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More than just a new website – Column
Thursday, 3rd Aug 2017 08:54 by Neil Dejyothin

Neil Dejyothin on the people charged with dragging QPR out of a ridiculous 17 year contract to build an official website that not only works properly for the first time, but looks good doing it.

As a greeting, “your website is shit” probably didn’t fill the QPR media team with much hope for their long term prospects when they first met the club’s new owner Tony Fernandes back in 2012.

He was right, it was, but in the sort of deal only the Football League could sign, QPR were duty bound to stick with their ugly, dysfunctional, shoddy official website until 2017. That Football League Interactive (FLI) contract was signed in 2000 – a time of dial up, no Facebook, no Twitter. Google was only 18 months old. YouTube was still five years away. And yet the clubs were committed, under pain of serious financial penalty, to stick with the same company - which had no incentive to improve either of the God-awful templates they operated during their two-decade reign of online incompetence - for fully 17 years.

QPR had, after a botched relaunch of a supposed improved version of the official websites several years back, asked for other clubs to come in with them to pay for improvements to at least make the sites functional. They didn’t get many takers – clubs knew if QPR paid for it, the improvements would come their way for free.

When the opportunity to finally free themselves of the shackles finally came round this year, QPR wanted to be ready for it and wanted to do it right.

Camel – a horse designed by committee

Fan consultation has been on the lips of many QPR supporters over recent years and we’ve seen various attempts by the club to improve on this and rectify relationships with fans.

Take the club crest, which was ruthlessly changed without any consultation whatsoever under Flavio Briatore and Bernie Ecclestone’s reign, seemingly to incorporate Flavio’s hair. When it came to finally changing that, there was almost too much consultation in the early stages.

The outcome, thankfully, is bloody beautiful and shows what can be done by the club working together with its supporters. But the process behind re-imagining our club crest almost went sour because of the desire to try and please everybody. The first mock-ups took everything people had said was important to them in the online surveys and mashed it all together into a horror show that nobody wanted or liked.

Sensibly, the club and consultation groups revised the plans to arrive at the badge we have now, which is one to be proud about and represents who we are.

Building a new website is more complicated still, but also represents the public-facing front of the club. It is the first thing people will come to when looking for QPR online. The amount of work that goes into re-designing a site and ensuring it functions and does everything it’s meant to is no mean feat.

The club got on the case about this 18 months ago. I was fortunate enough to be involved in the consultation process at various stages. This started with QPR’s David Scriven walking us through the club’s ideas and plans for a new partner, even showing us the pitches from various design agencies who were competing to win the deal.

Eventually they settled on a London based company called Aqueduct, an agency with experience in building websites for sports teams and bodies. I’m not going to lie, initially, I was sceptical. I thought to myself: “why don’t’ we just do it all in-house?” (short answer: it's expensive).

But, as I said before, building websites is a big business. I was invited (along with some others) to meet with Aqueduct last year at their offices in Chancery Lane. The meeting was led by usability expert (UX for the tech geeks out there) Anna Singer, who was leading up the project. Anna admitted to us that she knew nothing about football, but she was curious to understand more about QPR and its fans. At one point, and we’ll forgive her for this in a moment, I promise, she actually referred to us as Spurs.

Putting that aside, we all expressed and discussed what QPR meant to us and went through various brainstorming focus tests about the current site versus what we’d like to see in a QPR website.This continued throughout the months through a feedback process where the club and Aqueduct would pick our brains about particular aspects of the site.

In typical Rangers fans' style, we were Premier League champions when it came to telling Anna what we didn’t like. In fact, this was the easy part, because there were a lot of common complaints about the current site and what it didn’t do well.

We can quickly reel off some of the obvious; a standard template design used by lots of clubs, incredibly busy with information overload, a complex navigation structure, non-responsive and clunky on mobile devices, slow to load, different log-ins required for a variety of services, too many adverts, we could have gone on forever... And we did.

But, also in typical Rangers fashion, we also struggled to tell Anna what we exactly wanted from a new site. Everybody had different opinions and views on what would make for a good experience, but nobody had the full expertise or picture to bring all these ideas together.

Luongo’s dog

This is where the club have learned and why Aqueduct were a great fit. Towards the end of the process I was back at Aqueduct with Andy Sinton, who was embracing everybody like long-lost relatives and showing genuine warmth and interest in everybody there (he’s a fine asset for Rangers and is doing a marvellous job representing us), and Massimo Luongo, who was confused for reasons we’ll come onto.

