At first glance, I love the new softer colors and ease of readabilty of the new site, not to mention the fact that the first time I loaded the new home page, the feature image was of Seahawk Ben Obamanu making a spectacular one-handed catch! (although he got ripped off in the underlying Top 10 highlight reel, placing 2nd to some RedSlur making a tackle sans helmet)
So now, let's start with a top to bottom physical of the new features and design. (click the image to open NFL.com in a new window)
I like the real estate saving listing of the team logos at the top of the site, and notice they're in alphabetical rather than divisional order.
Not sure what the huge wasted white space is just below it, but there sure seems to be something missing to the left of the Free Fantasy Football graphic. My guess is that it will be used for sponsored advertising, which is sad, since it's putting the almighty dollar in a higher position of prominance than the NFL Sheild.
I love the green bar listing the upcoming games, with start date/time and what I'm guessing will be live scoring updates, but was astonished that they only list 14 boxes across. Last I checked there were 32 teams in the league, and even though there's a few bye-weeks on the schedule, there's certainly enough space to fit all 16 boxes on the masthead instead of forcing the visitor to scroll to the right to see the later games.
The use of tabs is effective and not over-done, allowing the visitor to easily toggle between the current Headlines and the My Team page, as well as toggle between the NFL Network and Game Clips video segments.
The My Team area requests your username and password, but it does not include the customary links to a Forgot Password page. I tried to log in unsucessfully several times, and it wasn't until about the 5th attempt that it bounced me over to a Login Help page.
Going Below the Fold
Below the Fold is a newspaper term indicating the lesser stories that are placed on the bottom half of the front page, getting somewhat less exposure. In web terms, this refers to the content that is not immediately viewable when the home page loads, requiring the visitor to scroll down.
There is a lot of additional information available on NFL.com below the fold, none of which is deserving of a higher profile.
There is another application of a tabbed box, again which is effective, allowing the user to select between the standard Fantasy, Spotlight and Voices features of the site.
Even the necessary boxes for NFL Shop and NFL Field Pass are done tastefully and blend in well with the rest of the site, rather than appearing like some used car lot commercial on late night local TV.
The NFL Network box contains an animated graphic, which I generally dispise, but the use of muted colors and the relative importance of the information displayed makes it tolerable.
The Poll Question box seems way too big in reference to the rest of the site, but that's probably governed by the Sirius sponsorship than anything else. The rest of the site features, By The Numbers, This Day In The NFL, Photos and Around The League, are pretty much web fodder, appropriate earning them the lowest spot on the home page.
But that's not all.
At the bottom of the site is a tremendous list of categorized text-based links to NFL Sites, NFL International, NFL Network, NFL Events, NFL Corporate and NFL On the Go. The best of these might be the real live Contact Us link under NFL Corporate, which allows the fan to provide immediate feedback to the League via a web form.
The Subject categories within this area need to be expanded to include areas like NFL Network, Broadcast Network Partners, Officiating, etc., but it's great to have a means to drop Richie Cunningham a quick note to let him know what you think.
I submitted a message regarding NFL Network, and was surprised that I didn't receive a confirmation email. Usually these types of feedback systems have an automated reply telling you your message has been received and thanking you for the input, but adding that personal responses to inquiries cannot be guaranteed.
All in all I think it's a great face lift for a design that was getting a little long in the tooth. Now I'm hoping upon hope that Seahawks.com follows suit.