This is the abridged version of an article that I’ve been asked to write for a project backed by AthletesCAN. This is the introductory piece of a two-part series on how athletes websites have changed over time and what is required now to have a striving online presence.
Website as we know it are dead. The web has changed but large sites bloated with outdated static content haven’t and as a result, are facing extinction.
While many athlete are still relying on them, we’re now light years away from the golden era of the good old blog site – that static page with a basic layout, underwhelming design, a ‘media gallery’ of old photos and enough blog posts to publish a novel.
Your website has to adapt to the new ways of creating, discovering and consuming online content especially if you’re still guilty of relying on this type of old school website to grow your online brand.
Content Creation – From long form to 140 characters
Back then, the blog post was the sole medium to share your lifestyle online. It was mandatory to write an entry every week or so about anything and everything in order to keep your audience satisfied and grow your brand.
It was a widespread branding technique that had the benefits to get readers to religiously come back week after week to read your updates. However it was a time consuming practice and required writing skills to be executed properly.
Nowadays, sharing your athlete lifestyle is all about clever tweets and artsy use of filters!
Long form is not a requirement anymore since the maturation of social media gave a much simpler way for us, athletes, to share our lifestyle.
It made content creation more streamlined and efficient since each social channel has its role: Tweets for results, Instagram to show the venue, Facebook for quick daily recap during competitions and, finally, a blog post for the in depth ‘Race Report’.
Content Discovery – From RSS Feeds to… 140 characters
Back then, getting people to actually read your stuff was downright obscure.
Masters of the dark arts were peddling SEO tricks and RSS feed trickery. Clever athletes and marketers found ways to built outrageously large email lists to distribute their weekly blurb while most of us simply went for a ‘spray and prey’ method which yielded mitigated results.
Nowadays, sharing your latest piece of content ( blog post, video edit, etc) to your audience within your existing social channels will yield thousands of interactions.
Most importantly, interactions that can now be measured and improved.
Content Consumption – Mobile changed everything
Back then, visitors we’re mostly coming from their desktop running Windows XP browsing the web at modest speed on Internet Explorer 8.
Given it’s singular use case, the average website did not require advanced architecture and responsive design. Most websites looked like crap, therefore, it was fine to look the same.
Nowadays, it’s all about the user experience and being mobile both figuratively and literally.
Curious visitors are browsing your website from their phones, at the venue, over the cellular network right after hearing your name being announced… and they expect your site to be awesome
Your website has a lot more to achieve than it used to. It needs to look beautiful to make a solid impression while being be fully functional on tiny screens.
Furthermore, it musts to load quickly no matter how bad the cellular network reception is and should be responsive and adapt to all screen sizes, resolutions, browser and operating systems.
Measuring success – the visits widget is now the followers count
Back then, you were a total boss when your website’s ‘visitors count’ was in the tens of thousands.
It didn’t mean anything and quite frankly nobody really seemed to know what was a good or bad number but it was still a mark of success.
Nowadays, it’s all about the followers, right?
In the current order of things, online influence is measured in followers. In some cases it’s even a currency that dictates sponsorships and media opportunities for athletes.
With such pressure on crafting a positive image to appeal to new followers, it’s a must to showcase your lifestyle with a beautiful and engaging website. In that matter, it’s clear that the outdated underwhelming website becomes a plague cannibalizing one’s effort to grow his online brand.
The regular blog website is obsolete. Blog posts aren’t as crucial as they once were nor is the frequency at which they are posted.
Visitors come to your site to get the big picture in a heartbeat. They want to know who you are, what you do, how good you are and who sponsors you. You have one chance to impress them and convince them to stick around for another minute before they go back to cat videos.
Out with the old, in with the new: here's what an impactful website should have.