Do the changes to the app suggest this?
Look & Feel: Visually the app is impressive. A nice animated load screen followed by a screen refresh works well.
A helpful ‘last updated’ message is shown on start-up. NB.The user occasionally needs to manually refresh the ‘Top Stories’ screen which is a technical issue.What is not provided is a how to use this app introduction.
The new site visually resembles Channel 4 4OD which is no bad thing, taking into account video news content and a number of top stories.
The Homescreen: On first view the addition of a featured story is the primary change. This is at the expense of at least one ‘visible’ news story.
This isn’t a major issue but also does not really add much value. Access to the other Sky services (previously as a footer navigation) has been replaced by advertising (Sky Bet etc.) potentially affecting access to services.
The services are now accessed via the toggle navigation commonly used on the mobile platform as a means to hide and reveal the navigation. So far the cosmetic and promotional changes, albeit ever so slightly, have had little positive impact on the user experience.
Categorisation: How are other sports categories accessed? The commonly used control is still in the same position (top left).
Whereas it was previously a grid, it is now a toggle revealing a list navigation presented in an accordion format. This change means that the sports ‘list’ is now 2 levels down whereas the previous grid it was only one.
Whilst changing the navigation from a grid to a list is understandable (grids are no longer in vogue eg. Facebook and LinkedIn have moved away from this) there is no apparent benefit to the end user.
In addition to this, the change to the list structure reduces the effective touch area available for selection. Also, the iconography has been removed which may impact the initial understanding. It is questionable however, whether the iconography is actually necessary in a list structure.
Content Level: At the news story level the top to bottom list structure can be accessed in sequence by swiping left and right.
Like many smartphone gestures this relies on the user’s experience and exploration rather than providing visual cues. Experienced app users will get this but will those less familiar?
It can often be frustrating to access ‘minority’ sports such as the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) Darts. Sky Sports have sole rights to cover the entire year’s events. However, a story would have to appear in the ‘Top Stories’ section for it to be accessible.
This is ‘of the time’ and should someone want to check results out of the season or even a couple of days after the event, they would have to use a different site/app.
There are still no opportunities to customise the app, although this is possible in the corresponding Sky Sports football app. Letting the user customise to their chosen sports will provide a more meaningful ‘Top Stories’ list and better overall user experience.
Although in some instances this has not worked well (BBC) but on the Sky Sports Football app this has been a huge success. This is based on context which supporting a football team affords.
Also, allowing users to select sports based on their preference or interest would be a more effective way to list sports each time the user returns. The result may be less exploration but an app that better meets the need for the intended audience.
Summary: It appears that the changes have not improved the user experience but, in some instances, require the user to work a little harder. Given the frequent utility vs. usability debate, this could be overlooked if the benefits to the end user had been stronger.
Since Sky Sports is a leading provider of sports content, I hope that the next update will incorporate a wider selection of sports ideally in a customisable manner.