As you know, dear reader, it is my intention to present issues on the blog in a fair manner, even though I cannot promise not to bring personal bias to my reporting. As a blog owner, that is my wont.
Having already posted on the things I personally dislike about the site, which now extends to embarrassingly long load times (God help you if you're using dial up!), it is only fair that I offer some balance.
As you know from my previous post, I wrote to the Racing Post to express my dismay at the new design. I was quite pleasantly surprised then to get a call from Will Pepper, Customer Services Manager at Racing Post, to discuss the content of my email.
Will was refreshingly honest, and explained that they were currently dealing with a queue of around 300 emails to their feedback email address. I'd actually mailed them on their help@ email address, so who knows what the combined volume is?! I'd guess in the region of 500 odd comments to date.
It is unsurprising of course, because of the lack of communication of the changes that were being made. Or at least the apparent lack of communication.
As Will explained, the racingpost.com site has been running this new design in 'beta' (i.e. advanced user testing mode) for three weeks. Fine, if you even knew that site existed. Personally, I've had the .co.uk site as my homepage for over a year, and so completely missed this - as I suspect most other longer term and regular site users did.
Moreover, Will told me that there had been a clear statement on the .co.uk homepage for the last ten days or so. That statement was 'below the fold' (an internet design term for anything that you cannot see when you load a web page, and where the user has to scroll down to view), so was also missed by me.
As someone who rarely ventures beyond the top left corner (where the cards and results used to be), anything beneath the viewable area was off my radar.
So there was some communication ostensibly, but communication is only effective if it is heard. If I stand here and shout to you, you are highly unlikely to hear me. But I can say that I told you.
Is that good enough? No, of course not. It is mere lip service, literally and metaphorically, to hide a significant change to people's interaction. And, as I've already registered, people do not like change.
On a more positive note, and somewhat reassuringly, Will has confirmed that Racing Post have a clear remit to address the main concerns of site users, and will be introducing resolutions to the bigger / more common problems over time. He didn't go so far as to suggest a time frame for this, but did assure me that my personal gripes (absent sex of horse and racecard load time) were known and considered major enough to be in an early release.
I asked about the possibility of continuing to run the two sites in parallel until all of the 'snagging list' had been addressed, and Will told me that this had been specifically discussed, and had been specifically discounted as an option. Whilst I can understand the rationale for doing that, unless performance improves enormously in the next day or so, I wonder if the head guys will be left with any alternative.
From a personal perspective, I don't mind change. It's necessary, especially in a fast moving 'world' like the internet. But you HAVE to manage people's expectations clearly, and address their fears / concerns in a palpable way. Thus far, Racing Post have failed in the main to do this.
It is to be hoped that the key problems are resolved soonest, and that we will get our collective head around what will ultimately prove a perfectly adequate site. Whether people warm to the additional content remains to be seen. I assume that this content is provided as a result of in-depth research of the market, and much feedback from the likes of you, dear reader, and me.
But, as a former editor of Shares magazine and a good friend of mine once noted, "We don't do market research - our Board decide what goes in the mag". That's one of the key reasons why my friend is a former editor, and why that magazine has seen a major drop in circulation.