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Changes to BBC Radio online

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Chris Kimber Chris Kimber | 12:05 UK time, Monday, 12 December 2011

Screen grab of new Asian Network homepage, with several features marking the anniversary of the independence of Bangladesh.

The Asian Network and 5Live Sports Extra now have new homepages

Since my last post in November we have released several new elements to the main BBC Radio homepage and this blog post will briefly explain what is new, and how we are starting to build the new radio and music product.

If you've already given feedback, thank you. We know that changes to a site can be disruptive but we are reading all your comments and looking to continuously improve the way that we bring you the BBC's radio and music online.

The new navigation bar on the Radio home page

The main change you will see is that we have introduced a new navigation bar at the top of the screen. Audiences regularly tell us that their main aims when visiting a radio station site are:

  • to see what's on and listen live to one or more stations
  • to listen to a programme they missed
  • to find out programme information such as music played or names of guests
There are many more reasons that people visit radio online, but we are trying to make these basic tasks quick and easy.

So, the main Now On Air view allows you to listen live to any station in one click, and in the new product navigation at the top we have made it easy to switch quickly to a different station ("Stations") and to find a programme page (via "Programme Finder") where you can listen again or get programme information.

The new local radio box

We also received feedback that people missed the ability to navigate to programmes via categories (or genres) so we have included a Categories link in the main product navigation. This takes you to a categories index page, or if you click it from a station view (e.g. Radio1) it will offer you direct links to the most important categories for that station.

Similarly many users prefer to find content by using the schedule, so we have included that in the navigation too. Again, the link is contextual, so if you are on the Radio 4 view the schedule link takes you to the Radio 4 schedule.

We have had some initial feedback that the new product navigation is easily missed, meaning some people can't find the things they are looking for, so we are already working on ways of making it more visible and integrated into the page. If you have thoughts on this please give us your feedback.

On the main Now On Air view we have made three main changes:

  • there is now a Local Radio space alongside the national and nations stations, so users can quickly find their local station
  • there are links to all the nations stations, such as Radio Cymru or Radio Foyle
  • we have changed the logic around 5live Sports Extra so that if there is no programme currently on air then we promote the next programme, rather than simply saying "nothing on"

One important change is that we have rebuilt the scrolling carousel which you see on station views (e.g. Radio 2) to ensure it is easier to use, and that it is fully accessible to people who use screen readers.

For example, you can navigate through the content using the Tab key on your keyboard, without having to click your mouse.

Radio 4 mobile home page

On mobile we have released new browser sites for all the national stations, which you can access by simply going to the same address on your smartphone as you would on your computer.

For example, if you go to www.bbc.co.uk/radio you will get an appropriate version of the site for your phone.

The feature set is basic right now, principally the ability to listen live, find out what's on now and next, view the schedule, and link through to listen again via the iPlayer, but this gives us a platform to build upon and add new functions that the audience are asking for.

Once we have the correct audio streams for the nations stations and local radio we'll add those in too. That should be early in 2012.

Lastly we have been able to migrate two of our national radio stations' homepages onto the same platform as the radio homepage. So, for the Asian Network and 5Live Sports Extra, the homepages for these stations have now permanently moved.

We are very keen to hear from you, so if you are a regular user of these two sites in particular, please give us your feedback or leave a comment on this blog.

Chris Kimber is Executive Product Manager, BBC Radio & Music


  • Comment number 1.

    Hi Chris

    Every time I visit the radio pages on the BBC's website I always find new features that make my time on the site even more 'sticky'. I wish other websites were as forward-thinking and user-centric.

    Keep up the great work.

  • Comment number 2.

    Are there any plans to migrate other stations over to the new platform? The local radio stations might benefit from being migrated, provided the schedules & programme data could be stored on a /radio URL.

    I noticed for Radio Cambridgeshire the 'homepage' link on http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/stations/cambridgeshire incorrectly points to http://www.bbc.co.uk/cambridgeshire/. This URL redirects to the News site, it appears the Radio URL should be http://www.bbc.co.uk/cambridgeshire/programmes .

  • Comment number 3.

    Too much white space (on the BBC Radio Scotland programmes) and a pointless need to click sideyways.

    We can go down the way easier with a scroll.

  • Comment number 4.

    I'll agree with Tengsted about this, but would go further. I'm not sure that the radio homepages now provde the sort of information that would encourage me to listen. I really don't like the carousel (though, thankfully, it's not as irritating as that on the BBC Homepage). The large pictures are unnecessary, and all the information could be clearly displayed on a single page, without the necessity to scroll (irritatingly) sideways.

    If I am to continue using the radio websites, I'll just navigate by saving the schedules pages to my favourites.

    I really don't see what the revamp adds that actually improves the ease of use/user experience.

    I know I'm a Luddite, but I'm not at all pleased with the direction that BBC's online presence is taking. If things keep on at this rate, I'll soon not be looking at any BBC sites at all (from multiple daily visits to the Homepage, News, Sports and Weather sites, I now only dip in for an occasional view of the blogs - in a desperate and forlorn hope that it's all been a bad dream - and catching up on some of the radio I've missed).

