that goes into streamlining these webpages, updating the information that needs to be routinely updated for recruits, alumni, journalists and students alike.
The thing is, some Ivies have better websites than others. The Ancient Eight official men’s basketball webpages, ranked:
Blah. The most recent articles read like a blog from the early 2000s and the centerpiece photo is a small, vertical still that suffers from an unsightly lack of width. One has to stroll much too far to get to its live stats, donation information, audio broadcasts and more. Worst of all, clicking on general campus photos under its photo gallery section brings up an invalid request page. Ugh.
Cornell’s website takes me back to when NBCNews.com disastrously relaunched its website in February 2014. The massive blocks of images took attention away from headline text and other written content to the point that it felt like sifting through ginormous images rather than scrolling through actual news. By June, the network was already extensively retooling the site due to consistently negative user feedback.
Bill Courtney aside, it’s a good thing Cornell Athletics doesn’t get as much scrutiny as NBC News. The men’s hoops webpage shows only the top half of an outrageously huge gallery of rotating feature photos, so you have to scroll down to even comprehend what you’re looking at. So awkward, so unnecessary. Also, the all-time win-loss records in the history section are shoved to the far right of the screen, and unlike most Ivy websites, are not available in a more easily readable PDF format. (Is Cornell trying to hide how terrible it’s been for much of its conference history?)
Get with it, Big Red.
Columbia’s trying to be too cute here. White background fades awkwardly into the homepage’s main slides. Also, a disproportionate amount of each page is taken up by ad space relative to other Ivy athletics websites. I don’t know where to find recruiting questionnaires from the homepage, but I know I can stay connected to campus at the Aloft Harlem Hotel!
What, no video from the homepage? (launch player doesn’t count, and neither does the separate audio/video tab) Better than usual photos, though.
Meh. The video landing area on the homepage is much too large – not quite Cornell-sized, but still too big. The tabs on top of the page are useful and organized well, but the video landing area’s tabs are hidden on the right when they would be more prominent right underneath the main page tabs.
Very cool interactive guide featuring the program’s history, community service record, athletic facilities, etc. From schedule and statistics up top to newsletter sign-up and recruiting questionnaires on the side, everything is just where it should be.
Tabs at the top of the homepage slideshow are prominent but not intrusive. The launch player area is unnecessary but photos are perfectly sized. Everything from women’s lacrosse rosters to Penn Quakers sweatshirts are just a click away thanks to the all-purpose “sports” link.
One can easily switch between news pieces, six of which are accessible from the homepage. Princeton boasts the same hover-over “sports” section as Penn Athletics but also features side tabs to the highly entertaining TigerBlog, live stats and much more. Aesthetically pleasing and highly functional. Princeton wins!