Mavericks, Rockets, Jazz Tops Among NBA Websites
A website is more than “a good first impression” or “a pretty smile.” A website site is the front door through which customers pass to establish a relationship and, later, to do business. And as in all relationships, we can do certain things to make it a good relationship.
In the case of sports teams, those customers are fans. And the relationship with those fans goes beyond simple transactions. It can be a lifelong, passionate relationship. Some teams embrace the importance of their website, treating it as a tool to improve the fan experience, and at the same time increase direct (e.g., ticket sales, concessions) and indirect (e.g., advertising, media) revenue.
Regardless of the team’s attitude, fans will turn to the website even if it were written in raw html. But it seems only fair that fans who root for a world-class team deserve a world-class website, especially when most major league teams are worth billions of dollars, and their players are multi-millionaires.
TTL Sports Media evaluated the websites of all 30 NBA teams in June 2020 to better understand the quality and method of information sharing with the fans. Team websites were evaluated against criteria for design quality and content quality. The design quality criteria were home page layout, overall visual appearance, ease of navigation, overall design consistency and ease of loading. The content quality criteria considered team roster, team stats, ticket sales, schedule, news, videos, photo gallery, community outreach, stadium amenities, fan experience, live-game features, team store and social media Integration.
The top-ranking NBA website belonged to the Dallas Mavericks with an overall rating of 88% against the established criteria. The Houston Rockets followed closely behind with a rating of 86%. The Utah Jazz rounded out the top three with a rating of 84%. The average rating of NBA team websites was 66%, with a median of 65%. Nine teams rated below 60% with the lowest being 51%.
Most all professional and college leagues provide a basic website framework for individual team websites. This provides an element of consistency, and allows for sharing of common information like schedules, team and player statistics, game videos and game photographs. The common framework also makes it easy to move from team to team in the same league, as well affiliated teams in developmental leagues.
Each team has flexibility in how it presents the shared information, as well as other content it chooses to present or develop. Factors they control are page layout, page design, design consistency, visual appeal and navigation. Teams can differentiate themselves in how they use this flexibility.
NBA teams appear to have independence with regards to their mobile application. Mobile app functionality varied greatly among the teams, ranging from simple ticketing capability to more expansive designed to improve the fan’s experience during the game.
Teams appear to have less control, or chose to exercise less control, with applications from third party sites for ticket sales, team shops and arena amenities. In many cases, poor integration and lack of end-user considerations presents a disjointed experience with frequent one-way exits out of the team’s site.
The Dallas Mavericks led all NBA teams with an overall website rating of 88%.
The Mavericks’ website is noteworthy for the simplicity of its design and presentation. Many times, teams will try to present too much content which adversely impacts the user experience. The Mavericks acknowledge that potential shortcoming and strike just the right balance.
Each page has a consistent watermarking of the team’s branding. Divisions within a page are achieved by using a variation of background color, ranging from white to light gray to dark gray. Each background color nicely compliments the team’s color.
The top of page navigation has only five headings: Tickets, Team, Schedule, Media and Shop. Only the Media tab has a drop-down menu. The other headings provide for a natural flow as the user decides to drill deeper into the content. An icon to the top-right of the page provides a menu with drill-down detail, normally presented at the bottom of the page.
The home page presents a rotating page banner of featured highlights, that effectively captures the user’s attention because if fills the screen. Scrolling down the page takes you to latest news article, social media posts, and the team store.
The Ticket page nicely presents the various purchase options and avoids the overselling of premium ticket packages, as is often the case. The site has a 3D map of court views from various seat locations, but, surprisingly, the map cannot be accessed through the Ticket page.
The Team page is probably the best in the league. The Mavericks use action images of each player, replacing the traditional headshots, along with a short biography and key statistics. A second next level of detail provides additional statistics and a link to the player’s social media account. Only at the third level of detail are the traditional player statistics presented.
The Media heading contains News, Videos and photo Galleries. Videos is one of the few areas of potential improvement for the site. Like other teams, the Mavs have a lot of video content, but some teams elect to organize, filter and present the content by using different topics, including editor's picks and trending.
The Mavericks’ Photo Galleries also stood apart from the others in the league. Most teams displayed one photo at a time, with a queue of three photos shown as a film strip to the side. The response time of advancing through the film strip to preview the photos is usually slow. Instead, the Mavericks display all images for a particular event or game in a large grid. These images can be easily and quickly viewed. A double click enlarges the image, and the images may be downloaded.
