The revamped version of the official Formula 1 website has been unveiled in time for the 2015 Formula One season. The website officially went live on Thursday 12th March after several days of users seeing beta versions located at various URLs.
It has been a fast paced week where the new website is concerned. The beta version did go live for about two hours on Monday evening (9th March), however it soon disappeared, so it presumably was not meant to be launched quite like it was! Early on Thursday, both versions started 404’ing out, making it clear that the move was happening. Later on, the new website went live. So, how has it gone down with me?
Look and feel
The screenshot posted above of the homepage does not even tell half of the story. The new website, on tablets, phones and desktop, is very, very slick. It’s quite clear that a lot of effort has gone into the new version of the website, which Formula One Management should be commended for. My initial impressions are largely positive. It was evident that this needed to catapult FOM into the 21st century, and I think it has gone some way to achieving that. The old version of the website was nearly a decade old. It desperately needed some life thrown into it, the world wide web has moved on a lot from the mid 2000s, and FOM were struggling to keep up.
One point that could be made is that the homepage is too long, however it should be recognised that things are moving away from desktop and towards the tablet. The homepage takes that into account with very specific sections: banner, news, current race, championship standings, video and the footer. It looks impressive, and easy on the eye. In the footer, we see a link to F1’s Twitter feed. No Facebook or YouTube yet, so, despite a verified YouTube channel, it looks like we will be waiting a bit longer for that, corroborating with previous comments made by Marissa Pace, who is Formula One Management’s Digital Media Manager.
F1 Access pricing and details
This is the membership area, which should not be a surprising introduction, given that Pace mentioned it back in December. The beta also confirms that this area will be behind a pay-wall. Pricing for UK users will be £2.29 a month or £19.99 a year. Neither of those prices seem extortionate to me, although it depends on whether you feel the content will justify the price, we will only find out the answer to that in the coming months. Over in the US, the price will be $2.99 a month or $26.99 a year, which should be of massive relief to some users, the early beta showed the price as $129.99 a year in error!
They are giving away a free one-month trial until April 13th, which is similar to what the WWE do with their online network. It normally boosts the subscription numbers and hooks people on for the longer term, so don’t be surprised if the ‘free month’ is a tactic that is repeated as the year progress, perhaps in the Summer break would be my guess. It is important to note that access to the membership area will work in tandem with the Official F1 App. There will not be two separate fees to pay. If you pay £19.99 for the year, you will be covered for the app and the membership area. From that perspective, I get the impression that FOM loved the figures that they were getting for the app in 2014 and want to exploit that further this year, hence the membership area. I can’t say I blame them, in that respect.
No live video, either, the only thing surrounding video concerns “HD video edits, highlights and behind the scenes.” The description for F1 Access is as follows: “Enhance the way you experience Formula 1 racing. Discover a level of detail you won’t find anywhere else – complete with in-depth insights, exclusive content, up-to-the-minute race data, and more.”
Video and radio content
The million dollar question was always going to be video content considering the old website had very limited video content, with most of it consigned to the app. The good news is that there appears to be significant improvements in this area. Free users, those who are not members as shown above get access to race weekend interviews and some archive footage. I suspect the archive footage will be retrospectives, which was also free occasionally on the F1 App last year as well. In contrast, those who are members will also get access to daily videos from the circuit, session highlights, technical content and updates from Formula 1 testing. The way I read that means, this time next year, all Winter testing content will be behind the pay-wall in order to drive people towards the membership area.
Elsewhere, the editorial section makes reference to the membership area receiving “industry-leading editorial content featuring video supplements and historical footage from the archives.” Overall, if you’re looking from archive content, there is no major benefit to becoming a member, in my opinion, but that may change as time progresses. The radio content on the membership area is similar to that previously on the App, with some team radio exclusive to that group.
Looking around the beta website, this is the main weakness. The one link, as I mentioned above, to Twitter was at the very bottom of the homepage. The news articles, on the beta at least, does not have any ‘Share to Facebook’ or ‘Share to Twitter’ buttons, which is very disappointing. It is all good tweeting about the news articles, but what needs to be recognised is that it is a ‘two way conversation’. There needs to be the ability to share news articles to social media, so the fact that this is missing is an odd omission.
Update on March 10th – No new site, yet. The official site is still showing the old version. Interestingly though, the official YouTube channel for F1 along with its Google+ page are now in brand colours. I wonder if they’re hoping to launch their YouTube channel and the new website at the same time?
Update on March 12th – Screenshots updated, as has the description.
Update on March 12th at 19:30 – Hooray! It is live and in living colour.