Earlier this week we caught glimpse of the news that West Ham United had redesigned their website. While we weren’t exactly regulars on the club’s old site, it’s great to see clubs invest in what is the main experience of most fans: the official club website. Social media may be on the rise, but clubs can’t forget their online base when it comes to establishing a presence – and taking on board fan feedback is a must.
Thankfully the team at West Ham have done their research: subscription TV is no more, and instead they now offer a free video service across the site. This comes following feedback from their official Supporter Advisory Board, and they’ve also taken the opportunity to have a rethink about the type of content they’re putting across to fans. We’ve been promised “must-read opinion pieces from former players and famous to fans to the best tactical insight ahead of every game” to go along with a much nice looking website with clear navigation. Content is king these days, and the Hammers have plenty of ideas about how to bring fans closer to the team than ever before.
It’s important to note that the club aren’t calling this a website, rather it’s a “digital platform”, which makes sense considering the new features they’ve packed in.
First up is West Ham Live. This is a social hub which allows fans from all over the world to take part in conversations about the Hammers, as well as offering real-time updates from the Boleyn Ground. They’ll be aggregating the opinions of fans through both the site and social media. West Ham Live promises “instantaneous quizzes, competitions, post-match analysis, and live chats with players and celebrity fans” too.
Above you can see how this looks in action on the homepage. Clicking any of the updates takes you to the dedicated WHL page with the day’s live stream (headed up on 6th March by the news that it’s the anniversary of Geoff Pike’s debut), which allows you to see any accompanying images they’ve posted.
It’s very informal in tone as it’s all aimed at existing fans, but including screenshots of Snapchats is a nice touch. The channel seems to exist in order to show fans the players’ views of life at the club, which it’s doing very well. At this moment we didn’t find much evidence of engagement (most posts had zero likes, and to either like or reply you had to be logged in), but it’ll be interesting to see how this develops during the final few months of the season. Communication through official websites can be sporadic at best from most clubs, so one making a move towards more regular updates integrated in their official site is an interesting move. You could argue that Twitter does this job already, but the team at West Ham are posting substantially more than 140 characters in their updates yet not enough to warrant individual news articles.
The other new feature announced is a members area: My West Ham. Fans can sign up for free to tailor their private areas and select the news they want to see. This is also important if they want to watch the free videos, vote in polls, and access “the latest deals and offers from the club”. Quite standard stuff, although it’s great to see another club ditching the subscription TV model and giving fans access to content for free.
West Ham’s match day offering, the live match centre, offers free audio commentary – a nice extra. There’s the opportunity to discuss the game’s “big talking points” through the match centre, as well as having access to stats curated by Opta.
One feature we particularly like is the information about supporters’ clubs. Through the ‘fans’ tab you can quickly find clubs in the UK, around the world, and – another good touch – in ‘non-geographical areas’. There’s only one in the latter category, but you’ve got the option to submit your own if you’re part of a West Ham club.
West Ham’s Vice-Chairman Karen Brady had this to say about the new site:
“At such an important time in the Club’s history it is imperative that we focused our attention on our digital strategy. Our new site offers a blend of state-of-the-art technology and an engaging and entertaining content strategy.
“The new site reflects all of the other exciting developments going on at the Club, with the team pushing for a top-six finish, new supporters’ clubs all over the world and the move to our magnificent new Stadium less than 18 months away.
“As the international West Ham fanbase continues to grow, we know that this website will be the first place Hammers fans will visit, wherever they are and whatever they are doing.
“We want to bring that global community of fans closer together, so every supporter who follows West Ham can engage with the Club and each other through West Ham Live, wherever they are.
“With our rich heritage, our increasing global reach and our huge ambitions for the future, we strongly feel that West Ham is one of the fastest growing football brands in the world, and now we have a website to match our ambition.”
It’s great to see that a club are investing to heavily in the online presence and committing the resources to their website that they should be. It’s also interesting to note that Brady makes specific reference to a “content strategy”. We’ve seen clubs like Man City have considerable success with their content, so it makes sense that others would want to get involved too. As we said earlier: content is king these days, and giving fans as many reasons as possible to visit should be top of most clubs’ agenda.
Overall, West Ham’s new site is a clean and accessible platform. It’s a significant step forward, and should be seen as a platform which other clubs will want to replicate in the future – particularly with regards to making video content free to view. In our opinion the sooner clubs stop charging fans to access content the better – not everything has to be monetised.
It’s quite difficult to judge the success of the new content, but early impressions suggest they’re doing the right things. It’s pitched firmly at fans and offers great behind-the-scenes views of the club, as well as using a tone that promotes engagement. Fingers crossed they get the uptake the new look deserves.