I wanted to sit on my review of the new Yahoo! Sports redesign for a week or two so I could digest what I liked and didn't like and not just react to the change.
In brief, I like the new visual design, but I don't think there's huge improvement in the utility of the site and my big rant is that big images are overrated (read below).
Small tidbit to begin, I miss the nav bar that disappears when you dig down to a main sports level - I always browsed "across" all the major sports pages to get an overview of everything. But I'm probably in the minority and it's not that big of a deal.
Here's where I get pissy: images are overrated, information and functionality is King. The new design seems to be driven by the massive image size of the photo. In magazines and brochures images matter a great deal. But the internet is about performance, efficiency and practicality over glamour and gloss in every instance except for brochure sites where how you appear affects your brand. But on the internet it's how it well does it function - do you get what you want quickly, consistently... and then, easily.
One could argue that a sports media site is like a magazine and therefore the gloss and glamour of a big photo applies. They're wrong. One might say that the users wanted the big photos - well, the useres are wrong too. This is a case of not giving the users what they think they want. The reason they like the internet is not because it's just like a big magazine. It's because the internet is basically a gigantic database laid out before them. It's a database. Information. Very dry, very boring, all statistics and feeds. And that is the beauty of it. Images only tell so much. What's more informative to the sports fan: the scores of all the NCAA basketball games or the acne on Mark MacGuire's face?
The most obvious evidence of this truth is the history Yahoo! Sports itself. Before its first redesign it was a very successful site. After it's first redesign (1998) it was still a very successful site - all the while ESPN and Sports Illustrated had big honkin images on their frontpages, and Yahoo! did not. But the scoreboard was in plain site. The information displayed quickly and reliably. If splashy, glamourous and glossy equals success, then why was Y! Sports (all business, dry as a bone) among the top 3 of its category year after year? I'm not saying good looks don't matter but just that huge images are vastly overrated for an INTERNET product.
I'm glad the scoreboard is still on the frontpage(s). But it's a pity it got pushed down.
At worst, Y! Sporst looks like an ESPN wannabe by copying the high contrast black background theme. That's probably unwarranted, but I'll stick it in there anyway.
Kudos to the Sports team, I know that a redesign is an odyssey of pain and pain and more pain. And I know that the design process is full of compromises, where the designer is hearing it from all sides. I still think Yahoo! Sports is the best sports site on the web hands down.