December 07, 2008 Launches New Beta Site, Reduces Ads, Integrates Video's New Beta Site Is Tighter, Has More Features

For more than a decade, ESPN has been on the cutting edge in terms of experimenting with Web site layouts, integration of JavaScript, Flash, and video. While not every iteration to the valuable Web property has been met with excitement from its fans, the worldwide sports leader is looking to again make change, in an effort to declutter its front page, while continuing to add more features, and in an interesting move that speaks volumes, they have done away with banner ads on the home page - likely ceding that the run of site ads were not driving the revenue needed in exchange for damaging the site's look and feel.

The Current Site is Mostly Text and Links

The new beta site, made available to the site's paid "Insider" members starting earlier this week, is said to contain a "larger video player, advanced score boards, improved search and better navigation".

The Current Toolbar

The New Beta Toolbar

Many of the online sports junkies I congregate with via Sports Blogs Nation and Ballhype have two major complaints with the current Web site. First, there are too many ads, in just about every nook and cranny, and second, the site's embedded video player automatically starts playing, making the first move to turn it off, even before reading the day's news and articles. If the new beta site is to be believed, both of those issues are addressed.

The New Beta Shows The Day's Scores

The new beta site separates the online articles from the videos through the use of tabs, showing "Top Stories" and "Top Videos". This both tucks away the video, but also offers, as promised, a larger viewing experience, if that's what you're looking for. And, thankfully, instead of wasting valuable screen space in the top center of the page with an unrelated banner ad, the network has delivered with a full scoreboard of the day's events, much like their scrolling ticker seen on all television broadcasts on their family of sports networks.

The new redesign also reduces the total number of top sections, which had become burdensome in the current version of the site. What had once been a single toolbar with eighteen different menu items, each with their own dropdowns, has been replaced with seven top level items, and a subhead menu for the major sports.

While ESPN has been considered a leader in terms of embracing the Web and making it a major part of their editorial, alongside their magazine and multiple channels, not all their Web ventures have been pretty. Part of the Disney/ABC family, ESPN was part of the ill-fated experiment during Web 1.0, and has also previously integrated as a big partner MSN. The various domains have strayed from the basic to ESPN.Go.Com, and long ago,, which now redirects to the main page. But the latest move doesn't smack of such blatant commercialism. While clearly knows how to make money, they've killed the center banner ad, and tightened up the content, which should make its most loyal customers, the Insider team, happy. Should they deliver enough positive feedback, the new beta should make its way to the standard site soon.