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Releasing a Labs version of the BBC Radio homepage

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Chris Kimber Chris Kimber | 10:50 UK time, Wednesday, 7 September 2011

This BBC Radio homepage is now live. You may find Chris Kimber's blog post about your feedback on this Labs version, and the live launch of interest - update Ian McDonald, 2 Nov 2011

A screenshot of the Radio 1 Labs release

A screenshot of the Radio 1 Labs release

Today marks an important (if relatively modest) step for BBC radio on digital platforms, as we release a Labs version of the new BBC Radio homepage.

I'm an Executive Product Manager in BBC Future Media working on what will eventually (sometime during 2012) become the Radio and Music product, in line with the BBC's strategy for a small number of cross platform products, as outlined by Director of FM Ralph Rivera and previous Director Erik Huggers.

Today is the very first step on the ladder, as we have spent recent months building the foundations and are now keen to start to get feedback from users on this release of the Radio homepage.

Working with a multi-disciplinary team I am responsible for steering the direction of the product. We do this based on usage of our current radio and music sites, such as Radio 1 and Radio 4, and the extensive research we have carried out with radio listeners, mixed with some strongly held views from technical and editorial teams about the potential user experiences for our content and brands in the digital space.

Our first release is very much a Labs release, which means it's not completely ready to replace the current Radio homepage.

There are many features we'd like to introduce which are on our backlog, but instead of waiting another month or so we are keen to allow you to preview and feedback on the work, allowing us to catch any major issues before it goes fully live, and add some of your feature requests to our backlog.

The Radio homepage serves multiple purposes: for some it's a quick navigational page to get to a radio station's website. For others it's the destination itself, allowing you to find out what's on right now, and listen live to any BBC station via the Radioplayer pop-out console. Our Labs release makes both of those journeys easier, but also presents each stations' most recent and most popular on-demand programmes and clipped highlights (where available). For example, Radio 1, 5 live and Radio Scotland.

It also allows you to move very quickly and easily between this radio station overview via a new toolbar at the top of the page, which mirrors real life behaviour of radio listeners most of whom listen to more than one BBC station. This extends the concept of a "station tab" which exists on the current BBC Radio page and, importantly, does not replace the existing network homepages which are prominently linked.

We are still experimenting with various new ways of presenting all this information and content, and for now, we'd love you to have a play with the new Labs radio homepage and click the feedback link to tell us what you think.

Chris Kimber is Executive Product Manager Radio and Music, BBC Future Media


  • Comment number 1.

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

  • Comment number 2.

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

  • Comment number 3.

    The URL for the scrolling bug video is actually


  • Comment number 4.

    There's a really funky scrolling bug on OSX Lion, I recorded a video of it http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zoJkKKRrOT8

  • Comment number 5.

    Thanks Alex, we're investigating this now

  • Comment number 6.

    We've had various announcements about the forthcoming product called 'Radio + Music'. And now this blog. It is not clear whether the new radio homepage is merely a cosmetic tarting up of the current one or whether it really is something being positioned at the heart of the new product. 'Music' appears only as a link to another place. Is this lack of integration intentional? Or are we saying that the Huggers' initial vision was too ambitious or flawed? No one has yet been able to explain what the overall shape (or the foundations, as you call it) of the new product might be, or what the new product is trying to achieve, or what it may or may not be intended to replace.

    The last aspect is critical, and I ask again for the umpteenth time - are you planning to ditch radio content from iPlayer? Until someone from the BBC is able to answer that strategic question, most of the details announced in this blog are irrelevant or academic.

    The other fundamental problem highlighted by the new homepage, although it is not the fault of the homepage or indeed any radio programme page, is iPlayer's archaic and inexplicable approach to its method of handling pre-recorded radio programmes. Until that is resolved, I fear the new Radio + Music product will be fatally wounded from the start.

    As to the radio homepage itself, it was always a poor value place to go compared to iPlayer or a station homepage, and the new version doesn't make it a much better place. It's another stripped-down iPlayer aggregator, but with reduced content. If your extensive research with radio listeners concluded they wanted bigger pictures and reduced per-page and on-page content, then quite frankly, you're either lying or deluded. Radio users want to get to their destination audio streams as quickly as possible with minimal server interrogation en route. If the path to that destination is strewn with innumerable bloated scripts, then the path needs rethinking. Including the scripts and the style sheets (did you really need 13 of them?), how much bigger is the code for the new page than the old one? Four times as big?

    With no added value, a reduced content, and an increased loading time, why on earth would anyone want to use this new page?

    If I was Mark Thompson, this project would be high up on the DQF cuts list.


  • Comment number 7.

    Russ - your comment is appreciated but please moderate your tone. Words like "lying" and "deluded" do not raise the quality of the conversation.


  • Comment number 8.

    I don't really understand who this is for of what it is supposed to deliver. It just seems what's on now and then drilling down to channel level a list of clips. Where is the story?

    Ralph told us in June

    " It is the gateway to content and experiences across the entirety of the BBC. It provides the connective tissue that enables us to inform, educate and entertain as part of one narrative - not as a disjointed set of activities. We have reorganised the business around this principle. It also sets the boundaries of what we will do, and not do, online."

