We are running a small survey to enhance our digital offering on the Match Day Centre feature on mcfc.co.uk. We would greatly appreciate if you can spare a minute to send us your feedback on:
Hello! My name is Lee Cook (@leethomascook) and I am the Head of Development at Aqueduct, the lead digital agency for Manchester City FC. Russell has kindly allowed me to post some more techie things on this blog. First up, I would like to talk about the new match day centre.
I have been working on City’s digital estate for over 4 years, so had the pleasure of being involved in the original match day centre. While the original was great and quite ahead of it’s time, 4 years is a long time in the digital world. It was time for a new version, built with modern tools and one which worked cross platform.
Form a technical point of view, our aims for the new version were simple:
- It must be responsive and work cross platform (desktop, mobile and tablet)
- It should be the fastest match centre out there (faster than Sky and BBC)
- Look forward and support best of breed technologies
So, without further ado, here are the new designs:
Behind the scenes the application is written in ASP.NET MVC 4. @OptaJoe continues to provide the real time statistics. We process their data and store it in RavenDB, a NoSQL implementation for .net.
In order to achieve speed and scalability, we are using PubNub for delivering real time updates to your browser, which takes considerable load off of our servers. Whenever we have an update, we send it to PubNub and they distribute it to all connected clients for us. In effect, PubNub functions as a messaging CDN for the MCFC Match Day Centre.
A note about live audio commentary:
Obviously the live audio commentary was a key part of our offering before, but it was very limited as it was created using Flash, so did not work on mobile and tablet. We wanted to bring this cross platform and we have achieved this. It should now work on iOS, Android (4.1+) and desktop.
We would love to support all android versions, but unfortunately it is just not technically feasible. The sheer numbers of different android devices and versions are staggering. The open signal report on android fragmentation is very interesting reading and it suggests there are currently nearly 12,000 different android devices.
We looked at stats of visitors to the mcfc.co.uk site and it suggested that nearly 60% of android users were using version 4.1+. Based on this data we made the decision that we would only support version 4.1+, as people generally upgrade within 12 months and we wanted to keep things simple.
However, it is currently incredibly tricky to support the multitude of devices out there. In order to do so, we have had to create two different audio streams. One RTMP stream for the desktop flash version and one for http live streaming (HLS) on mobile. It is worth noting that HLS only really works on Android 4.1+.
We have various android devices in the office and it seems to work on a lot of them, but we have obviously not tested every single android device. If it does not work on your version, please leave a note in the comments and we will investigate.
One unfortunate problem we have noticed in testing is that there is currently a bug in the HLS implementation in Chrome on the latest Android 4.3 You can see the bug report here. I believe it has been fixed by the chromium devs and should be in the next chrome update.
The new MDC will be live tonight for the Newcastle game. I hope you find it an improvement. This will be a continuously evolving product and there are more features coming over the next few weeks. You can get a sneak peak at some of the latest design features that are being implemented this week below :
We’re looking for 10 volunteers to help the club test out a new exciting fan platform. Testing can be completed remotely. Please leave a comment if you’re interested.
As much as we love our City Mobile App, we’re sure you agree that it’s long overdue an update. So we’re asking our @mcfcgeeks, what would you like to see from City’s official mobile app?
We’re aware of the main gripes such as no Android & Windows versions – these are the top of our list – so we’re more interested in the sorts of things you might find engaging and useful for you as a City fan on a mobile device. Are there any features that you think would be particularly interesting during the week when you need your fix of club and team news? Or if you have any insights into how/where you use the current City app then that would also be very informative – we want the City app to fit around your daily life!
Note we can’t promise to develop all the suggestions made but all your feedback is very much appreciated. Please leave your comments on this blog.
Thanks for your support.
Well we’re slightly embarrassed that it’s over a year since our last post on here! However, with tons of exciting developments in the pipeline we thought it would be a great time to dust off the blog and let you know what’s coming up over the summer and beyond.
It’s certainly going to be a busy period for our mobile apps and services…more of that later…but first up the new Premier League fixtures are being released next week (19th June). We’ve taken the opportunity to freshen up this section of the site, aiming to enhance both the pre-match build up and the post match analysis with our new ‘Pitch Side’ concept.
