The New ARRL Website

I recently got an e-mail from a reader who wondered why he was the only one to have commented here on the ARRL’s new website. “Alas,” he asked, “Am I the only user left on the ARRL site, or are all of the new hams simply illiterate and just looking at the pictures, or, are they all only hanging around eHam.net these days”?

My reply was, “I don’t think that most hams give a hoot about the new ARRL website.”

My take on it is that it’s a fancier design, but it’s not any easier to use than the old one. In fact, in some important ways, it’s more difficult. For example, there used to be links on the home page to the club search and exam search pages. Now, you have to make two or three clicks to get to those pages.

I cruised around the club section a bit and didn’t note any new content there. My gripe about the old website was that the content really needed some updating. In my short foray onto the new site, I’d have to say the same thing. The only thing that the new site adds is a new wrapper. Of course, I have to admit that my brief bit of web-browsing was not very extensive, so this criticism may be unfair.

What do you think? Do you think it was worth all the time and money they spent on it?

Comments

  1. My take – no it isn’t any better. My thoughts on the new site at:
    http://www.k2dsl.com/2010/04/15/arrl-site-more-miss-then-hit/

  2. The new site doesn’t look like it was created by a 15 yr old in 1995 (as the old site did) but the new one isn’t much better (it looks like it was created by a 15 yr old in 2009). The functionality is odd, for instance the RSS feed serves up a partial feed (not unheard of, but generally accepted to be “old style”) but the really annoying part is that clicking on the link leads to ANOTHER partial page requiring ANOTHER click to get the full article. The login credentials are 2 factor (username & password) however they only have a workflow for recovering 1 of those factors (password).

    At least it’s not flash, and they got rid of the multi-tiered menus… and it’s not center-justified text in a red/white/blue color scheme like some of the others…

  3. At least it’s not as ugly as the old web site. Agree with you and K2DSL on stale content and over-done widgets, though.

  4. I’m pretty disappointed in what they’ve done. While graphically it’s more pleasing to the eye, it’s definitely more difficult to use. While I understand that they held off putting some comment in until the new site went live, a general rule of thumb is to never take away functionality when implementing something new. If nothing else, they should have run both sites in parallel for a while and allowed at least ARRL members to provide input before replacing the old site.

  5. John KC8ZTJ says:

    What were they thinking! No it is not better and as you point out, in many ways worse. They glitzy images but content still as it has always been….. Dang.

  6. Bart Lawson says:

    I don’t understand, new , old website what difference does it make. Are you saying that new hams, old hams aren’t able to put out the effort to browse a web site and find the information they need. Maybe, those hams should be cb folk, then they wouldn’t be faced with all these difficult problems of finding the information they need. Probably the same “hams’ that couldn’t be bothered with learning the code.

    Sorry, but this post just brought out some buried hostility in me. I am normally a mild mannered geek!

  7. I think the fact that, visually, the front page is about 75% adversising says a lot.

  8. I’ve been around the website a little. I can’t say that I’m impressed with it anymore than I was the previous version. Perhaps the redesign was worth the time and money if it made more maintainable.

  9. Bill K6WLM says:

    I can not understand why the ARRL would go to web developers that do not even know anything about Amateur Radio let alone how to build a website!

    I hate the look of the new site. The advertisements are bigger. The moving banners are a distraction. They eliminated some useful links and buried some others. There are some links that are busted. (Click on the Product Review link for April and see where it takes you).

    The search engine on the old website was not great but the new one is worse.

    I totally agree with you on your comment about a lot of content really needs to be updated.

    Regarding the new website, the ARRL says “ we received an overwhelming, enthusiastic response to it.” While that may be true, I’m underwhelmed by it myself.

    Thanks for the chance to sound-off about this.

    73,
    Bill – K6WLM

  10. Mike W2MJZ says:

    Dan:

    Thank you so very much for stirring up a bit of commentary here on the new ARRL website. It appears that most all of the comments that I am reading are well on the mark.

    Perhaps though I should toss one small kudos to the staff at Newington. For the non-ham, who has somehow blundered across our hobby, the website that is now being offered by the ARRL would appear to be quite able to hold the attention of some young nubee who has only grown up on a very steady diet of internet glitz and pizzaz, along with all of the hyper-rich content of the electronic based consumer products of this first decade of the New Century.

    If organizations and entities do not adapt to the moment, quickly change along with the times, and seriously reinvent themselves periodically, they are certain to be relegated to the dust bin of past glories and total obsolescence.

    However, it would seem, that Newington needs to do just a bit more to hang on to its existing user base, and to more carefully address the needs of that base. Needs which I might add are entirely different from those who are just now being attracted to the hobby for the first time.

    I am the Ham that questioned If I were the only user left on the ARRL site… and I can very honestly say that previous to the changeover, I have done a quick click of the site every week day for more years than I can remember. I did so in order to keep up with the few and far between nuggets of the latest Ham News that was ever so nicely presented on the top page of the site. (I always did wonder why Ham related news never occurred on the weekends or Holidays.)

