For those supporters who missed it in Saturday’s matchday programme, Chief Executive Erik Samuelson updated us on the efforts being made to improve our official website.
Erik apologised for the imperfections in the new official website when it was launched. But, he says, much has been done to improve it since then, and it is now looking and functioning more like the new site we envisaged a year ago.
Last week, Club Secretary David Charles and I attended an early- season Football League meeting at Walsall’s ground. The topics included updates on the response by the FL and the Premier League to the Government’s Select Committee on Football Governance, policing issues, the latest on Academy financing, and transfer levies. But easily the longest part of the morning session was spent on the FL’s new generic websites, set up and administered by Football League Interactive (FLi), which were launched in July and August.
Just over a year ago, we committed to an FLi website because we were getting increasingly concerned about our dependence on a volunteer, Bert Dale, to maintain our existing site, with no-one else able to do so. Major reliance on one person, however good they are (and Bert did a magnificent job for many years), isn’t the best way to operate a site, so we signed up to FLi. Another reason for changing was that we would be able to earn money from the new site, via advertising, to fund the recruitment of a Communications Executive, Chris Slavin, to improve the range and frequency of our news articles. We would also avoid the substantial costs of developing a site independently.
Chris joined us in February, but by then we’d decided to defer migrating to an FLi site because a new, more modern version was in the pipeline for the summer of 2012. This was launched for all clubs broadly on time, and our site went live in August.
Had we known what it would be like, we would have delayed. This was not a successful launch by any means, and the site proved slow to load and difficult to navigate. It was also unavailable to mobile phones, which seemed perverse when many fans use them as their preferred means of accessing the web.
I’ve long held the view that when you get something wrong, you need to react quickly and decisively. Tell everyone what is happening, put right what you can resolve immediately, and announce a plan with a timetable for any issues that will take longer to fix. Sadly, little of this was forthcoming with the new website, so we, as well as you, the users, have struggled along with limited information and increasing frustration. At one point we even considered reverting to the old website until the new one settled down, but we dismissed that as unrealistic.
Some people would argue that it isn’t helpful to wash one’s dirty laundry in public, but I think you are entitled to know what is happening, and I’m sorry that until recently we’ve not been able to tell you.
Given all this, when David Charles and I went to Walsall last week we weren’t surprised to find that one of the main topics on the agenda was the new FLi site. The good news is that, albeit belatedly in my view, significant additional resources have been allocated to make the sites quicker, more stable and more user-friendly, and more support has been made available to us, the clubs, to make the sites easier to use and update. Every Friday we now get a list of recent fixes and upgrades, and any problems are reported promptly with regular updates on what is being done to fix them.
Given this extra investment, many of the early problems have been resolved, and very shortly our official website will be accessible by mobile phone – many clubs already have this facility, and we will be joining them very soon. The range and number of items we now publish is much better than on the old site, thanks to Chris, whose salary is funded by income from the site, as I mentioned earlier. Given these improvements, and while recognising that what we have now isn’t perfect, I think we are close to getting the website we hoped for when we committed to it over a year ago. I’m sorry it has taken so long to get to this stage, but if you’ve not tried the new site recently, I recommended that you do. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.