At Thirst, we’re firm believers in partnering with our clients. It might sound like an agency cliché, but the reality is, the outcome is always better when the agency/client relationship is an equal one, based on mutual trust and respect.
When Baseball Australia engaged us a year ago for a complete overhaul of their brand identity and digital ecosystem, we were extremely excited but also well aware of the complexity of the project we were undertaking.
Fast forward a year and the new branding is rolled out, as well as a brand new and shiny baseball.com.au.
We’ll go into the details of the work in the article, but we can already safely say it’s been a success, not only for the sheer outcome but also for the level of trust that has been reached with our client.
Baseball Australia’s website was several years old, with a dated interface and branding. Visually, the site was in dire need of a revamp; however, the more concerning fact was that it wasn’t fulfilling its role as a business tool and content hub for its fans and sponsors.
With that in mind Baseball Australia came to us with the following goals in mind:
- A place to easily create and distribute content
- One home for all video, images, news and information
- Ability to optimise revenue-generating opportunities
- Easy-to-understand analytics and audience demographics
- Ability to further reach into Asia with language translation
- Better engage with Australian fans
Given the size of the task, we split the project into 4 phases:
- Strategy and planning, which include various workshops in order to clearly define the scope of deliverables
- Rebranding which involved the creation of a new logo and a style guide
- Design and build of the new baseball.com.au
- Design and build of the new ABL (Australian Baseball League) website and its 8 professional teams
In a few weeks, we completed the brand refresh which gave Baseball Australia a clean and modern look.
Following a discovery workshop with the Baseball Australia team, we worked on a number of design concepts. The new brandmark needed to work primarily in digital applications so we focused our design exploration on clean, type-driven solutions.
The final logo incorporates stylised, iconic red stitches from a baseball. These stitches have also been used as part of the visual language throughout the site. We also developed a digital-first colour palette – curating a quite bright combination of highlight colours to be coupled with a deep blue for visual impact to make the overall brand and website feel contemporary and exciting.
We then tackled the next big task of designing and building the first website. In order to allow for consistency and efficiency, it made sense for us to create one single code base for the whole ecosystem.
The design and user experience
We knew the experience needed to be seamless for both the website users and the content editors. That is why we selected WordPress as the CMS for this project – being the most popular in the marketplace, we knew the learning curve for the Baseball Australia team would be a short one.
Additionally, it allowed enough customisation to match the required workflow.
In terms of the front-end, we worked with Baseball Australia to define a myriad of useful functionalities based on actual user needs. To name a few:
- Infinite scroll
The ability to continuously keep scrolling to load news articles, rather than clicking and opening a new page
- Dynamic URL replacing
The browser URL automatically updates to the current article as the user scrolls
- Article list ad rotator
As the user scrolls through articles, the article list on the right keeps refreshing and automatically displays a new ad when the previous one disappears
- Category drop-down
The ability for the user to filter all articles pertaining to a certain category
Tag cloud The ability for the user to display all articles relating to a certain tag
The technical set up
There were some key specifications to take into account:
- Complex API integrations for all the players, teams, stats and score feeds
- The need to create a custom ad server to allow for sponsors to place ads throughout the website
- The need for video live streaming
- A directory of local clubs for people to search join
- A directory of competitions with scores updated in real-time
We carefully considered our options before getting started as we knew that the investment was a major one for our client and the result needed to be top-notch.
While the work involved in getting a website up-and-running using these techniques is significantly higher than a standard website, the benefits in the long-run are undeniable; especially if your website is content-heavy.
Here’s a further reference if you’re interested in understanding the technical intricacies and the actual benefits in greater detail.
For hosting, we opted for Kinsta for the backend (using the Google Cloud platform) and AWS for the front end; using the CloudFront CDN. This state-of-the-art hosting set up ensure that wherever the end-user is, the content is delivered in a fraction of a second.
While the visual, functional and UX improvements speak for themselves, the fans have already massively approved this new platform as shown in the first analytics results: at the time of writing this post, the new Baseball Australia website has only been live for a couple of weeks but the results are already very promising with 3 times more sessions and twice as many page views compared to the same period last year.
The before and after imagery below truly speaks to the impact of the new design.
In the next couple of months we will be finishing off and launching the rest of the Baseball Australia ecosystem, namely the Australian Baseball league website and the following 8 clubs.
Additionally, we look forward to maintaining a trusting working relationship with Baseball Australia and work on keep enhancing their digital reach and improving the functionality.
Want to see more? Read the press release by Baseball Australia’s CEO Cam Vale here.