New Beta Homepages for Radio Stations
The planning wall in the Radio & Music product office.
Today sees a significant step towards the new Radio and Music product with the release of new beta station homepages for most of the BBC's radio stations.
This is the biggest change since the updates which I blogged about in February. It is the result of work by Andrew Scott's Radio & Music team in Future Media, and our editorial colleagues in Mark Friend's department, Audio & Music Interactive.
These pages are being released under a "Beta" banner, meaning they are not yet fully complete, and will not yet replace existing homepages (with the exception of Asian Network and 5Live Sports Extra which have already moved over to the product).
The reason we are releasing them now is to gather feedback on both audience needs and technical issues, which will help us ensure any major concerns can be dealt with before the product is launched later this year. Take a tour of the new features on our Welcome Page.
Consistent navigation across stations, showing link to welcome page
The most significant thing about this beta release is it shows how we're working to bring all of the BBC's radio stations together into one easy to use product, replacing the widely diverging designs, back end systems and technology that currently exist.
Our aim has been to put audience needs first, using a combination of usage data analysis, user testing and audience research to ensure that radio listeners get even more from BBC Radio.
Easier access to BBC Radio
The first thing you'll notice if you click around between stations is that we are trying to make things simple by using a consistent template across every station. Once you "get" how one station works, you don't have to re-learn it for a different station. For example, the link to the station schedule is in the exact same place for every station.
Later this year we'll be enhancing the look and feel to ensure that the character of each station is brought out even more.
We have listened to feedback from users and moved away from the pure "carousel" approach that many people didn't like with our earlier test site.
Greater control over your radio
With greater accessibility to radio comes greater control over content. One key feature that we are prioritising is the ability for the user to "Favourite" programmes and clips, by clicking the "Add To Favourites" link.
This allows users to save items to listen to later, and quickly get to the content they want via the Favourites page, giving a more personal and simple experience.
Add to Favourites
We have made this feature available to logged-in users only, so you can quickly get to your Favourites wherever you are and on all your devices. As more and more people use multiple devices - laptops, desktops, tablets, smartphones - this really makes sense.
So, if you see something at work you want to listen when you are at home, simply log in, click the "+" button next to the item, and quickly find it again via Favourites later.
Over time this feature will become widely available on all radio pages.
Discover more great content
With this beta release, we have made listening live extremely prominent (most online streaming is to live radio, not on-demand), creating a large space where we will progressively enhance the live experience.
Currently we are offering just the basics around the on-air programme and what's coming up next, but in the future we will use this space to surface more relevant content and context, whether that's related links or audio clips, archive content, live video, audience feedback or synchronous programme information.
The live tab offers information and content that enhances the live experience.
Alongside listening live, we're using a "tabbed" approach to present a wider range of content to users in a digestible manner. By having separate tabs which you can click though, we can expose content grouped by, for example, genre (e.g. Radio 4 comedy), automation (e.g. Popular Shows) or by editorial curation (e.g. Highlights).
In line with the BBC's four screen strategy, to allow access to BBC Radio when and where you want, we are working to make the new station homepages work in a responsive manner across desktop and tablets, regardless of screen size. By "responsive", I mean that the homepages will detect and adapt to the particular device you access them on, giving you the optimum size and format for the screen you are using.
Unlike the new TV channels sites, for now we have taken the decision to offer different views of the station sites for mobiles (from the same code base) to ensure that as many mobile devices can quickly access BBC Radio on the go as possible. We work closely with the TV & iPlayer team, so will learn from what they are doing with a fully responsive design for the future.
Let us know what you think
Lastly, and most importantly, we want to hear from you with your thoughts on the new station homepages. You can complete a survey, send us an email (email@example.com ), comment below, tweet with the hashtag #bbcradiobeta or use our Feedback page.
Screenshot of Radio 3 Station Homepage on an iPad oriented in Portrait
Chris Kimber is Executive Product Manager for the Radio and Music product
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