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BBC TV Programme Pages: new design

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Dan Taylor Dan Taylor | 14:00 UK time, Monday, 19 December 2011

screenshot of website

Frozen Planet programme page

Just over four years ago, we launched bbc.co.uk/programmes to provide a permanent, addressable page for every episode of every programme the BBC broadcasts across radio and television.

The pages were pretty basic at launch - both visually, and in the information they offered. Since 2007 they've continued to evolve, growing into an increasingly rich resource. There are now pages for over a million episodes, which together attract over three million unique UK browsers each week.

Over the past few months we've been rolling out a new design to our TV programmes pages, in line with the BBC's new Global Experience Language. The aim is to do a better job of surfacing the content they offer and to make it easier for users to find their way around.

Every programme now has an Episode guide on the horizontal navigation bar. The goal is a glanceable guide to every series and episode, highlighting episodes available on BBC iPlayer as well as upcoming broadcast dates.

Speaking of BBC iPlayer, as watching an episode now always happens in iPlayer, we've removed the duplication whereby episodes used to also play out in the programme page. The new pages now indicate when a programme is available to watch in HD or with Signing or Audio Description, with direct links to watch your chosen version in iPlayer.

As we're publishing more and more clips from our programmes, the new design aims to better showcase short-form video via a 'Latest clips' carousel and a dedicated Clips index page. We've also overhauled the clip playout pages to include onward journeys to other clips from the same programme.

We've introduced 'You might also like...' recommendations at the bottom of every page, to help discover other programmes which might be of interest, and Share tools to post links to your favourite social sharing services.

Critically, the new look programme pages weren't just designed with desktop computers in mind - access via a mobile device and the pages will be optimised for the screen size and capabilities of your handset.

As well as the new features, we've also given a lick of paint to elements of the original programme pages (for instance Buzz, Character profiles, Commercial availability, Music played and Related links). Behind the scenes, we're rolling out a new publishing tool to enable production teams to further enrich their programmes pages.

We think the new design improves the way these pages reflect the tone and personality of the programme, by way of background images and colour palette. Here are a few examples: Frozen Planet, Great Expectations, Mongrels, Rev, The Killing.

Of course, there are more components in the pipeline including photo galleries and a live chat module. The new look will also be rolling out to radio programme pages over the coming months.

Do let me know what features you'd like to see added and any other thoughts on how we can improve the BBC's programme pages.

Dan Taylor is Executive Editor, TV & iPlayer


  • Comment number 1.

    I think the new-look programme pages are excellent, a big improvement on the old design, and the episode guides are very useful. The only reservation I have is that the layout of the broadcast history for each episode becomes rather awkward when there have been many broadcasts, I think it was clearer shown as a list as in the old format.

    I have yet to come across any new-look pages for CBBC, CBeebies and BBC Parliament but presumably they will be getting the new look as well? The current CBBC programme pages in particular have a rather unattractive design at the moment. Also, are the old programme listings resulting from the Genome project going to appear within bbc.co.uk/programmes, or is that a separate project?

  • Comment number 2.

    Pretty nice. A little busy but at least it is downward scrolling unlike the inexplicably awful BBC homepage. I am also not wildly keen on the white out of the play button when the cursor covers the play button on a clip. It makes a distracting flash when viewed from the corner of the eye. I think there is no need to have it since it is clear that the button could be clicked. It is OK as long as not overused like on BBC homepage. Once over used a page can become unusable, as is the case with the BBC homepage. I would prefer more pages that do not scream with flashing and drop downs. Google and Facebook have very simple pages that do not try and grab the eye with flashes, large scale colour changes, wobbles and drop downs and they are the most viewed sites on the web.

  • Comment number 3.

    I love the new look but I do have one question with apologise if it's off topic.

    Are there any plans to link the material at the BBC Archive section to their relevant programme pages in the main website and add them to the iPlayer? Typical example:

    This programme:


    Doesn't appear here:


    It would be a great way of access these other programmes.

  • Comment number 4.

    Thanks for the comments. Some responses:

    @1 Robert Williams - Yes, the programme pages for CBBC, CBeebies & BBC Parliament are all in line to migrate to the new design. Genome is a separate project, but some of the data from it is likely to help in populating programme pages. Noted re. broadcast history layout - will feed back to the design team.

    @3 Stuart Ian Burns - Integrating content currently published at /archive into /programmes and iPlayer is on the 'to do' list but isn't right at the top at the moment.

  • Comment number 5.

    Marginally better than the new 'disasterous design' of the Homepage, weather and radio pages. Still looks cluttered and messy with no clear boundaries between items though. Each item just seems to run into the next one. For easy reference I have listed the good and the bad below.

