Ladies and gentlemen, this fledgling blog you've come to know and love will soon be changing along with the rest of the SB Nation Network as we move into an era we're calling "SB Nation United." A few weeks ago we previewed the coming changes by releasing a "sneak peek" at the cosmetic redesign of ODB's beloved logo. That redesign was part of the network-wide initiative to bring forth the principles of William Wallace and unite the blogs. I've talked a bit about the updates since then, always hesitant to share too much too soon, but also always wanting to do exactly that. I wanted to tell you everything I knew about SB Nation United because I'm extremely excited about it. It is the best thing to happen to SB Nation as a whole, bar none. Over the last few days, ODB's contributors have been readying themselves for the updates to make the transition from SB Nation 2.0 (that's what we have now) to United as seamless as possible. The goal is to bring you all the benefits of updating our systems without the negatives.
Still, because people understandably resist change and things they don't know much about, there was some blowback, here and in other places, directed at the idea of United. I expect there will be more when the time actually comes. It's just human nature, I think, to prefer the familiar. So I'm writing this preview now to let you know what to expect and give you a peek at what those changes will look like, what they are intended to do, and how they will enhance your experience on ODB and the rest of the SB Nation network. If you have questions I can answer, I will. Just know that first and foremost, after having spent a significant amount of time the last few days on a beta version of the new blog itself, I am absolutely and completely ecstatic over what is to come. When we "relaunch," ODB will look completely different than it does today. Please don't be scared off by that fact. I'll still be here (if you view that as a positive) as will our erstwhile contributors. I hope you are, too. SB Nation's motto for this effort is "unity through individuality," and I think it will immediately clear to you what that means when you see it.
Follow the jump for an exclusive look at the future of Our Daily Bears and SB Nation:
Before we get to the screenshots of the new SB Nation, I wanted to talk about the purpose of SB Nation United. Change, after all, only makes sense when it has a logical, reasonable goal. That's why the adage "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" exists.
For those unfamiliar with the network at large, ODB is just one of over 300 blogs owned and operated by SB Nation, which was started way back in 2005. SB Nation's genesis came as a collection of baseball "blogs" before the term was even relatively known around the web. The first "blog" on the SB Nation network was Athletics Nation, the blog for MLB's Oakland Athletics. Over time, the network added more and more baseball blogs before branching into other subject areas like the NFL or college football. All the while, SB Nation wove the blogs together to create a unique fan-driven voice on the internet: bloggers weren't as a rule journalists, they were the "Monday morning quarterbacks" given an opportunity to speak their mind. The sites followed a fairly simplistic design but the network grew quickly, based on the emphasis on reader interaction and support, as well as the incredible skills of the managers and writers for each site.
You can get a good look at what SB Nation looked like in those days, by going here. That's the original SB Nation format from about 4 years ago.
In 2009, SB Nation had around 185 websites as part of the network. Today, that number is around 330 or so -- and still rising. We've added blogs covering everything from college sports to MMA to Serie A and the English Premier League. If it is sports, we've got it. If we don't, we'll probably soon get it. While positive for the future of the network itself, that tremendous growth brought with it immense technical challenges. The network existed with some blogs having been created in 2005 with outdated systems while others popped up all the time with the latest innovations. You can't build a unified platform over that kind of time span. Add in the fact that SB Nation was attempting to do more than it had ever done and you had a situation basically screaming for a serious upgrade from systems that had grown bloated and slow. So in 2008, SB Nation 2.0 debuted to alleviate those problems and streamline the blog network.
Since that point nearly five years ago, all we've done is grow even more with the addition of regional sites, the mothership home board, and everything in between. Once again, the blogs have grown and the problem of disparity in creation was never really fixed in the first place. ODB is a perfect example; we were built in the third quarter of 2011 and are one of the youngest blogs on the network. We got the benefit of newer technology that older blogs didn't. By adding so many blogs over such a long period of time, the supposed blog "network" had become at best a loose collection. An Articles of Confederation of a blog network, if you will.
Because of this, the SB Nation United project was started with the eventual goal of both streamlining and unifying the existing blogs into a cohesive web. Each blog retains its individuality while also being connected as never before. The individual communities that are the lifeblood of SB Nation remain independent while also gaining new, ground-breaking tools to communicate, share content, and, of course, engage fans.
