I've been patiently waiting to hear if anyone else is as turned off as I am about the changes made but decided to let all the kinks get worked out first and not rush to any conclusions before I start to make my criticisms. Keep in mind that I, like most others, will adapt to changes over time. So maybe this is just feeble-minded me struggling with a learning curve. Then again, maybe not.
I've begun fearing that I may simply phase out coming to CincyJungle altogether if I don't catch on quick enough, and that would be a major loss for me. So I've decided to express my personal thoughts on the changes, as to get some feedback from the community. Let's see... where do I start?
I’ve been visiting this blog regularly for a few years now, and I will say what I’ve enjoyed most about coming here is the ease of access to all recent content, the general lack of any performance/functionality issues, and of course, exploring other fans’ opinions in the comments section. However, these new “improvements” to CincyJungle have all but decimated my original feelings about the site.
Let me begin by stating what I’ve actually considered to be improvements: I think the new logo is pretty neat, and it’s definately an upgrade over the “tiger peering over skyline” logo we had before. The fact that all the other SBNation sites have a similar template as well, is a nice way to make the sites more collective and impressionable. Also, I do enjoy not being barraged with ads on both sides of the page (and above, below, around..), as this plain white background definately reduces the clutter that was protypical of the site. The buttons and layout almost seem to be mimicing the new Windows 8/Outlook design (simple, clutter-free design, vibrant-colored aesthetic buttons, etc.), which has gotten plenty of stellar product reviews.
However, I would argue that the simple, clutter-free, Windows 8 “metro” design is best reserved for tablets and smartphones, not for the desktop full-site experience. When I only have a short amount of time to browse through my smartphone’s browser, it’s much better to have an uncomplicated, visually pleasing site on which to do so. In that sense, it does its job. I like the way it looks on my phone, minus the average 5 minute load time per page.
But when I’m in the comfort of my home/office (which accounts for about 90% of my activity on CincyJungle), I have much more free time. In that scenario, personally, I love clutter. I’d have 10 different tabs open in Firefox only to right-click and open a new tab after seeing on the sidebar a curious article about Andrew Hawkins that piques my interest. It’s the easiest and most efficient way to feed my hunger for Bengals’ news, until recently. Now, I can only look in horror as to what has been done to my safehaven of Cincinnati football. To me, it seems like the overall CincyJungle experience has been dumbed down to simply piggy back this newfound tablet computing “metro” craze.
To be blunt, the frontpage looks awful. It’s just plain terrible.
I type cincyjungle.com in my browser expecting to see a collective group of recent Bengals news, and instead I am greeted by the most uncomfortable, scattered, incomplete page I have ever seen on this site. The featured picture loads to about an inch long and then stops. I’m left staring at what I believe is half of Leon Hall’s face surrounded by an empty abyss where content used to be. Too much blank whiteness for my taste. And what’s with the italicized text all over the place? It looks hideous. And white text on a dark grey background just looks amateur. This is not the kind of (normally) pleasing formatting I had come to appreciate from the SBNation sites.
One of the only complaints I had about the site originally is that the frontpage was too long, and in effect, took too long to load at times. Now, It’s nearly TWICE as long, chock full of redundancy, badly stretched images, Josh’s twitter feed, and some otherwise unnecessary sections (Popular topics? SBNation YouTube videos? Really? No thanks) and takes even LONGER to load. I don’t see the point in making the page look less cluttered when they’re just going to stack it all up like a garish webpage skyscraper. I seem to scroll down and just shake my head at all the formatting mistakes and completely irrelevant/outdated information.
Putting so much junk on the frontpage has decreased browsing performance notably, and I’ve actually had my browser crash a few times just reading articles. That shouldn’t happen (never had before). I already mentioned the infuriating wait time to load the site on my phone with 3G coverage, but even on Wi-Fi, the wait is unbearable. The load time itself is reason enough for me to abandon visiting SBNation sites altogether (and part of the reason why I haven’t given my thoughts on the changes until now).
I will say that I haven’t discovered any other functionality issues myself. The new comment highlighting was touched upon already, and other than that, I’ve noticed the Log In menus have actually improved in performance and ease of access. I just hope this is enough to keep us regular users satisfied.
Which brings me to my next point: the community of commentors. I noticed after the changes had been made, there was a drastic drop in comments from various users. Maybe we were all taking time to adjust, holding our tongue before we rush to judgement, or maybe none of us can find recent articles on which to comment, but there is definately a distinct lack of daily activity by commentators, which I thought made this site especially unique.
This issue should be paramount to the success of this site. We commentors are the bloodstream of this body of Bengals news. Without the dedicated community, this is just another Bengals news site doomed to fall into obscurity over time.
The timing of such a move is what blows me away the most, however. Three weeks into the regular season and our Bengals’ internet reporting world is turned on its head. Whose idea was this? It couldn’t have waited until the offseason? Especially knowing that there would still be bugs to fix? To me, it all just seems like the work of the most inept project manager. SBNation is threatening to abandon its whole NFL fanbase right after we put up with the fiasco that was the “replacement refs”. Its starting to seem like the dedicated users are being taken for granted, and although I know we can’t go back to how things were, something needs to be done to at least make these sites halfway appealing to us again.
I don’t mean to get on anyone’s case, though. I’m sure you all know I love this site, its authors, admins, mods, and members. You guys do the best job of anyone covering the Bengals, and I’m happy to have been a part of this community for so long. I know you all keep us in your best interests, so I’m sure changes will be made to improve the user’s experience. I just know I wouldn’t be doing my job as a community member if I hadn’t shared my opinions, as well.
Now, if you will, get off my lawn. :)