Firstly, we’ve improved the Fixtures landing page. We listened to your feedback and have now included clear indication of time zone of the fixture – it’s a small change but was a bugbear of many and we hope this will help those travelling to games in Europe and beyond. The main update on this page though is the addition of a fixture ‘quick view’ option that lets you expand on an upcoming match to get the key details such as ticket availability and broadcasters without leaving the landing page.
Fixtures & Results Landing Page
Next we’ve created a new template that lets fans view either an upcoming fixture or a past result in more detail. This is accessible from the Fixtures landing page and the template enables us to tailor different content and features based around the opposition pre-match and the match story after the game has finished.
So for the upcoming fixture, focus is on key match details such as opposition, competition, form, head-to-head, plus broadcasting and betting information. There is a tabbed section for latest ticketing information giving fans the most up-to-date news around availability. As with anything we do on the site, onward journeys are crucial so we also provide related articles, playlists and tweets to further enhance your experience.
Upcoming Fixture Page
As well as the match report and highlights which you currently get on the site straight after the game, we’ve added an extra step which gives you some post-match analysis to always look back on. This includes the story of the game, key match data (which comes to life as you load the page) and the latest league table which updates automatically straight after the game. There’s more related articles, playlists and tweets too to keep your interest.
Post-Match Result Page
We hope you like the new approach to fixtures and results – as always, we welcome your thoughts on here or Twitter. Please note that the images above are sneak previews of the page designs so please don’t take the content too literally – we’ve used dummy content in all places (i.e. there may be the odd Mancini photo and we’d of course beat Arsenal!)
The pages will go live with the announcement of the Premier League matches next week, also featuring details of our pre-season friendlies.
The Players section is next for a revamp – including new player profile pages. Watch this space!
Our next blog post will be about our mobile apps and services. We’re aware that our apps need updating (iPad version, Android and iPhone5 support etc) and we’re really keen to get your views on what are the key changes, features you’d like to see. I’ll be asking for your feedback very soon on this.
Thanks for your support,
Tags: auction credits, auctions beta, fan feedback, functionality, membership, money can't buy experiences, uniquely blue items
We’re launching the Members Auction site in Beta to get your feedback. We want to know what you think, the good the bad and the bugs.
Take a look around the site and try bidding for the items, they’re real auctions after all. If you spot something that you think could be better or you have found a bug, drop us a note at email@example.com or reply to this post. Include your browser so we can recreate what you see.
So what is Auctions all about??
The Auctions websites is where you can bid on amazing money can’t buy experiences, tickets or uniquely Blue items, but here’s the best bit… it’s free – there is no cash involved in bidding.
Who can take part in Auctions?
As a member, you will have acquired a certain number of auction credits, based on your spending with Manchester City since the start of the season. These credits are what you bid with.
Open to all members– Whether you are Superbia, Platinum, Gold or a Blue member – you can take part now in the auctions beta web site.
If you’re not a member and you would like to take part – it’s just £10 to become a Blue member.
There are a few things worth noting about the City auctions web site.
Auction credits should not be confused with loyalty points – they are entirely separate.
Your credits can be spent on the auction site, whereas your loyalty points will continue to grow over the seasons as they always have done – untouched.
When you sign in, using your normal log in details, Supporter Number and password, the number of auction credits you have earned will be displayed. There’s a list of them in the My Account section too.
Have a look around the site – see which lots currently available you are interested in – or see what’s coming up soon if there’s something you want to save your auction credits for.
There are two types of auctions. The highest bid and the lowest unique bid.
For a highest bid auction – the supporter who bids the most auction credits by the time the auction closes, will win the prize. For the winner, the number of auction credits they have bid will then be deducted from your total. Similar to ebay.
We will then contact you with any further details necessary to collect your prize.
For the lowest unique bid – simply guess the number you think will the lowest unique number out of everyone who takes part. It will cost you a set number of auction credits to make guess, regardless of whether you win or not.
When the auction closes, the supporter who guesses the lowest number, which no one else has also guessed, will win the prize!
The auctions site unfortunately is not open to our supporters under 18 – however, prizes are transferable so look out for prizes specifically for the juniors in your family.
Most of all – the auctions web site is just for fun.
If you would like to know more about the techy side of the development, we will follow up with a more detailed post once all the feedback is in.
We hope you like it!