  • Comment number 5.

    The BBC Local Radio aac streams have been at 80kbps mono for over two years now. The nations streams used to be at 128kbps stereo, and have recently been upgraded to 192kbps. When will the local streams at least get stereo? It doesn't seem like too much to ask! With the growing regionalisation of music shows such as Roger Day, Keith Skues, Dave Cash and the Vintage Top 40, surely they deserve better treatment!

  • Comment number 6.

    Dear Chris,

    What is the difference between the mobile websites http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/stations/radio1 and http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio1/touch/ ?

  • Comment number 7.

    just a couple of thoughts: when I read and select 'See All Programmes' from the 'Programme Finder', I don't expect a button bar, I expect actual text to read, arranged like a conventional index. the 'Music' page is dreadful, the sideways-shifting 'thing' had to be included, in spite of having acres of whitespace to play with, why? there are a growing number of these interactive elements on various BBC pages (and elsewhere), they're great for young children and people suffering from ADHD perhaps, but a nuisance for everybody else.

  • Comment number 8.

    Why am i not surprised that you have brushed aside the fact listeners like to know the audio quality that the stations are using? I dont like 80k mp3 on listen again for local stations either,when you are prepared to broadcast radio 3 at 10 times that audio quality!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 9.

    There appear to be more feed data faults in the new carousels, and of a more peculiar nature than the generic basic fault I complained about in early September.

    If the latest edition of a regular/daily programme, e.g. The Archers, Front Row, the Afternoon Play, hasn't been loaded into the playback system, then the whole of that series disappears from the 'Now' and 'Programmes' page. (iPlayer takes its listings from the schedules, and greys out currently unavailable programmes, which is a more honest presentation.) Secondly, even when the programme has made it onto the iPlayer system, it is not appearing concurrently on the new Radio pages. For example, right now as I type this, today's Front Row and Afternoon Play aren't appearing in the new carousels, but they are available, and have been for some time, when accessing old-style schedule or genre pages.

    This lack of rendering of the availability of available programmes is making the now available programmes carousels a complete joke.


  • Comment number 10.

    The carousel is awful - just as bad as the homepage one as it requires 'clicks' to move it before you can see what is there and all the other countless arguments that the bbc have ignored to date. Generally - not an improvement - try accessing the HD link if you come in via the BBC Newspage.............no where to be found, only then did I realise it had not brought me through to the home page so I had to migrate backwards to there to get HD. This is style over substance and sometimes I wonder if desiners and managers who authorise this stuff actually use it first or understand how 'customers' use it. Customers - now there is a concept.

  • Comment number 11.

    As with the new 'design disaster' of a BBC Homepage the radio pages are now unusable in Opera. I would have thought the BBC would have tested these pages fully in all major browsers (standard practice) before going live with them... I also noticed that the new homepage design has made it onto the complaints wall of the BBC's own 'That's Britain!' programme...

  • Comment number 12.

    Just like the homepage - terrible!!

  • Comment number 13.

    Might be worth updating the bbc.co.uk/localradio redirect so that it points to the new http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/stations page instead of /england/radio/index.shtml.

  • Comment number 14.

    The new 'edit your stations' feature has been implemented very strangely. It seemed logical to me that all 15 slots should be fillable, but the system confines the total choice to 14 slots.


  • Comment number 15.

    I note the new BBC Sports website has a GEL-conformant frame width, so let's hope the Radio product pages will conform soon.


  • Comment number 16.

    I rarely visit the new system pages, but I can't believe how bad the feed to the 'latest programmes' carousel is - Radio 4's is currently running about 13 hours behind what iPlayer and station schedule pages are making available.

    Or has the new system been mothballed already?


  • Comment number 17.

    Thanks for the comments, the product team here read them all.

    We have definitely heard your views on the carousel in the radio station views, and are working on different ways of presenting content.

    We are also aware of the feed issue which means that sometimes the "latest programmes" carousel is not as up to date as it should be. It's more complicated that it appears, but we are working on fixing the issue.

    Duskie and Neil - this post is not about streaming bitrates so I'm not going to reply on those particular questions, but I will pass your comments on so they can be answered.

    tinman9898 - we do in fact test on recent versions of Opera, even though only a tiny percentage of our users actually use this browser, and our Test team report that the site works fine. Are you using an old version that you could perhaps update?

    Keith - good point, I'm working to see if we can change that redirect for local radio

    Russ - you are right, you can choose a maximum of 14 stations in the "edit your stations" feature. There's a good technical reason for this, but my question to you is: how many stations do you really want to select? Not many people listen to more than 14 stations, and if you do you can always use the All Stations page (http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/stations%29

  • Comment number 18.

    Chris has blogged today about updates to /radio, particularly for the mobile-facing site.

    As that's a natural sequel to this post, I'm closing comments here.


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