    Pros: No glaring white backround avoiding those with light sensitivity probems having a migraine induced. No horizontal scrolling carousel (tragic roundabout as people are caling it) / Has Downwards scrolling and not horizontal. Displays in Firefox.

    cons: Messy, cluttered layout with each section running together into another. No clear definition. Looks very old early 1990's design. Like the new BBC homepage is completely unusable in the Opera browser which would suggest the code is not standards complient and has not been fully tested in all major browsers prior to launch (standard web design practice). After initally loading in Opera all the content then collapses in to the centre of the browser making the page completely unusable ( I can do a screen capture video of this effect and post to youtube show you require it, although all you have to do to see this is open the page in Opera). Too much blank space which adds to scrolling (not a tight easy to use design). The background pic not filling the whole browser space makes it look as it is a design fault and the pic has not been sized properly. Could do with some padding between the columns of text on the left and right hand sides of the page as you scroll down as they look 'crammed' together at this point...

    Not sure how easily accessible the page is for the elderly and those with dissabilities.

  • Comment number 6.

    @5 tinman9898 - We are not seeing this issue in the latest version of Opera. /programmes prides itself on being standards compliant so this sounds very unusual. Can you confirm which version of Opera and Operating System you are using, and if possible a screenshot or video would be great.

  • Comment number 7.

    Not everybody has Gill Sans installed on their computer, so the programme title falls back onto Arial, which doesn't look good on the new site. I suggest you use something like @font-family in the CSS so that everyone can view it properly.

  • Comment number 8.

    Not a techie person but I really love the new design, its pretty cool. :)

  • Comment number 9.

    "Yes, the programme pages for CBBC, CBeebies & BBC Parliament are all in line to migrate to the new design"

    Just to clarify what Dan is saying here, the programme pages for the children's sites are a bit different to the rest.

    Children have very different goals and usability needs to adults, so the new /programmes design is not and will not be appropriate for them.

    The sites you are seeing in the children's category at /programmes are not for children, the children's programme pages live within the channel websites, eg. http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbbc/shows/deadly-360.

    So when Dan correctly says that they will move to the new design, that's purely to ensure that there's a complete consistent adult-friendly archive of all BBC output within /programmes, and not to replace the real user-facing /cbbc programme pages.

  • Comment number 10.

    Hum...maybe a page with to much written text only - difficult to understand for foreigners like me.
    We enjoy BBC programs, but images are really easier for us to find our way.

    i find the inside pages much more enthousiastic for us.

    thanks and best regards

  • Comment number 11.

    "At 17:10 20th Dec 2011, David Marland wrote:

    @5 tinman9898 - We are not seeing this issue in the latest version of Opera. /programmes prides itself on being standards compliant so this sounds very unusual. Can you confirm which version of Opera and Operating System you are using, and if possible a screenshot or video would be great."

    In response to above here is a screen cap of how the page displays in Opera. The new BBC homepage displays in the same fashion...

    Browser:Opera 11.60 build 1185
    OS: MS Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit SP2


  • Comment number 12.

    #11 Check the 'fit to width' option in Opera (its on the view menu). On my PC lots of pages display incorrectly with this option selected - I get the same display as you...I would guess that Opera is incorrectly handling these pages when this option is set...

    Happy New Year!

  • Comment number 13.

    Podcasts seem to be promoted on radio as much as iPlayer, but on the Web site they're the poor relation. It's more difficult to navigate to podcasts, there are no cross-links between podcasts and iPlayer, and the programme information on the podcast pages is much briefer than that on the iPlayer pages.

    For instance, today I realised I hadn't seen the last three episodes of Melvyn Bragg's The Written World in the In Our Time RSS feed at http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/radio4/iot/rss.xml. (In fact I see the first two episodes have now been removed. Why?) So I went to the RSS home page, the IOT programme page at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qykl , and all the Written World episodes are available there in iPlayer, and clicking on a programme link gives more details and another iPlayer link. The podcast links don't lead to the missing episodes, though.

    The search function wasn't tremendously helpful. I read a while ago in a BBC blog that searches had been made sensitive to context (the page from which you're searching), but that hasn't been my experience. Eventually I found a link to the magazine article at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16442412 , which linked to the Written World podcasts.

    I now see there's a programme page especially for The Written World at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0192yhn. At first, this doesn't seem to have links to the podcasts either, but a browser search shows a link hidden away under LINKS, in among the external links, the third from the bottom.

    It's a similar story with Jim Al-Khalili's The Life Scientific. I'm not listening in any particular order, and I'm picking and choosing. The podcast page at http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/tls gives only a brief description of each episode, frequently just one sentence. If I want to read more details before choosing whether to download an episode, I need to find the programme page at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b015sqc7 (there's no link from the podcast page), and from there click on an individual programme. But only the five most recent programmes are directly linked, and there are no links back to the podcasts. Sure, there's a prominent link to Podcasts at the top of the page, as there is on every page, but that's just to the main Radio 4 podcasts page, and not at all useful here.

    These are just two examples. I hope you can take the opportunity to re-balance the two channels (iPlayer and podcasts) and provide a better experience to people looking for podcasts and information about them.


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