Here are some of the highlights of just what these changes mean:
- Faster loading times. The "clutter" that eats up much of the site will be going away and the platform itself will load much quicker than it does today. No more worries about memory being eaten up by an SBN site.
- Flexible layout and modern design. Each site is going to have more individuality than it does today simply because of the flexibility we have on how to present our content, and the increased number of tools at our disposal to better accomplish our goals.
- An adaptive experience, no matter what the device. SB Nation will run on an "adaptive" platform, presenting a seamless experience no matter what device you are viewing the website on. Desktops, laptops, tablets and phones; no matter where you might be, your experience will not change.
- Game Threads, FanPosts and FanShots, of course, remain. We value the interaction with our community and the contributions you guys provide this website on a daily basis. Our focus on this aspect of ODB and SB Nation will not change at all.
- Our content will not change, not one bit. There was some concern that the content here at ODB will be changing; this is not the case at all. SB Nation is not looking to alter the content or approach of the sites on the network, merely to provide a better platform for our content to be presented.
Now let's get to the good stuff: appearances. What their favorite blogs will look like is, of course, what everyone is most worried about.
Below are a few screenshots of what the new website will resemble; these are not shots of ODB, so just imagine a green-and-gold themed version of what you see below with our logo on top and Baylor Bears information everywhere.
Also, these do not show all of the flexible custom options we have at how our content is presented -- this is but a sampling of what is to come.
As always, click each photo for a full-sized version.
The Cover: This the flexible, custom part of the site that will be the first thing any visitor sees when they come to ODB. Placed at the top of the front page, the cover allows us to to feature which stories we want and where -- and more importantly how many. Largely gone is the tyranny of reverse chronological order. Here you see five stories featured on the cover, with a StoryStream being the main article featured in this layout. We can change this layout from one like that above with 5 stories to one with 4, 3, 2 or even 1. All of it is fully customizable by day, hour, or even minute. More on those later.
Yet another version of the cover, this time with the feature up top.
Below the cover will be a reverse chronological design featuring the rest of the site's content. That's why I said reverse chrono was only "largely gone." This section is called the river, and as new articles are published, content will move off of the cover and down the page -- just as it does today. We also have the ability to pin things in the river itself should we decide to switch between cover styles to emphasize certain posts without losing others to the ether.
To get an idea of what the full website looks like, click here for a large image of the entire front page.
Probably the thing I am most excited about after the cover, the introduction of Story Streams to individual team blogs is a major innovation of SB Nation United. If you frequent the regional sites or the main SB Nation page, you're probably already familiar with the concept. In case you don't, I'll talk about it a little here. SB Nation designed Story Streams as a way for writers to package related posts and stories for easier consumption. By putting everything about a certain topic in one place, someone looking for information about that topic can find it quickly. They may also find things they didn't even know were related. Each article still retains it's own page and content but they will also be found on the Stream's page, where each individual update to the common subject appears in chronological order.
FanShots & FanPosts:
Above, this is what the FanShots page will look like. There will still be a listing of the latest FanShots on the front page, just as there is now.
Here is what the mobile version of the site will look like. The website "adapts" automatically to the browser and window on which you are viewing the site without the need for a separate page. That means no more mobile.BLOGNAME.com for any of the sites. You get the full functionality of the blog in the same exact place whether you're viewing on a laptop, an iPhone, or something we don't even know about yet that beams websites into your brain. Full comment functionality transfers over as well.
Android tablet or the iPad, no matter what device you might be on the website will adapt itself to that browser and platform. Here's a look at what our Dallas Stars blog looks like on an Android tablet.
Question, comments or concerns:
Please feel free to ask any questions regarding these changes. I'm throwing a lot of information at you here and you might not like all of it. I get that. Just know that I am extremely excited about everything I've seen from United, and as soon as you get your hands on it, I think you will be, too. The blogs load faster, look better, and operate much more smoothly than ever before. There is no doubt in my mind that this is a positive change. SB Nation wasn't broken by any means, but it was fixed. And improved tremendously.