(This post was written earlier in the day and all time references are to the original time of writing)
If you’ve been following any WHL bloggers on Twitter over the late summer and the start of the season, you’ve no doubt read their tweets about how frustrating the WHL website has been this year. We’ll try to share a little more as to why this is such a failure on the part of the league and why it is so aggravating.
First, the complaints:
— Guy Flaming (@TPS_Guy) October 10, 2014
1 step forward, 2 steps back with websites today. Hopefully you don’t need to access the TBirds, Chiefs or WHL sites right now.
— TBird Tidbits (@TBirdTidbits) October 10, 2014
Be nice to see @TheWHL comment on their website not working consistently for last 3 weeks. Fans unhappy but still silence from league.
— Alan Caldwell (@smallatlarge) September 30, 2014
Now, you may not be a frequent visitor to your team’s website or to the league website so you may not know what exactly what is going on. Pretty much since training camp started, the websites have been very unreliable. Sometimes you can connect but can’t get beyond the front page, sometimes it doesn’t display correctly, but most of the time when there is a problem you just can’t connect. To demonstrate what this may look like here are two screenshots I took right before starting this post.
This is a problem for many reasons to many people:
It’s about 3 hours before the Pacific time zone games get started and the websites of the teams involved are inaccessible. The league page is also handicapped. Want to see how the season series went last season? Can’t open the schedule page. Want to see a player’s career stats, game-by-game? Not going to load. Need to see a team roster? WHL roster page is not going to open for you. Pregame shows, radio interviews, newspaper articles, these all rely on having quick, easy access to information provided by the league.
In this digital age, teams rely heavily on their websites for lots of reasons. Ticket sales would be the big one and if I were an owner of a WHL team, this would be the most infuriating. If someone can’t get to my site to purchase tickets, that may be a sale I lose out on completely because they don’t want to pay by phone or in person. That’s money my team doesn’t make. I also can’t sell souvenirs, my advertisers don’t get what they paid for because no one can download the digital program and I can’t promote future games. Every moment the team site is down is money the team doesn’t get.
For the league, it is mostly about optics. It makes them look cheap or second-class. They aren’t necessarily selling anything on WHL.ca but they are selling an impression of the league. And if it doesn’t work or works poorly, no matter who designed or operates it, it reflects on the league.
For the casual or hardcore WHL fan, not being able to access information is unacceptable. For the short amount of time that most people visit their teams website each week, they expect it to work. A fan sees ticket prices going up but then can’t access a website. That’s not a connection you want fans to make.
So how did we get here? There are a few possible reasons as to why we are having problems accessing the WHL site in the middle of the season, but they involve a failure by someone.
- The league decided to re-do their website late in the off-season. It’s fine, people redesign their websites all the time. What they don’t do, however, is do it while their site is still live. You do the work behind the scenes and then present the finished product when complete. Now, this could be a failure of the WHL expecting too much too soon but it also falls on the design company to tell the WHL that what they want isn’t possible in the timeframe or within the constraints of their software.
- The design company isn’t holding up their end of their contract and neglecting maintenance for the WHL site.
- The WHL is deciding that they can do a better job updating and maintaining their site than they think the design company can.
We don’t know which of those or any other reasons are the cause. And we won’t unless one or both of the parties involved make the issues public and who is responsible for them. However, the company responsible for the content management system and original design of the WHL website, MRX, also does the CHL/QMJHL/OHL websites as well. It’s possible that these pages have also had their issues but as I type this, I can navigate the O and Q websites with great ease and speed. Those two leagues share similar looking pages while the WHL’s is completely different. That would lead one to believe that the WHL is making demands or has expectations that can’t be met.
In the end, it’s not really important to place blame but it is very necessary to fix the problems. For all the work done by the WHL to try to show that it is the best developmental league for Western Canada and the US, the site and the problems with it portray a different story. You won’t lose any fans with a good website but you definitely won’t gain any with a bad one. And that’s not something the league and teams can afford.