Website Analysis: Baseball Reference and Fangraphs
While you can gleam some from users simply by what they actually say about a website, there’s an undeniable pull that seemingly unconscious emotions give us when interacting with a site. Whether it be positive or negative, the emotional reaction given to us is often the key in whether or not we will enjoy a website.
To better understand this concept, I’ve taken two similar websites I frequently use, baseball-reference.com and fangraphs.com, and performed an analysis on them. More specifically, an analysis on the emotional reaction the site gives through the lense of UI and UX design.
While users are very open about telling you what they want, they’re not always right. This isn’t a slight, there’s really no reasonable way anyone can give a perfect answer to the question of “what do you want?”, especially in terms of how their favorite website is designed. Knowing that, we have to look beyond what the users say they want and instead try to see how they interact with the site to know what they actually need.
As shown in this piece by Virtual Space, when designing around emotion, there're key aspects you can focus on to better stimulate and understand your users emotion’s. Factors such as pattern consistency, high-quality visuals, and general site trust and confidence are often what users favor. By resonating with these users and appealing to their positive emotions, you’re much more likely to form a long-lasting connection with your users.
Analyzing the analyzers
With a greater understanding of user emotions, I began to analyze sites I frequently visit and better understand the emotion behind their design. Since I’m a big baseball fan, I choose to compare the stat sites baseball-reference.com and fangraphs.com. When comparing the sites, I created many different FEEL/NEED statements to better center on what exact emotions I felt.
The main strength I noticed in fangraphs design was the sense of consistency. Every page on the site feels very similar for the most part. Every chart has the same design, the navigation bar is always there, and the overall hierarchy of the site is extremely consistent. This just makes that site much easier to surf through. As it’s a site full of graphs and data, it can often be overwhelming, especially for new fans. By having that consistency throughout the site though, it provides the user a sense of calmness, knowing that when they first figure out the site, they can read the rest of it.
Every graph on the site looks like this
Fangraphs is also good at providing the user with a sense of freedom in many different ways. On every player page, you can customize their initial statline to show only the stats you want. On the leaderboards, you can choose any year, stat, player, team, etc… and manually select only the ones you want to see. You can even split the seasons, allowing you to see both all-time leaders and single season leaders in any stat you want. This overall sense of freedom is often what keeps users coming back frequently and for extended periods of time. With so many different features, the user can often get lost in it. A user will also appreciate freedom in the sense of their needs can be accommodated for much more specifically.
Compared to fangraphs, baseball reference left a little to be desired in terms of accommodating to the users emotions. One of the biggest flaws I found with the site is that pages like the leaderboards are nothing like the other pages. Almost every other stat is shown in graphs, but the leaderboards page has a completely different layout, listing them top to bottom and only showing the top ten. As a user, this immediately builds a sense of distrust in the website. When they begin viewing the leaderboards, much of the information picked up in the rest of the site is no longer useful. Even if the leaderboards themselves are easier to use then they seem, the lack of consistency is enough damage to my trust to not even want to bother learning it.
Leaderboards are a major feature of stat sites and baseball reference's leave a lot to be desired
The site itself is also just cluttered. It feels like every page is a giant text dump, with a lack of harmony in many spots and sometimes making it tough to tell what I’m always looking at. This in general makes me feel uneasy, as clutter in websites often causes stress and discomfort for the user. There’s also a sense of frustration due to the lack of consistency. The site has many great features and I still often use it, but the lack of uniformity and clutter prevents me from using it more. While I want to enjoy my experience more, it’s oftentimes too frequently hampered by the issues described.