    Replacing 'the entire BBC' with 'Radio' in this quote (remember the commercial partners) I assumed this was the aggregator where this might be realised, and I expected I could set up my own personal route (story) to interesting material.

    What I really expected somewhere an index, or even an Autonomy style relational data base with meaning. But no...

    So back to to the Guardian's Guide and then 15 minutes though the schedules for my 'agenda'. Of course I'll never know of course what is in the magazine type progs.

    Curiously there is a man in R&D doing something like I want for the total past of the World Service (a memorial perhaps?)

  • Comment number 9.

    I don't know about the 'product' aspects of this development, or the tech backend, but the interface a better by a blue million miles. The current/old interface is confusing, messy and inelegant. Thanks for sorting out something intelligible that foregrounds live radio.

  • Comment number 10.

    I don't know what anyone else thinks, but the pages that have been produced for local radio (eg BBC Radio Gloucestershire http://beta.bbc.co.uk/radio/gloucestershire%29 are better than the main bbc.co.uk/gloucestershire webpages, which are basically just a BBC News website interface. Any chance of setting at least the local pages to be the main home pages for those stations...!??

  • Comment number 11.

    I'll briefly try to answer some of your questions:

    - Yes Music is not yet integrated. It will become more so - watch this space

    - We're very much still working on the shape of the Radio and Music product, so it would be premature to go into a lot of detail about it at this stage

    - No radio content that is currently available in iPlayer will be "ditched", although as Erik Huggers said: "Radio and music will come out of BBC iPlayer, and we’ll develop a new stand-alone product" (http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/aboutthebbc/2011/01/delivering-quality-first.shtml%29

    - It's a little unfair to compare the Radio homepage to iPlayer or a network site, a bit like comparing apples and oranges i.e. not very helpful. Very happy for users to compare it with the existing Radio homepage at http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio

    - We've actually exposed much more content in this Labs version compared to the existing Radio homepage, with filters for on-demand programmes and highlights allowing you to see the most recent and most popular of both very quickly

    - The Now On-Air view gives a very quick view across all the networks with one click to listen live, something the existing page doesn't offer, and something we know many people want

    Hopefully this has answered some of your questions.

  • Comment number 12.

    Fred, thanks for your comment. Yes that is the long term plan. We are also working on allowing you to set your local station as one of the default stations in the new top tool bar which will give you quick access to whichever station you want

  • Comment number 13.

    Thanks for the response, Chris. Although I was aware of Eric Huggers' statement of intention, Daniel Danker's subsequent post seemed to withdraw from the brink of a definite decision, and Ralph Rivera's more recent post also shed no further light on the matter, nor was there any BBC response on the particular issue. (I can't understand a word Rivera says anyway.) Radio didn't even get a mention in Daniel Danker's June online industry briefing.

    Needless to say, I regard the planned demise of radio content from iPlayer as a bad decision, one that will create much confusion and diminish the impact and status of BBC's flagship product. The decision is all the more depressing and perplexing considering the amount of money that has gone into iPlayer development. BBC's proposition that the way audiences want to interact with radio and music online being different to TV may have some foundation, but there's never been any public justification of that proposition to my knowledge, and I strongly doubt the evidence adds up to a valid mandate to remove radio content from iPlayer. Unless the BBC can convince us punters that you are doing something that will be genuinely better, you are setting yourself up for a great deal of flak when the changeover eventually happens.

    There are a number of underlying quality and system issues whose lack of resolution (and silence from the BBC in response) confirms that radio is increasingly being downgraded in terms of BBC resources:

    - Why is the quality of the radio playback slider (in both iPlayer and RadioPlayer, the latter being particularly bad) now much less than the TV equivalent?

    - Why is the process of getting a prerecorded radio file onto the catchup system so cumbersome and archaic compared to the efficient method used for a prerecorded TV programme file?

    - Has any progress been made on the current inability of radio networks to share programme information?

    On the new radio product page(s):

    - What personalisation functions are being considered? (I take for granted the inclusion of a sign-in on the new radio homepage(s).)

    - Where will the favourites module be located?

    - Will the social media 'recommendations' functions be retained?

    - Will the search function be confined to radio and music items? (I assume iPlayer's current search scope will be cut back to TV-only?) And has any progress been made on the hopeless search facility?

    - Will the station schedules and A-Z listings be incorporated into the new product, or will they be referenced only by external station links, as currently seems to be the case in the beta?

    - Will categories/genres be incorporated into the new pages? If they are not, how will you address pan-station categories/genres?


  • Comment number 14.

    On more detailed points on the front page, although perhaps these are premature at this stage:

    - I like the programme titles going to their microsite and the graphic going direct to the console player. I'd like to see this method applied to the channel pages, for consistency.

    - I think the station titles should be clickable, thus rendering to 'Go to Radio X' entries superfluous.


  • Comment number 15.

    I didn't realise discussing the AAC radio streams was considered off-topic for a discussion around the new radio labs pages. I'll try a different tack, is it possible to listen to a BBC radio stream over the internet without having a browser and/or flash?

