New BBC Home Page: Your Reaction
At the end of my first post I asked you for your comments and promised to engage in a conversation. I expected maybe a dozen or so replies. So imagine my astonishment when, as of this morning, more than 280 + of you have taken time to give us your views and criticisms on the new betahomepage.
This level of engagement is exactly why I came to the BBC. The generally positive nature of the feedback was even more wonderful. The success of the web as a media platform has been driven by its ability to rapidly connect people and ideas. Delivering a better BBC homepage must be based on a lively and frank conversation with our audience, so thank you for keeping up your side!
Despite some unconstructive, or should I say, 'personal' responses, ("yankee go home" was my favourite) I am delighted that so many of you have taken time out to explore the new page and tell us what you think.
Some of the key points...
Customisation and Personalisation
One of the fundamental challenges you raised was the philosophy behind our introduction of customization and personalization (as I'm a Yank, please note my use of the Z in personalization rather than personalisation. it seemed disingenuous of me to change to an s when I so prefer the letter z).
Some suggested this indicates that the BBC no longer has a voice or knows what it wants to say. I disagree.
Customization is about collaborating with our audience. As a linear broadcast medium, the web is no better and in many ways far worse than other mediums. The web's power comes from several key strengths...
Its slow and steady growth towards ubiquity
Its ability to give us what we want, when we want it
Its ability to create a conversation where previously there was only one voice or one point of view
Its ability to enrich the user's experience by tracking, collecting, archiving and leveraging information about their activities, tastes and preferences
Clearly there are privacy issues here, and I plan to expand on these in detail in a forthcoming post (essentially, it's about user knowledge, consent and trust).
But as several of you have suggested, our aim is to grow and develop the technology and user experience to move from the current, primarily active personalization you experience on the new home page to passive and suggestive personalized experiences (where the software does more of the work for you).
All of these strengths place the audience at the centre of what we do, giving them choices and listening to them when they make those choices. Success for us here is dependent on giving individuals info they need and want to know, in an accessible and interesting way.
It's worth noting that the customisation is an opt-in activity. The default version of the page which is delivered to every user is an editorially curated window into the BBC which has, I believe, a clear voice and hierarchy of information.
Feature image and box
Another key area of the homepage which has generated controversy was the feature image and area of the site.
First of all, this area is a piece of rich editorial content created and updated several times a day under the guidance of James Price, the editor of the Homepage and his team. Its role is to showcase the best the BBC has to offer with stand-alone packages of entertainment and information.
Conceptually, the feature existed on the original homepage, albeit in a smaller and less visually striking format. We have increased both it's size and the entire page size on the basis that:
99.8% of our users have a screen set at 800px or wider
95.3% of our users have a screen set at 1024px or wider
45.2% of our users have a screen set at 1280px or wider
So I think you can see why we decided to move to 1024 as our standard.
A feature I'm particularly fond of is the way the image breaks out of its frame. Again, we're not in a print medium, so things can come alive. The design and platform of the feature region will support Flash, slide-shows, animation and even video. The video uses the new pan-bbc embedded media player just unveiled in iPlayer, which will grant my brethren from linux and mac entry to the wonderful world of iPlayer. Go there now and try it!
The new design gives the homepage editorial team a sound and visually enticing platform to present feature stories & images. I'm hopeful that the homepage team will outline their vision for the feature in a forthcoming blog post.
The decision to have the colours change based on clicks on the boxes in the bottom of the feature area seems to have been a real hot-button for many of you, as is the decision to move away from a "fixed palette". After extensive user research we learned that people were tired of a monochromatic blue site ("its been blue for five years for God's sake" was one quote).
The colour change feature is an homage to what we thought was one of the most innovative features of Andrew Bank's original 2002 redesign. From the feedback here it would appear that our concerns were justified as many of you obviously weren't aware of the colour change function in the original page. Colours are there to support the editorial and create an aesthetically pleasing environment. Also, it's a beta, and as many of our testers young and old said "its fun!"
In keeping with your feedback, this colour change on click functionality is likely to evolved into either an editorial or user choice, or perhaps both. We welcome additional thoughts on this idea.
Clicks & clocks
Wow! "The Clock" really seems to be a love/hate thing. But the loves seem to outnumber the hates 10-1 according to our initial unofficial research. For those of you who are concerned about the accuracy of the timing, we are looking at making it more 'time accurate'
Adding & removing content
If you click the customize your homepage button you'll find quite a few choices there (selecting them adds or subtracts this content from the page). We are aware of the issues around the contents' automatic drop into the left-hand column and are working to improve this.
Radio & TV personalization
Feeds & content choices
Please be patient, more are in the pipeline. These include technology feeds, refined local feeds and specialized sports feeds and applications such as the recipes search. The editorial content strategy is the domain of the homepage editorial team. Please continue making suggestions as I know they value your input.
Our goal is to enable our audience to find, play or share the best of what the BBC has on offer. We will continue to refine the experience, and have enjoyed and been overwhelmed by your response. The BBC homepage will always have to satisfy a very disparate group of individual users and functions, but there is one piece of common ground. All users want a clear route into the content which interests, entertains or enlightens them.
Thanks to all of you who have joined this conversation. I hope all of you will continue to help transform the BBC homepage to truly reflect its landmark domain name, in both form and function. Please do leave comments here and we'll carry on talking in the new year.
And to all of you Merry Christmas!