When the previous incarnation of the Charleston Battery’s website went online, the World Trade Center towers were the tallest buildings in Manhattan, Survivor: Australian Outback was the most popular series on television, and the terms “social media” and “smart phone” were yet unspoken.
Which made the antiquated site a major pain in Whitney Woods‘ neck.
“Twelve years ago that website was amazing,” said Woods, the Battery’s director of marketing. “But it just got to be where it was hard to maintain without knowing all the HTML code.”
Woods had been agitating for a new site since she came to the Battery from the Wilmington Hammerheads three years ago. When club President Andrew Bell reached a sponsorship agreement with local software company SPARC in the fall, Woods finally got her wish. Club and SPARC officials wrote the website overhaul into the deal that made the company the Battery’s 2013 jersey sponsor.
Consultation on the new site began soon after the team won its fourth league championship in September, with Woods delivering her formalized priorities to the SPARC team in November. The heavy work took place in January.
“They did it like a design-a-thon, so they had five designers on the project, and a project manager, and kind of a back-end database guy, and then a head designer,” Woods said. “They had one week to come up with a design … (and then) we met with them a week later and they showed us their designs. They made us pick one winner, but we took a lot of elements from all the designs. They had five enthusiastic people who wanted to say ‘Hey, I designed the Charleston Battery website,’ and they kinda all did.”
Woods and Bell set to work populating the site with content, “and three weeks later we launched.”
The new site is based on WordPress, the most widely used content-management system on the planet.
“What we can do with it is endless,” Woods said. “Anything that I want to do, we can do. In the past I couldn’t change it. I would have to email someone else who was maintaining it. Sometimes it would take the person a week to get back to me.”
With Woods now managing the site herself, finding the right way to reach fans becomes a creative challenge instead of a technical one. The club’s Twitter feed appears on the new home page beneath links to its Facebook and YouTube accounts, integrating communications channels that used to be separate.
“Two years ago, I didn’t really understand (Twitter),” Woods said. “I thought it was a waste of time, honestly, and I thought Facebook was the way to go. But Twitter’s really growing, especially for news and information. Our following on Twitter is still less than our Facebook (6,500 fans on Facebook, 2,500 on Twitter), and obviously not all of our fans are going to do Twitter. So we do both.”
Other than the modern interface and easier navigation, fans should also expect to find more feature stories and original video content (the club has brought in new PR and video interns this season).
“We’re trying to up our content …so that fans want to come back every week for it, because they know there’s always something new to see. Whereas in the past it was like, ‘Yep, well, there’s last week’s article — still there.’
“Our website is obviously our biggest marketing tool. Because before it was kinda like, ‘Oh, I don’t know if I want to send anyone to our website, because it’s that bad.’ And now I want people to see it.”