BBC News website redesign

Wednesday 14 July 2010, 06:15

Erik Huggers Erik Huggers Director of Future Media & Technology

Today sees the launch of the redesigned BBC News website. This is the first major part of the BBC website to have implemented our new online design guidelines, known as global visual language. My colleague Steve Herrmann in News has blogged in detail today about the improvements - and I hope you'll like them - but I wanted to reflect on why this moment isn't just important to the News website but to BBC Online as a whole.

This is part of an ongoing process to make BBC Online feel like one coherent service, rather than a disjointed collection of websites, which is greater than the sum of its parts.

Our aim is more than making a website easy on the eye; a good user-experience is essential to making the site easy to use, and most importantly to make it easy to find what you want to look at quickly.

This has been a major engineering project for the Future Media and Technology Division and I believe it's a great example of engineering and design working hand in glove with editorial - a way of working that I talked about at the Media Guardian Changing Media Summit earlier this year. To give an example we have improved the content management system, which will make it easier for journalists to upload their story and add video and pictures to it more quickly and gives them better control of the layout. My colleagues who have worked on this will be revealing some of their thinking in a blog later in the week.

As we infuse the new global design through BBC Online we will also be reflecting the plans laid down in Putting Quality First, the strategic review that is underway across the whole BBC. We will look at each component part of the whole Online service through three lenses; first, the degree to which it delivers our public purposes; second, the degree to which it fits our editorial priorities; and third, like any other BBC service, how it scores in terms of reach, quality, impact and value. As you may have read last week the BBC Trust agreed in principle to our plans in this area.

The News website is one of the fewer web properties we'll focus on in future. We have also set ourselves a target to double external linking and news is a big part of this story. A recent report on paidcontent shows we have a good foundation to build on this as in the UK outside of search engines the BBC is the top site delivering readers to UK commercial newspaper websites through our existing external links. But we can do more still.

Image showing BBC News linking to external sites

In addition we are also introducing to news the results of partnerships with social networks, improving the way users can share and recommend content on other platforms with their friends.

The new BBC News site allows sharing and recommending content on other platforms with friends
All that remains to say today is enjoy using the News site and do let us know on the various blogs posted, what you think of it. I know you've already been asking a few questions about some of the technical aspects of the design such as the search function and our plans for HTML5 and colleagues are on the case with answering those points already.

Erik Huggers is Director of BBC Future Media & Technology


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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Redesigned? I brought up the page and thought there had been a fault on the system. There wasn't anything really wrong with the old one - I found it a lot easier on the eye than the new one!

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Why so much wasted space down the side? Scroll scroll scroll. Preffered the old design.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    The new site is appalling. Did the design team really think it was an improvement? Did you ask any members of the licence fee paying public? I use the site several times a day and delve fairly deep into it so I'm not just reacting to a 'change', it really is terrible. The reasoning that it will make the family of BBC websites more coherent is rubbish as the News Site could be stand alone as its much more valuable to people than the rest of the BBC content pages...

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Very disappointed by the new design. The old design was perfectly fit for the function it has. It's good to see full XHTML validation this time around but the design looks less worked on that the old one.

    Don't fix what is not broken they say, nobody was complaining about the old design, why spend money in changing it. Sure it might match more other BBC sites design however it is going to annoy a lot of user and the news website will probably even lose some recurring visitors because of this. Users like to know where things are, now we have to look for what we want, it is frustrating and the result is not guaranteed.

    Big website should think more before they go and change a design and more importantly should communicate with their community of users to work out how to improve the user experience.

    BBC didn't and as you can see so far we have still to see a positive comment about the new design.

    There is also a lack of javascript consistency on the website. Some input elements type text have all a default value, however some of them the default value disappear on focus, on others it only change colour and goes away after you type few letters. The later effect looks poor as you can type up to 3 letters on top of the default text before it disappear which is just plain annoying.

    BBC should consider reversing to the old news site.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    I loved the old design but I don't like this one. There is no visual hierarchy to the new design (A guide to visual hierarchy if any one is interested:

    Looking at the current news page the Major manhunt for Afghan soldier headline is obviously the most important story but what's next? Watch/Listen and Features & Analysis seem to be next. But they aren't in a location that suggests they are important. And surely on news should be more important!

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Does this relaunch mark the beginning of the end for sub-domains as part of making the site "feel like one coherent service". The only major aspect I'm not so keen on is the news article text being narrower in width, with the new gap reserved for graphics and other clips.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Very difficult to read the dark blue bold font in Chrome, which appears fuzzy and tight. It is not so bad in Firefox or IE. With the greater emphasis on images and the more cluttered look, it is almost impossible to scan for points of interest with Chrome. Irrespective of the browser there is no focal point other than the main article, which is why it looks cluttered and confusing.

    Moving the main menu links to the top is an improvement but losing the page scaling is a big step back. I know the budget for the web site has decreased but does the page size really need to hit in these days of wide screen monitors?

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    On this page, an example of BBC's new blogpage style, links, whether in bold or non-bold type, are in a colour discernibly different to the black of running text - the link colour being what I would call a 'medium' blue. The distinction between link and non-link text is adequate.

    On older-style blog pages, and on the new BBC News website, the link colour is in a much darker Prussian blue. Browser rendering differences aside, this is perhaps not quite so much a problem when in large bold font, but for smaller non-bold text, such a colour is not readily distinguishable from running text. I find I have to scrub the screen with a mouse to find such links - not very ergonomic! (And I have good colour sight.)