Dallas pays a lot of attention to the fan experience. The site nicely calls out fan experience packages and theme nights, and places a big focus on game night features and events. If you get caught on the Mavs’ Jumbotron, you can download the video on JumboFoMo. Fan photos while at the game can be purchased from the site. The site also contains a virtual tour of the arena and a map to concessions. The mobile app provides live traffic updates and parking information.
The Houston Rockets website landed closely behind the Dallas’ with an overall rating of 86%.
The Rockets take a very different approach from the Mavericks in their home page. The top of the page has lots of content, which appears to be News, but is busy and difficult to follow the organization. The bottom of page is better organized and easier to follow, containing Shop, Social Media, and News / Video / Photos. Social media is especially well presented.
The layout of the site is simple and easy to navigate. The Rockets are one of the few teams that open a new browser window when launching a link to third-party site (e.g., ticket sales, team store). For most teams this action normally closes the window to the team website. Returning to the team website requires the user to endlessly clicking the “show previous page” arrow. Opening two windows makes it easy to return to the team site.
The Rockets also raised the bar with their mobile app. Most teams use their mobile app mainly for ticketing and a few add-on functions. Houston thought of the fan experience in the app by including features like: in-seat food and beverage ordering; live streaming of the game; real-time social media; and interactive box scores and shot tracking.
All NBA teams amass a tremendous number of video clips. Navigating those videos can be challenging for the fan. Many high-quality videos, and the attached advertising message, likely go unviewed because they are not discovered by the fans. Houston overcomes this issue by curating their videos, arranging them by: team game highlights, player game highlights, interviews, community interest, mascot, dance squad and special team events. They also include a search field for additional topics of interest.
game. This is especially important for the first-time, or less frequent, attendees, whose experience determines if they return. Information includes: arena exhibits, dining, shopping, concessions, parking, public transportation, A to Z arena guide, pre-game activities, dance team, mascot, and entertainment groups.
The Utah Jazz rounded out the top three of the NBA sites with a rating of 84%.
The Jazz’s home page rivals the Dallas Mavericks for the best in the league, with the Jazz taking a very different approach. The Jazz present considerable content that is well organized, visually appealing and very easy to navigate. The page contains trending news, insights, social media, team store, and photos. An innovative feature in each section are buttons that filter and drill-down into the content, making it easy to navigate.
Utah has added several special features to their Schedule page. The Schedule can be filtered by month of the season, day of the week, and opponent. For example, this gives you the ability to determine which date in the season the Jazz play the Boston Celtics on a Friday night.
The Jazz also use the Schedule tab to present game recaps. Teams have a choice of how to present game summaries. Some teams show only videos and photo gallery highlights, which many find lacking. The Jazz included a very complete recap of each game in the Schedule. Completed games have a written summary, video highlights, summary stats, box scores and game details.
Utah is one of the few teams in the NBA that presents the team’s history, giving the fan a true appreciation of the legacy of the franchise. The very rich compilation of content includes featured articles, Hall of Fame honorees, retired jersey honorees, team records, achievements, awards and honors. The site also acknowledgements every player in the history of the team with a short biography and career summary.
The Jazz go beyond other teams in their treatment of social media. In addition to having the team’s social media posts on the home page, they provide Twitter and Instagram links for each player under the Team menu tab.
The Jazz, like the Rockets, include some outstanding content in their Community page. Utah offers a wide variety of community out-reach programs and reports on it with written articles, photo galleries and videos. Most notable was their Sensory room, which is a sensory safe space for intellectually or developmentally challenged individuals.
The Mavericks, Rockets and Jazz have set a high bar for NBA team websites. TTL Sports Media’s next article presents the NBA’s best in class website components, which can be used as a roadmap for those teams desiring to improve their site.
About the Author:
Andy Nietupski founded Through the Lens Sport Media in 2015 after a corporate career of business start-ups and turn-arounds. TTL Sports Media helps sports organizations optimize their business results using the latest digital sales and marketing techniques. TTL Sports Media publishes 1,000’s pieces of content annually and curates a catalog of more than 100,000 items. On behalf of its client interests TTL Sports Media annually publishes nearly 200 articles and makes greater than 1000 social media posts.