We were shown the website and taken through the story of how it was built and the detail that went into making it. The amount of research was incredible. The office was filled with QPR memorabilia, scarves, mugs and old programmes. Research and visual reminders were up all over the wall, it was like being inside one of the offices at Loftus Road. It just felt like QPR.

This stuff was no joke either. It wasn’t just for show. They’d studied old QPR programmes for typography, colouring and design cues. They’d even gone as far as using the shapes and geometry of areas around Loftus Road (such as the angle of the girders between Q and R block) and Hammersmith and Fulham as a whole, using old-school maps for a touch of history and nostalgia. A plan for a black furry background to match Jude the Cat had, alas, been ditched after looking “a bit seedy”.

What struck me about Mass was that he’s still just a very young guy. He sounded like any other normal 24-year-old that might be still attending university. It brought home the pressure these young men are under to deliver on our expectations at a time when of life when lots of people their age are yet to work out what they want to do and leave uni with a degree they seldom end up using.

He’s a likeable, grounded guy, who appreciates what he has but having been immersed in football his whole adult life the situation seemed a little crazy to him. He was surprised a company like Aqueduct could share premises with other businesses and start-ups (they use WeWork offices) and that they had an office dog running around the building. Not reading too much into this but it perhaps demonstrates the lack of real world experience so many footballers are starved of.

At the time we met, we had lost six on the bounce and Mass seemed gutted and concerned about it. The Nottingham Forest game was up next and there was anxiety in the air, but he spoke about his and the players desire to get over the line which of course the just about did in the end.

Cold night in Sheffield

The site launched this summer and while it’s still bedding down with the usual teething problems, and the ambition for a ‘universal log in’ so people only have the one password for the box office, shop and video content continues to elude them, the general consensus is it’s a vast improvement and job well done.

For a start it’s responsive. You can view the same website on your desktop computer at home, or your laptop, or your mobile phone, or your tablet. Basic, but not there before. The colour scheme is brighter, cleaner, more welcoming. Bigger fonts can look a little childish, for want of a better word, but the new site is attractive and feels right.

The new video service, which many of us have already used for the pre-season friendlies, is a far better and more flexible set up than the old QPR Player HD and Rangers are using it to stream live footage of games not selected by foreign broadcasters to supporters living outside the UK for the first time this season.

But it’s not the obvious improvements that had me forgiving Anna for her Freudian ‘Spurs’ slip right at the start of the process. While sitting through the standard QPR awayday experience – bitterly cold, soaking wet, 1-0 defeat on an October afternoon at Sheffield Wednesday last season – I saw a couple with two very young children further down the away end. The eldest could still barely walk, but took interest in attempting to wander around the vast open spaces of the away end, mother in hot pursuit.

As I caught eye with this lady I realised it was Anna and asked what on earth she was doing there. And then, before she answered, I already realised. QPR had gotten to her too. She expressed how much she’d fallen in love with football and QPR and that it was her first ever away game with Rangers (madness lies within). Not only that, the whole family were kitted out and dressed head to toe in QPR colours.

Anna spoke fondly of her experience with QPR as a whole and praised the club and its staff she'd dealt with, mentioning just how different, easy to work with and friendly they were over some of the other clients they've dealt with.

It made me proud. The media team have particularly worked really hard on all of this stuff for many years. It didn't magically happen overnight, it's always about hard work and an iteration of a process that started a few years ago. It's culminated in things like the ForeverRs (fabulous), a club crest change (beautiful), the best kit we've had in years (shame about the demise Dryworld) and now a successful website launch.

Get all of these things right and what follows can occur organically and naturally. When I tried to explain what this was to Anna when we first met, she didn't get it. Now she does. Scooping up a whole family as fans? That's a QPR I've not seen or heard about for a long time. We've always had a unique way of luring people in, and it's great to see it's still there.

The Twitter @NeilDejyothin

Pictures – Action Images/NeilDejyothin/QPR

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loftinoz added 09:24 - Aug 3
Nicely written, thanks.

smegma added 09:57 - Aug 3
I don't rate this new one. Two of my mates agreed with me. I cannot access it on this iPad or any iPad. My mate has a laptop and he too can't access it. What's the point in making a song and dance about a new website that can't be accessed by everyone?? Never had this problem with the old website, which was better.

Dorse added 09:58 - Aug 3
Outstanding Neil - really interesting insight.

enfieldargh added 09:58 - Aug 3
reading the part of Anna and her family getting the qpr bug brought a tear to my eye.

The website is excellent, I guess there are ads hopefully to our sponsors but tbh I've not noticed any.