    I really don’t require all of the bloated graphics selling me hard on what the ARRL does, as I already know that. And I really don’t need to see all of the band hogging ads, as I already know where to shop and what I should be buying.

    What I really need is to have a slimed down members only side door to quickly check the site with my poky wireless modem each morning, so I can know right away if the FCC has sold all of our spectrum above six meters to the commercial interests (for about forty to sixty billion dollars), in order to help pay off our National Debt.

    Mike Zydiak (W2MJZ)

  11. Mike (W2NJZ),

    While I agree that the website needs to keep the attention of folks who are new, they problem is that they have committed one of the cardinal sins of website design: Don’t bury your content. As the most trivial example, although the news is on the front page (somewhere between the ads and the giant graphics), to read more than the just the headline you have to click once to get to the story, and unless the story is very short, you have to click again to read the full story. That’s only one click, but while I certainly don’t have a side-by-side comparison of the old site vs. the new one, it seems to take more clicks to do almost everything. (David, K2DSL has a few more examples on his blog at k2dsl.com.)

    Just now, I had a few minutes to spare and wanted to find the rules for the Rookie Roundup contest. I knew that would be under “On-Air”, so I clicked that tab, and the Rookie Roundup was right on that page. I clicked on the hyperlinked title of the contest … which collapsed the section. I opened up the section then realized that I need to click on the “learn more” link at the bottom. That is not good we design, unfortunately.

    As I said in my blog post on the subject (http://k2dbk.blogspot.com/2010/04/new-arrl-website-is-disappointing.html ,which also points here as well as to David’s blog), I really am a huge fan of the ARRL and really hope that they listen to the constructive comments that they are getting and do something about them.

  12. Mike Zydiak W2MJZ says:

    I just went and visited the New ARRL website a few moments ago and I found this delightful comment in the section on: “Find Your Way Around the New ARRL Web Site”

    And I quote… “When the new ARRL Web site launched on April 13, we received an overwhelming, enthusiastic response to it. But along with that, we have also received a few questions on how to find certain features on the new site. Here is a quick guide to find some of the more popular features on the new ARRL Web site.”

    Alas, as it was an “overwhelming, enthusiastic response” with only a few questions, I guess I just one of that very small group, that are not at all comfortable with the new site, and are also having trouble accessing the new site with my poky wireless modem.

    Wow, I really would love to read some of those responses, so could some of you out there perhaps direct me to somewhere where I could partake in of some of this “overwhelming, enthusiastic response”, so I could perhaps begin to grasp what I might be missing here.

    Mike W2MJZ

  13. I guess I knew the old site better. Found it far easier to navigate quickly to what I wanted without having to go through lots of other stuff. Now it clearly appeals to the visually addicted… nothing wrong with that, but I see no advantage to the new website. Maybe I will have to find some newbies and see if they “get it” better than I am. Kind of like the word processor and spreadsheet that you just flat KNOW, then the “new and improved version” comes out and you have no clue how to do what you have always done. Oh well.

  14. I’ve also noticed that many, many old links are now broken… I keep googling up various radio-related topics, the links point back to ARRL & they don’t work…

  15. Chris: To be fair, hey did warn (multiple times, including in QST) that many of the old links would break. On the other hand, there are pretty simple ways to “forward” the links to the new locations, and I will say I’m disappointed that they didn’t do this.

  16. Yes, it doesn’t seem like that did any redirect handling for existing URLs. That is often a large effort for a site, but usually something that is done. Not doing it or not doing it properly often results in the site’s search ranking dropping. Anyway, I went into Wikipedia last night and changed a few URLs I ran across that were referencing the old site and resulted in Page Not Found errors. it wasn’t always easy to find on the new site since search results are rather unhelpful at this time. They need to get some text info besides just the title in the internal site search results.

  17. I think it was a poor decision on their part not to view the loss of years accumulated knowledge as an unacceptable loss. That should have been priority #1 (as opposed to purty pictures on the new front page) — or at least *a* priority. Merely acknowledging that the loss was going to occur is the easy route.

    They have the same domain. Re-implementing the old directory structure isn’t hard (or having the http server itself recognize & translate the old format to the new). I’ve dealt with worse problems…

    Oh well, it’s over & done. I’ll stop whining now. :)

  18. Steve Hawkins says:

    I dislike the new website and I have emailed the ARRL to let them know. If you don’t say anything to them, how are they going to know. The front page is too full of ad’s. The content is harder to find. Although I was told that they kept everything back to, and including 2005, that is not true. Some articles are just gone. The “new” features appear to have been borrowed from facebook. I did not want a Ham Radio facebook. I just don’t visit the site anymore.

  19. Their website is representative of their tangible results and actions to better ham radio. Like their magazine, their website exists to sell advertising. Otherwise they’d be doing things to grow the hobby and make it something people want to be a part of. Championing the dumbing down of the hobby to the point that no one is interested in it any more, is their only claim to fame from the last 20 years. There’s no longer any prestige in being a ham, no technical talent required, no difference between what it provides and the internet, other than you don’t have the barrier of a $500 radio to get involved.

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