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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  • Comment number 22. Posted by Russ

    on 4 Oct 2011 19:42

    What a terrible mess this all is, and it reaches far wider than the new 'BBC homepage'.

    We were told, in December 2007, that all homepage customisation settings would be incorporated into BBC iD. It didn't happen. We were told, in March 2010, that anything the BBC builds from then on would use BBC iD from the start. It didn't happen - the new beta BBC homepage doesn't use BBC iD. The new beta radio station homepages don't use BBC iD either. All homepage customisation features now seem to be in the process of removal because we are now told, after reading four years' worth of BBC blogs about how wonderful homepage customisation is, that few people use it. No mention however has been made by the new breed of homepage bloggers about BBC iD, probably the only means by which reliable customisation has been yet achieved.

    One almost gets the impression that the homepage blogs are pursuing a self-fulfilling and incontravertible misinterpretation of the facts.

    With the impending withdrawal of all radio content from iPlayer (which seems to have no problem in principle with using BBC iD to implement customisation), radio users will be left only with the feature-less new station homepages, with no means of saving favourites.

    Pending a clear stragegy statement from the BBC concerning the future role and purpose of BBC iD across all its home/station pages and content-streaming pages, the current outlook is very bleak.

    Russ

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  • Comment number 21. Posted by Pikestaff

    on 2 Oct 2011 16:22

    I'm sorry, but I hate it.

    I use the existing homepage as my home page and have it customised to show me what I want, and nothing but what I want: news, sport, science, business news, weather, tv schedules - all neatly laid out so that I can see it at a glance, without scrolling. It's very nearly perfect. (I'd prefer it to be better at remembering my settings, but that's about it.)

    The beta is a confusing mess with less information and insists on pushing stuff at me that I don't want. Looks like I will have to look for another homepage, or maybe learn how to build my own...

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  • Comment number 20. Posted by Piet Boon

    on 29 Sept 2011 18:18

    On the BBC Internet blog there is a new blogpost on this issue "operation whitewash". All our complaints are brushed aside.

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  • Comment number 19. Posted by Nick

    on 26 Sept 2011 19:53

    I am really hating the new homepage. It looks like a shotgun blast of colour and text. It is difficult to follow or find what I want. Why role out a new site that is not complete? You are going to alienate people with the lack of customisation, and I for one am already looking for an alternative site after just one day of looking at this new beta site. I don't want to be blasted with Blue Peter or Football.

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  • Comment number 18. Posted by wisolme

    on 26 Sept 2011 12:13

    No I do not like all those pictures. It is confusing and I cant pick out what I want to see as soon as it loads. I dont want this change. I didnt like the last change I could not customise it as well as before; the designers seem to just change it for the sake of it. I can not devine anything in it that has improved it for the general public to use. Sorry- you had better have saved our money.

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  • Comment number 17. Posted by nogginTHEnob

    on 26 Sept 2011 11:05

    The design of the new beta homepage is truly dreadful.
    It's ugly, overwhelming with too much content, no choice to remove unwanted elements. Cumbersome, slow and is nothing like the sleek and easy to navigate current homepage.
    To answer the J.Henry Ford comparison. This new design definitely has hooves.

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  • Comment number 16. Posted by nhs9631

    on 25 Sept 2011 17:28

    I can understand the BBC wanting to make a homepage which can be used on multiple devices, but this is awful. News stories from different topics seem to be arranged haphazardly across the three screens.
    The concept of horizontal scrolling has been far better implemented in the excellent BBC News app which I have on an iPhone and an Android phone.
    This has a single scrollable horizontal row for each topic (UK News, World News, Sport etc.). These rows are all the same height, are arranged below each other and are customisable.

    Any contributor to this forum who hasn't already got this app on their IOS or Android device should download it to see what I mean. If you like what you see then please tell the beeb by posting here.

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  • Comment number 15. Posted by Daz51

    on 25 Sept 2011 03:43

    This comment was removed because it broke the house rules. Explain

  • Comment number 14. Posted by Richard

    on 23 Sept 2011 14:54

    I agree the new homepage is horrible...I can't really add much to what has been said about it already! All I can say is that I can't believe they got rid of 606 to pay for this!

    And yes, this is "change for the sake of change". I can cope with, and welcome, change...but in my opinion there was nothing wrong with the old homepage!

    Indeed Henry Ford developed the Model T and revolutionised the way people and things were transported. The new homepage will not revolutionise the way I use the BBC website...it is ugly, a waste of time, effort and money!

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  • Comment number 13. Posted by Steve Bowbrick

    on 23 Sept 2011 08:34

    johnvasko You're right. The BBC is an international organisation but it's worth pointing out that some of the various international homepages are run by BBC Worldwide, the Corporation's commercial arm. They have their own strategy and their own set of products and they may choose to offer a different homepage to non-UK users.

    Steve Bowbrick, editor, About the BBC

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