I’m an admitted museum junkie. I can walk the halls of any art, history, or science museum for hours. I love to learn and museums provide an opportunity to engage with things greater than me. I want to pass this love of learning on to my kids so we visit museums when we can. They love going to the Cincinnati Children’s Museum because they can interact with the exhibits. They have a dedicated Kids’ SPACE; Science, Play, Art, Creativity, and Exploration.
A Relic or an Innovation Lab?
In many ways, athletic websites also act as a virtual museum of sorts. They house information, some that mirror relics, and are meant to serve the purpose of education and engagement. And it’s where grown-ups (and some not so grown-ups) go to play. The problem is athletic departments don’t always create sites that engage and let fans play.
Fans, athletes, and alumni visit your website because they’re seeking information. They may want to learn more about an upcoming game, a particular team or athlete, or even what it takes to become apart of your program. But these same people choose to stay on your website because they discover there’s more to learn. After all, we’re all naturally curious and your site should function as a source of fan engagement innovation.
Are You Engaging The Five Types of Museum Interactions?
Anything developed for a child, be it a toy, show, or establishment, is designed to harness that creativity. Why is it we assume adults are myopic when approaching self-education? Why is an athletic department’s central information repository, a website, often designed without imagination, foresight, or intellectual insight?
The information recall rate of individuals is 10%. Scientists have discovered that by engaging multiple senses that recall rate increases to 60%. Interactive sites are successful because they engage the senses; not just the traditional sight, feel, hear, taste, and smell. Interactive sites allow visitors to build, create, contribute, learn, and stretch their imagination.
McDaniel College’s website is practically designed and structured like a social media platform, but they use a feed for all content instead of just social, which is unique and really encourages engagement. Dickinson Athletics takes a different approach and places features like enhanced bios, a ‘recruits’ section, and ‘inside athletics’ content to drive self-discovery and education about their program.
The Role of Audio and Video
Ideally, your website would be built by the fan. The challenge, of course, is everyone has a different idea of what they want. If I were to design the Zappos site it would only have stilettos and running shoes. But there will be a commonality in the wants of your visitors, start with that. Engage them and build the site around their digital activity. Bonus points if you can build the site to respond to their activity. Provide them the ability to contribute and develop this hub of information that is meant for them.
Some athletic departments are building in more video as a tool to really capture the experience and personify the athletic brand. Belmont University has a host of videos that bring to life everything from draft night, community service, and their #InvestedInYou initiative. They use this same technique to drive additional revenue opportunities through ticket and merchandise sales.
University of Tampa Athletics uses drone video to guide you through a tour of the campus. What’s additionally impressive is the incorporation of a pronunciation guide in their rosters. When we consider engaging all the senses it’s equally important to factor in the accessibility of your website. Tampa Athletics has done this well. This is a great example of using your athletic website to demonstrate diversity and inclusion.
Here are just some examples of different ways to incorporate SPACE into your athletic program site.
Science: Statistics are a great way to explain what happened in the contest. Pair it with an infographic and you can break down an individual play to reveal how the outstanding performance was accomplished, say a pole vault attempt, baseball strike or volleyball kill.
Play: Contests between fans and groups of fans can be as creative and complex, and as long or short as you like. But they are sure to keep fans engaged and gives them a reason to come back.
Art: Every fan can picture an athletic poster that inspired them. Big hero glory shots of your athletes in action should have a place on every website.
Creativity: Provide fans with resources to create their own messages to share on social can be dividends for everyone involved. They get to express their fandom to the world. You get increased exposure.
Exploration: Detailed in-depth information, both written and increasingly video and multi-media allows fans to have a deeper connection with your program. That leads to long-term engagement and #fans4life. And remember the importance of accessibility. Your website should be inclusive.
When evaluating your website remember to define a clear purpose, make it easy to understand, develop interactive elements, and let the fan drive the direction of the site. Then let the children, I mean fans, play with the site and see how they interact with it.
How do you engage fans in your website development? Share your favorites at #fans4life.