I must make one complaint, when is Josh Scowans photo going to be put up.....absolutely terrible the site is brill as are the media team

Any one remember 0898121162( hopefully the correct phone number and not the number for &*&$%%££

Neil_SI added 10:22 - Aug 3
Thanks all. 😊

Smegma -
I can access the website fine from my iPad, so it’s unusual that you can’t. Are you able to try different networks when attempting to access the site?

Have you cleared your browser cache too? In some cases, when websites completely change service providers, it might be that data from the old one is cached locally on your machine and therefore conflicts and causes a problem.

In addition, if you use any particular plug-ins that may block content, such as adverts, etc, this can also cause issues and if you do, you might want to review those.

The site looks great and work a treat on my iPad. I’ve used it to browse, order things and watch the pre-season friendly streams without any problems.

But, yeah, otherwise it’s interesting that you think the old one was better. It might be worth detailing exactly why you feel that way as I’m sure the feedback would be useful.

For me, I’ve found myself heading to the official site far more now than I was previously. I liked it from the outset, but its grown on me more and more as time has passed too, which is a positive sign.

Neil_SI added 10:31 - Aug 3
enfieldargh -
Anna’s story was on of my favourite aspects of the last season or so. She told me QPR were the best club she’d worked with out of all of the clubs on their books. I could tell there was a great level of mutual respect between the Aqueduct and club and we picked them because their mentality and style was quite similar to ours.

Overall this is a culmination of a lot of hard work by the club and the media team behind the scenes. We often don’t get to see that level of professionalism and diligence first-hand at a business to business level, so they can take all the credit for this one.

Phildo added 11:04 - Aug 3
Great article there in a number of ways and I actually found the liitle clincher about Anna and her kids quite moving! We have to say the media side at QPR has been very good (in that they try) and it is clear those guys work hard to get things right.


MancR added 11:35 - Aug 3
I'm not getting on very well with the new ste either, on an iPad too. Trying to find pre season results on the search kept taking me to ladies results from 2014 and other out of date stuff. Very limited menus were showing and gave up after 30 mins of useless round and round in circles stuff.
Will try again as probably just me

simmo added 11:36 - Aug 3
Great stuff and welcome aboard Anna (we're sorry).

Neil_SI added 11:41 - Aug 3
MancR -
It’s interesting that you use the Search to try and find this. Have you noticed the menu at the bottom of the site? You should see three little lines at the bottom, hit that and a menu will pop-up and then choose “Fixtures” and then choose “Results”.

I think they could probably adjust this mobile menu on iPad’s a little bit, and perhaps have the menu display on certain iPad resolutions like it does on the desktop site.

MancR added 11:52 - Aug 3
There no menu at the bottom on my screen ( will look again)
The search function is really weird. There were 4 suggested links for me to click, one was highlights which brought up friendless and under 18 games from 2015.
There's no front page link for sheff Wednesday tickets even though it is next week either.
I'm finding it really frustrating while others are raving about it.
As I said it could be just me

MancR added 11:57 - Aug 3
Oh those 3 little lines?!? How would I know to press those? The word menu would have given me a clue😀
Happier now. Cheers
The search facility needs work though, the tickets tab brought up ludicrous stuff from 2012

Neil_SI added 12:03 - Aug 3
Heh yeah... so for anybody else who is confused or didn’t realise:

The menu is at the bottom:

Pressing it will bring up this:

That will allow you to browse around the site easily.

enfieldargh added 12:15 - Aug 3

Is this something that just automatically comes with the app or is it an extra I have to get?

Ive been using the site on my website so just playing with my phone now.

Cant see a video section though

YorkRanger added 12:18 - Aug 3
Good article Neil, interesting to hear some of the background and the Anna story is a nice footnote

BrianMcCarthy added 13:03 - Aug 3
Good article, Neil. Enjoyed learning about the work involved. Welcome aboard, Family Anna.

timcocking added 18:16 - Aug 4
Didn't see that ending coming, that's cool...

TacticalR added 13:27 - Aug 5
Thanks for your report Neil.

I don't really know my way around the new site yet, although I can see it looks a lot more modern than the old site. The old site was downright strange (e.g. having to click on a button to get to the homepage).

You are right that it is very important to get this right as this is QPR's public face to the world.

smegma added 19:33 - Aug 20
The website is even worse than the previous one. It appears the only ones bigging it up are those who 'helped' create/design it. Yesterday, 3 random people I spoke to outside the ground asked 'isn't the new website $hite'. One of them was a club employee. As I've repeated in the past, I never had a problem with the old site, and I didn't help create it either.

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