Al's Fastball – The King of Online Fastpitch News Gets a Website Upgrade
by Rahemin Nanji
We recently had the pleasure of working with Al's Fastball to redesign and upgrade their website.

We discuss the new features of the frequently visited and present our Case Study.

Net Reliant has had the privilege of being the web services provider for Al's Fastball for over 9 nine years.

It is with great pleasure that we were given the opportunity to provide our good friend a new and improved website and successfully launch it on Nov-01-2015 – Version 2006

It was back in 2006 when Al Doran approached us to redesign and host the second iteration of the Al's Fastball website. At the time, Al's Fastball had just under 500 pages of content, all in separate HTML files.

Back then social media did not yet exist. And neither did smartphones, tablets, and other Internet-enabled mobile devices.

So in 2006, we proposed to Al's Fastball that the website be powered by a cloud-based content management system (CMS). We would also re-skin the site with a design optimized for 1280x1024 resolution monitors.

2006 Version

The final design was a fluid, 2-column layout. The left column was of a fixed width while the content area was fluid and would expand to fill the remaining full width of the browser.

The left column was primarily used to host a vertical navigation menu followed by the five most recent Al's Fastball news articles.

Al's Fastball in 2015

Fast-forward 9 years later and the Internet lansdscape is very different.

Social media is prevalent in everything we do online. And folks no longer use just their desktops and notebook computers to surf the web.

Nowadays a website could be visited by a smartphone, tablet, netbook, Smart TV, notebook, or desktop computer with an ultra-high definition (UHD) display.

2006 Version

9 years later, Al's Fastball is also very different.

The website grew exponentially to well above a staggering 10,000 pages of content. Average monthly volume is approximately 3,000 unique visits. And the Twitter following for @AlsFastball is just below celebrity status at approximately 9,400 followers and growing daily.

Primary Objective for Version 2015

Al Doran reached out to Net Reliant towards the end of the summer of 2015 with a request for an upgraded website. His primary objective was the same as it was back in 2006.

He wanted Al's Fastball to be a website that would make it easy for fastball fans to stay up-to-date with international fastpitch news.

But we knew that this website would need to be very different from the one we launched in 2006. A simple redesign would not be sufficient.

In order to meet the Primary Objective, this website needed to cater to the different devices a fastball fan could be using to access the site. It needed to be optimized for mobile devices and be mobile-enabled.

Content Re-architecture

We also knew the website needed to be restructured. With over 10,000 pieces of content and growing, we felt there was an opportunity to better present this information.

We therefore designed and created a homepage that now serves as an "Al's Fastball Information Dashboard".

On this page, the vast amount of news articles are sectioned off into categories of news rather than just a single category stream of news articles.

The four most recent news stories per category are presented with a link to view more items in that news category.

Information Dashboard

For those news articles that Al's Fastball would like to feature or highlight (irrespective of the category), we implemented a rotating news slider which also appears on the homepage.

News Slider

Let's Be Friends

Completely complimenting the friendly demeanor of Al Doran himself is a "Friends of Al's Fastball" section at the footer of every page.

In this section are the logos of individuals or organizations that have a shared interest in fastpitch and who wish to reciprocally connect with Al's Fastball.

Friends of AlsFastball

For details on how you can become a "Friend of Al's Fastball" visit the website or contact Al's Fastball.

Better Social Media Capabilities

There is now a more prominent @AlsFastball Twitter timeline on the right-hand side of every page. This makes it easier for the 9,400+ Al's Fastball followers to stay up-to-date on what's trending and/or to reply to tweets or to retweet.

Additionally, every news article now has a unique social media sharing toolbar. Using this toolbar and clicking the button that represents your favorite social media platform, you can now share any article found on Al's Fastball.

Sharing Toolbar

Branding and Color Scheme

A key component that Net Reliant felt was missing from the 2006 Al's Fastball website launch was a clear and unique website identity.

In the 2015 website launch we designed a new logo for Al's Fastball to ensure that the site was branded appropriately and to ensure that it also possessed an unmistakable identity.

Classic Black Logo

A consistent color scheme is used throughout the website based on the Al's Fastball primary colors of green, red, black, and white.

Responsive Design

Perhaps the single most important feature of the new site is its mobile-readiness and ability to present content in a variety of different views.

Depending on the browser resolution of the device accessing Al's Fastball, content can go from being presented in a stacked format to a more horizontal layout.

For narrow displays like smartphones, Al's Fastball stacks the content without sacrificing any presentation elements.

Website on a Smartphone

For wider displays such as tablets and monitors, Al's Fastball presents the content in a horizontal layout with multiple columns as it knows that the browser resolution is based on a wider viewport.

Website on an iPad

We're All Lucky to Have Al's Fastball

"Everyone has their own sport or hobby. Mine has been fastball for a very long time."
Al Doran

It's common knowledge in the fastball community that Al Doran and Al's Fastball changed the face of fastball. He is known worldwide as the focal point for fastball news.

For fastball fans, it's certainly a pleasure to have instant access to an overwhelming amount of fastball information ranging from international fastpitch news stories, tournament schedules and results, to a bulletin board section for players, teams, and organizations.

Thanks to Al Doran for the tireless work he does 365 days a year to keep everyone up-to-date on fastball news around the world. We're all very fortunate that a special site like Al's Fastball exists.

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