  • Comment number 16.

    Just having a browse through the site and I'll start with the bad things-

    1) The radio station icons should be clickable as Russ pointed out above
    2) I would love to be able to filter programmes by genre or category instead of just by the station.
    3) You should incorporate some kind of featured content area similar to iPlayer
    4) Displaying 'Whats Next' for each station
    5) Perhaps the descriptions could include music genre somewhere?

    The good things-

    1) Very clean design
    2) The progress bars are a nice touch!
    3) easy to navigate and user friendly
    4) Works on my Android handset in standard and mobile views (I run a mobile phone blog so I do everything mobile!)

    I have just submitted my feedback via the opinion survey as well. Great work so far guys! And have just thought of another, it would be great if we could re-order the stations. For example I might have 1xtra and Radio 1 at the top but you could guarantee my dad wouldn't!

  • Comment number 17.

    Dear Alex,

    Thank you for your comment. Please accept that doing things without a web page is off-topic for discussion about a web page.



  • Comment number 18.

    You shouldn't be "depressed" about the future of BBC radio online, we are working hard to make sure it's better than now, not worse!

    I'm not going to attempt to answer some of your more general questions as they aren't related to this blog post, but I will ensure the right people here look into them.

    On your specific questions about the Radio and Music product, you are clearly well informed as we are working on all of those issues, but I can't give any detailed response at this stage I'm afraid. Suffice to say that my aim is to answer all those questions, and more, in a way that will make the experience of BBC radio online an improved one.

    Please do fill in the feedback form here (http://beta.bbc.co.uk/radio/feedback%29 if you haven't already, as we really do appreciate and take seriously the views of people who care so much about BBC radio online.

  • Comment number 19.

    thanks very much for your comments - good and bad - on the Labs release. Very glad you find it clean and easy to navigate - these are essential points for us to get right, so good that we seem to be going in the right direction.

    On your other points, we are actively looking into all of them - watch this space!

  • Comment number 20.

    From a useabilty perspective, I don't think the black station buttons across the top add anything. The present design, where the stations appear on coloured tabs, is much clearer.

    The new layout robs each station of it's unique identity. You click each station, but they all 'look' the same.

  • Comment number 21.

    I don't really understand what the new Radio Homepage is intended to do, or what it does that the present page doesn't. A simple-to-understand explanation would be useful: we don't all understand computerspeak. However, I clicked on the Radio 3 button and was delighted with the new page, which seems attractive, interesting and easy to use.

  • Comment number 22.

    What about local radio? Radio Wales? Radio Scotland? And all the local radio sites? They should be there too - a regrettable omission.

  • Comment number 23.

    On the new beta station homepages, e.g. Radio 4, why are you using a larger horizontal frame measure compared to the beta BBC homepage?

    It wasn't a significant issue with the current station home pages owing to the large gutter spaces, but the presence of the carousel has now stretched and upset the layout, with the left-hand side looking very messy when the carousel is scrolled.

    Being required to use the browser horizontal scroll bar is totally tedious.

    Do radio listeners really want a "visual-first design". I don't.


  • Comment number 24.

    right now you can access Nations radio (such as Radio Wales) and English local stations via the "Nations and Local" button in the top navigation tool bar, which takes you here: http://beta.bbc.co.uk/radio/nationsandlocal. Very soon you will be able to personalise that tool bar to always include your preferred local station so it always appears there.

    Also, the three largest nations stations will soon be included in the "On Air Now" view - http://beta.bbc.co.uk/radio - [Broken URL edited by host] by default, although you'll understand it's not possible to do the same for every single local radio station given the number of them.

  • Comment number 25.

    Thank you. am really impressed I think its a great improvement, the clips sound like a good idea, couldn't test (not your proxy)
    I like the dark radio bar was drawn to it right away, guess it fits my browsing layout ie my pointer is in the controls zone top of area of any window so having the primary chooses up there suits me.
    good luck and keep up the great work

  • Comment number 26.

    This is what the BBC Radio beta looks like on my work PC by the way (it blocks iPlayer)...


  • Comment number 27.

    Not directly related to the new radio site, but does the BBC plan to release a BBC Radio app for iOS/Android?

  • Comment number 28.

    Will you be broadcasting all radio frequencies from this page or will I just only find the BBC Scotland FM. I can't quite understand why I shouldn't be allowed to listen to a BBC channel through the BBC website.

    Also as I quite like having the radio on the iPlayer, will there be a similar system like the podcasting menu where you can select by station, genre, name, etc?

  • Comment number 29.

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

  • Comment number 30.

    Chris, I think it would be much better to keep a box like the current 'local radio' one...that way people will be able to click to see what all the local radio stations are, then go from there to their pages. I suspect many people would value that since they don't necessarily just want news from their own specific local station but from other areas too...for example I live in Milton Keynes but look at the Radio Merseyside site for football and others where I have family.

  • Comment number 31.

    Hi... Not sure if you are aware, but none of the iplayer/listen again links work on the iPad... Links to iplayer which redirects to a. 'big screen' URL... Which is the iplayer homepage. Happens across the whole of the BBC.



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