A 'beta' version of the BBC's new homepage

Director of Homepage & myBBC

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In my role as General Manager for News & Knowledge at BBC Future Media, I oversee eight of the 10 major areas (we call these 'products') of BBC Online working with my editorial counterparts - including the BBC homepage. Today, we relaunched the homepage in a test ('beta') version for public use and feedback. The new page is accessible from a link at the top of the current homepage, or directly at beta.bbc.co.uk. I hope that users who give the new homepage a go find it much improved. My colleague James Thornett has written about the relaunch in more detail over on the BBC Internet Blog and would like to know what audiences think. Please leave your feedback comments on his blog post.

As users start to use the new homepage, I wanted to explain why we've introduced changes.

In last year's Strategy Review ('Putting Quality First') we proposed a BBC Online which:

  • Had half the number of top-level directories, down from the 400 we had then (i.e. /sitename)
  • Cost 25% less to run (i.e. the BBC Online Service Licence for 2010/11 is £135m - we intend to cut spend to £100m)
  • Sent double the traffic we did then to external websites, helping the broader UK digital economy
  • Made more Nations & Regions content available
  • And, critically, did 'fewer things, better'.

We're making progress in all of these areas and in January of this year, we outlined how we would address the challenge of doing more with less - importantly a move away from building websites via separate new media budgets, towards one cohesive online service with clear lines of accountability.

But this is more than just sound governance - the changes will create a more distinctive, joined-up service for licence fee-payers which is recognizably 'BBC', and greater clarity for the industry in terms of how much we'll do on the web, setting boundaries for what we will and won't do online.

We've arrived at a BBC Online service comprising ten distinct areas or 'products'. Each product is at a different stage of its life: BBC News and BBC iPlayer are both concrete propositions; others, like the fledgling BBC Knowledge & Learning product are approaching the final stages of definition. All will be built on the same shared infrastructure to allow a more seamless transition between them.

The third dimension to our strategy is to provide greater value for money for licence fee-payers, by broadening access to our products across four screens - beyond the web to mobile, tablet, and connected TV. Our BBC News product demonstrates this commitment: it's available on the web, as a mobile and tablet application, and more recently has been optimized for connected TV, launching on the Samsung Smart TV platform in June.

One service, ten products, four screens

So we summarise this strategy as: 'one service, ten products, four screens'.

The homepage occupies a unique position within BBC Online: though BBC Online is a distinct service, and the homepage a single product within it, editorially the page can show off the breadth of content we make available on the web. But showing this breadth has been our perennial challenge. To date we've made tweaks to a relatively static page to better fulfil this purpose; with the move to a new technical platform, we've had the opportunity to rebuild the page from first for the 9 million-plus average weekly unique browsers.

The new BBC homepage launched in beta today marks a departure from the way we've approached this challenge until now and introduces a new, more visual approach to showing off our content on the web, and eventually on mobile, tablet, and connected TV devices too. Other features include:

  • Simple filters enabling users to tailor the page based on their interests.
  • Sliding 'drawers' to reveal more or less detail from showcases of the most popular content from all of BBC Online at any time and real-time listings for BBC TV and Radio.
  • At-a-glance aspects - news and sport headlines, weather forecasts with lottery and travel news updates to follow, plus traditional index-based navigation for quick look-up.
  • In time, nations' homepages united into a single product to provide relevant local and national information based on a user's choice of location - a key 'Putting Quality First' commitment.

We believe the redesigned page makes it easier for visitors to find the content they're looking for, whilst discovering something new - I hope you agree.

Phil Fearnley is General Manager for News & Knowledge, BBC Future Media

  • More about the beta release of the new BBC homepage in the press release on the BBC Press Office web site.

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