April 22, 2010

MLS relaunch provides a cautionary tale

“Best-in-breed technology” and “industry best practices” seem like buzzwords until the launch of your website fails.

That’s when you realize that having the right people and the right companies behind your launch is so crucial. Any major undertaking -- be it a new site or a relaunch -- relies on people who understand the issues at hand and companies that provide proven solutions for features like content management systems, integration with third parties, and the all-important quality assurance and testing.

For a cautionary tale, look no further than Major League Soccer and its new site, MLSSoccer.com, which was supposed to launch triumphantly in late March.

The site suffered systemic failure on Day 1. More than three weeks later, problems still abound. The league has been addressing the fallout ever since.

Its director of digital strategy wrote a letter of apology to fans on March 29. Two weeks later, MLS commissioner Don Garber was still apologizing.

In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Garber said: “I'm terribly frustrated, embarrassed, angry, and can say only to our fans: I apologize for where we are today.”

As a matter of full disclosure, I am a former VP at MLB Advanced Media -- the company that hosted MLSnet.com for six years before Major League Soccer ventured out on its own this year -- and was one of the people who helped pitch the league on joining MLBAM.

I have no ax to grind with MLS. In fact, if I was MLS, I would have left MLBAM years ago to better serve its fans, its site, and its sport.

So I feel their pain, and I’m all too familiar with the inevitable problems that result from trying to launch enhanced features or a new CMS on Opening Day.

But there’s a difference between lurching through a few hours or a few days because of glitches vs. suffering core functionality issues for weeks on end, for which MLS has already issued two apologies and risked alienating its fan base.

MLS is a multi-million dollar business, and invested millions in its redesign. They can, and will, fix all the problems and it will result in a better site. But at what price? It has already cost them some fans as you don’t get a second chance with everybody.

Q&A with MLS’ Don Garber {Sports Illustrated}
MLS leaving MLBAM, taking sites in-house {Sports Business Journal}
The Sweeper: New MLS website disappoints {The Sweeper}
Major League Soccer Soccer {Big Soccer}
MLS’s digital disaster dumped on its teams {Pitch Invasion}
The MLS website disaster {Fake Sigi} PARENTAL WARNING

1 comment:

  1. Really good review here Geoff, I wasn't aware of the MLS failure or the fact that they were once with MLBAM. Thanks for the info.