This is long overdue. The front page layout of Inside Carolina essentially hasn’t been overhauled in a decade. There are many reasons why a redesign is necessary, but the most important one is that technology is constantly changing and an outdated, inflexible design renders the site incompatible with many current and emerging platforms. For example, nearly 50 percent of our readers now access the site on a mobile device, yet we didn’t have a mobile version of the site.
In 2012, Fox (which owned Scout) attempted a complete overhaul of the network. It meant changing everything - publishing platform, forums, design, database – and it failed miserably. The overhaul was implemented before it was ready, the changes were too extreme, the software didn’t match our niche, and the user accounts didn’t work. We learned that Fox wasn’t capable of running and leading Scout; that a redesign should not be so drastic; that we can’t trust that it’ll be done correctly so we must test the redesign in a live setting ourselves; that, most importantly, we have to include our readers in the testing and feedback process.
Essentially, this time around is a different approach.
Fox sold Scout and the new ownership and management team took over the network at the beginning of the year. Since then Scout has been developing and implementing a plan to bring the network up to speed in both design and technology. That began with infrastructure, and we all felt the effects of that transition with the forums servers that were in desperate need of replacement.
The next step is what you see today, which is being called a “Refresh.” We’re using the same publishing system, but a new and versatile user interface.
Scout began rolling it out to sites on its network in the spring and it eventually appeared everywhere except on Inside Carolina. That's because we insisted that we would ultimately determine the timeline on our terms.
First, we observed how the changes looked and performed at other sites across the network. Next, we tested a beta version of the front page and stories and compiled a list of fixes and changes that were needed. Finally, we created the Reader Feedback Team of Inside Carolina regulars that graciously volunteered their time to review the beta site and provide detailed feedback.
The Feedback Team found some bugs we hadn’t noticed and made a lot of terrific suggestions – some of which we were able to do immediately, others that have been formally requested to be added in the coming months. The overall reaction from them was overwhelmingly positive, which was encouraging and motivated us to move forward.
Responsive. The front page and story pages are now designed to resize dynamically based on your platform and screen size. Whether you’re viewing Inside Carolina on a desktop/laptop, tablet or phone, they will automatically adapt. To watch the way this works, view the site on a non-mobile screen and gradually reduce the width of your browser. For those that have been using our old mobile app, this will render the app obsolete, so you should access the site on your mobile browser now instead.
Vertical & Streamlined. Rather than trying to cram everything into a small horizontal space, as we’ve done for the past decade, we’re embracing a vertical, mobile-friendly approach that will showcase our articles and photography in a cleaner and bolder format. All of our original content will be found in this centralized feed — articles, videos, podcasts, scoop.
Functional. Just as all of the news is centralized into a single spot, the same can be said of the site’s features in the navigation header. It’s been customized to include all of the special sections, including those that have been requested by readers for many years (such as the Recruiting Boards).
Blue. The site’s color scheme is finally back to the correct – and official - shade of Carolina Blue.
The forums are on the docket to be refreshed next. Just like with the front page, we’re going to be patient and thorough. We won’t move to the new forums interface until it’s been thoroughly tested by our staff and our readers and until the necessary changes are implemented.
To that end, we’re going to be even more transparent with this process.
Soon you'll notice in the navigation header that under Forums there will be a link to “Beta Forums.” This is, in effect, a live testing ground for the new user interface being designed for the existing forums software. And it’s on a mirror server, meaning anything posted on the current design will appear there and vice versa.
The starting point for the beta forums is just that. There are many clear design changes needed (such as the color scheme and the overly spaced layout), a long list of known bugs (such as the time zone and URL hyperlinking) and some commonly used features that are absent while under construction (such as quick reply and featured forums).
If you’re interested, you’ll get to see the fixes and changes made and, most importantly, impact the process by providing feedback. A thread has been set up in the Feedback Forum to view the beta forums, track the updates, plus receive and discuss your suggestions.
Again, we will not move to the new forums design until we’re satisfied that it’s been sufficiently improved, and fully tested by our staff and our readers.
We’re under no illusions that change is easy. Most sites change designs often and Inside Carolina’s design and navigation have been the same for so long that it’s become ingrained, making change even tougher to get used to. But, it is necessary.
We value what we have and what we are: the best site of its kind from a content perspective. We are striving to make sure that the quality of the technology matches the quality of the content. That is essential to Inside Carolina’s present and future.
In the coming months, you’ll see additional improvements that are geared to providing a better product and improved user experience. There will be the aforementioned forums refresh, an overhauled player database, new content tools, integrated stats, upgraded video, a new mobile app, and enhanced membership features. More is expected beyond that, as part of a proactive Scout network that is re-launching and heavily investing in its vision to become a major media entity.
As has been the case thus far in this refresh process, we’ll continue to need your feedback. We’ll want to know what you think after you take some time to familiarize yourself with the new look and navigation. We’ll want to know your suggestions for this refresh and for future changes to the site. Even if you have a simple question, perhaps the inability to find a familiar feature, please don’t hesitate to Contact Us.
Thanks for reading – and supporting – Inside Carolina,
The IC Staff