Tags: football website, lucene, player profiles, relevancy and recency, search, search online
As part of ongoing enhancements to the site over the last few months, we identified search as a key function with room for improvement.
Ever since the site launched in 2009, and until just before Christmas, the mechanic behind our site search is Lucene, an out of the box solution configured to display results by “Relevancy and Recency” across all of our content. On the face of it, a logical mechanic. But what are users searching for?
The lion’s share of top ten searches consists of players, and the “Relevancy and Recency” solution failed to deliver relevant results. Why?
A typical example.
A search term such as “Micah Richards”, would likely return results in the following hierarchy,
- Other players profiles
- Non related articles/videos (and plenty of them)
- Micah Richard’s player profile
Why would the Micah Richards player profile appear 3rd in the hierarchy of results? For a number of reasons.
Volume, we’ve posted thousands of news and video items on the site since 2009, and that’s on top of merging content from 2005 onwards from the previous site.
How is relevancy and recency defined?
Relevancy is the number of times a search item is found within the title, summary and body copy of piece of content posted on the site, all of which have equal value.
Relevancy also discounts the tags associated to a piece of content.
Recency, is simply the latest content item.
Based on this definition, the algorithm created the following chain of events…
I’m pleased to inform you that I have 16 mentions of “Micah Richards” across my article’s title, summary and body copy.
I hope that see you this fit and relevant, and prioritise my response above the lions share of other Micah Richards content items.
All the Best
reply – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -
Hang on a minute, there you go again assuming you should come top of the tree…
What you fail to understand is that you were posted on the site in January 2011.
Since then, I’ve been inundated with articles that mention you once or twice, hundreds of them…
I don’t care if the article is a match report, or another players profile that refers to you in the body copy, or indeed a news item, that’s exclusively about something else that only mentions you once.
At the end of the day, they’re more recent, and must be prioritised above you.
No hard feelings.
Something needed to be done.
We want to return relevant and recent search results, particularly around the most popular searches. For that, we required a solution that would fix the short-term issues immediately, but with long term flexibility.
Our creative and development agency Aqueduct proposed that it would be possible to improve search without having to strip out and integrate a whole new service.
How could we build upon the current system?
1) Automated weight relevancy
We could apply weighted relevancy on article template fields (behind the scenes) so this would not be noticed by editors. The hierarchy of this relevancy would “score items” in this way.
- Links in content (if relevant to the term searched for)
- Term in content
*note the enhancement here, beforehand, a,b,c,d carried equal weighting.
Should a user perform a search that has the search term in the Title, this will weigh higher than a content item with the term in the Summary.
Should a search term be contained within Title and Summary, then this will have a combined weighted ratio and thus put the article higher than if the term was just being used in the title.
On this basis, the user would be presented an article item at the top of their search results, with a date that is in fact older than the second placed article. The reason for this would be the search term was contained in both title and summary.
2) Link terms to a taxonomy
We would also have a football taxonomy that we can link to and instruct the the algorithm through code and simple logic. This taxonomy would be based upon terms that users may logically search for, and where that item would be stored within the site category.
As an example, if a user searched for something containing the word “goal(s)” logically the content item would more than likely be within:
- Match Report
- Matchday Centre
- Player Profile
- Team News
This would instruct the algorithm to first look into the above 4 categories as a priority then, to scan the rest of the site.
3) Presenting Search Results
Search results have always been “jumbled”, resulting in a scenario whereby if a user runs a search, the date-ordered results are displaying as unfiltered content types.
We would introduce additional filters to allow users to re-order search results from ‘content types’ into ‘date order’
4) City Recommends
Essentially a pre-defined selection of results based on the users search term, touching on the manual manipulation option. Think Google sponsored ads, this is an ideal piece of functionality to present popular content or partner offers to our users. Try searching “Dzeko” or “Silva” on the site.
Why choose this option?
- No overhead to content editors
- Minor administrational needs (for the taxonomy)
- Ability to fully control the taxonomy and how it weights the category and terms
- Not re-inventing the entire search system
- Easy to enhance and build upon moving forward
What’s up next for search?
- We need to integrate recency into the search results by tweaking the automated weight relevancy
- We need to apply the taxonomy to key search terms in order to boost relevancy when viewing “all” returned results.