Changes to the BBC Messageboards
I'm the current Product Manager for the technical team delivering BBC messageboards. You may have noticed we have recently refreshed the boards.
We had two main objectives when we began work on the messageboard refresh project:
- Bringing the visual design in line with the visual refresh happening across the rest of bbc.co.uk and that the messageboards have a consistent format that is familiar to audiences from around the site.
- Providing the hosts of the messageboards a simple to use, yet powerful set of administration tools enabling them to be kept more up to date and relevant to the audience.
In delivering the first we developed, what we call internally, the vanilla skins that produce semantically marked up and accessible HTML with basic styling. These follow the visual format of the refresh occurring on other areas of the BBC website and a standardised layout. Each messageboard can optionally be configured with a CSS file that applies the look and feel of the host site.
For the second we developed a brand new administration tool with a task oriented interface that allows hosts a straightforward way to manage their messageboards. This includes the creating and archiving of topics, setting opening and closing times, specifying the custom CSS file mentioned above and the various banners and navigation elements.
However, we didn't want to just update what already existed with a fresh lick of paint, so we added new features such as:
- The ability for a host to pin a topic to the top of a topic list page so hosts can highlight items of interest to the audience.
- A panel showing the most recent discussions across the messageboard so the audience can see where the active conversations are taking place.
Delivering the new Messageboards
Any non-trivial software project requires a process in place to ensure successful delivery. The team responsible for the messageboards product, like many other at the BBC, uses Scrum, an agile software development methodology.
As Product Manager, in Scrum terms I fulfil the role of the 'Product Owner', representing the stakeholders and the business on the team. Our stakeholders are many and varied and include representatives across all divisions of the BBC and ultimately our audiences.
Scrum is an iterative process and each iteration is known as a sprint. During the sprint the development team focus on the objectives outlined in a planning session, except in the case where major bugs are discovered or reported. In that instance the team will focus on squashing them as soon as possible. The definition of major bug typically includes instances where the service is completely unavailable.
Our sprints are two weeks long and at the end of each we review what has been delivered, examine whether business or product priorities have changed, and plan appropriately the items we will work on next. This includes reviewing all bug reports we have received, feature requests from stakeholders and including those of high priority into the sprint's work. Approximately once a month we release all the work that is completed.
Major sources of feedback for us are from those using the product every day and every feature idea and bug report makes its way into our product backlog where it will receive a priority with the other items there.
The team delivering the messageboard product is part of a larger team, known as Social within FM&T, that is responsible for many of the social elements appearing across bbc.co.uk.
One part of the platform the messageboards are developed on is known as DNA, as eagle-eyed members of the food messageboard have already identified here, and it is indeed named after Douglas Noel Adams. h2g2 was the first product built on the platform.
Thanks for reading.
David Williams is Product Manager, BBC FM&T Social