    Admittedly, this blue link issue might be less of a problem on an LCD screen, whose colours tend, typically, to be less saturated than those on a CRT. Nevertheless, there remains an inconsistency across the BBC on the link colour strategy.

    Look at the blues used by the old masters Google and Microsoft. They have thought about this problem and refined their practice over many years.


  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    The Beeb has taken a retrograde step with the new format. The page has now stretched out and quick reviews of the highlights can no longer be easily achieved. I for one am likely to move to some other home page for news scanning rather than suffer this new format

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    The ceasing of the URL is a real pain. It was one of the few URLs that our company's firewall didn't block, and was great to look at over lunchtime and during breaks. All URLs are blocked and will stay blocked, so 120,000 staff at one of the country's biggest banks now cannot access the BBC news website. Thanks a lot BBC for consulting your users before implementing this decision.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    If I am not mistaken, your Global Visual Language v2.0 has been out for a while, and was the benchmark behind the recent (last year or so) homepage, iPlayer and main BBC website redesign.

    This redesign included the BBC news section?

    This new design moves away from this standard, without the standard masthead?!

    Stick to your rules, and if it ain't broke...

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    It's infuriating how awful the new website is. Stunningly awful. I'm saying this as someone who, when I saw the last new BBC design, declared "the BBC are God" - the customisable home page, modular look and iGoogle inspired, but unique feel of the site were magnificent, innovative, and close to perfect. Usability, flexibility and style were married in a beautiful design that could easily have lasted another 5 years - it was that far ahead of everyone else.

    The new design, unfortunately, has nothing at all to recommend it. It's a pathetic clone of vulgar, tabloid style news sites.

    Even the most basic usability considerations have been completely messed up. No navigation on the side - instead, limited, two layer navigation horizontally across the top. What a mistake. When I first saw it, I was convinced that the website had accidentally assumed my PC was a mobile phone, not just because of the awful, netbook screen width / iPhone optimised appearance, but because it said "mobile" next to BBC News. It took me four visits, trying to find the proper website, before I realised the word "mobile" was meant to be a link. (A link that is not underlined and looks as if it is a tagline? Have you ever heard of usability at all? Jacob Nielsen? Jack Krug? Do your homework! Read their books!)

    The pages themselves are vertically longer, but without a sense of order or hierarchy. It feels like someone threw bits and bobs randomly on a vertical page, rather than offering ordered and clear routes of navigation.

    Fewer articles are listed. The entire website appears to be suggesting "we're reducing the amount of journalism and content, and trying to hide this by putting more whitespace and larger fonts on the site under the banner of improvement"

    So, the sense of order is gone. The usability has gone to pots. The entire thing feels like the sort of layout a magazine feature article in a second rate celebrity rag might get away with, but not a web page. (How far down do you expect people to scroll? Has some manager / moron come up with the idea of moving main navigational tools "below the fold" in order to force people to scroll down? Has anyone told them that no, people will simply get frustrated and stop using the site rather than allow themselves to be "nudged" into accepting longer, less structured pages?)

    As web user, I have sort of come to expect big websites to change, and occasionally, change disastrously. Facebook is busy shafting its users on privacy settings every other month. Even Google almost messed up the otherwise excellent Gmail product by trying to twitterify it with "Buzz" - and Google Wave turned out to be a bit of a red herring. It's been a source of some comfort and pleasure to know that the BBC has not mis-stepped majorly in its redesigns and improvements. It had become an anchor of quality on the web (not of stability - the BBC was always at the leading edge of web quality). Now that anchor has been discarded and the BBC is freefalling into sub-mediocrity with its web design.

    Honestly, if the BBC ever did a survey and asked "where should we make cutbacks? Whom should we fire?", the web design team has just moved from the very last place I would vote for, to the very first.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    I don't like the new look either. It's just soft and sprawling - the old design was much tighter and focussed, and the wide panel on the right wastes a lot of space and has greater prominence than the news (let me just check I'm not looking at the main BBC website).

    In contrast, there is an ultra-compact navbar which, with its narrow font (why is the date and time so compact as to be barely legible?) and compressed elements contrast sharply with the rest of the page. And it worked perfectly well down the left hand side before - as did the previous design.

    As ever, committees decide we need more of this and more of that and how can we squeeze more in and must fill our quota of external links and because the font's bigger we'll have to make the pictures smaller and we'll have a meaningful name like "global visual language" that sounds important but actually means nothing.

    So thumbs down from here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    "This is part of an ongoing process to make BBC Online feel like one coherent service..."


    You can't be serious? From a design / page structure perspective the home page caries no similarity at all to the News website, which (now with the redesign) carries no similarity to the Sport site.

    Users less accustomed to would be forgiven for thinking the three parts mentioned above were not connected at all apart from the logo in the top left corner!

    Global Visual Language my arse!

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Some constructive improvements if you are keeping this design.

    On "Watch/Listen" what is the design decision behind having the transparent previous next buttons. The play button confuses the next button, muddying the interface. The horizontal line at the base ruins the aesthetic. Just keep it solid, and vertically center the arrows!

    In the content area:
    - The 'Also in the News' headings. Remove the bottom line, it segments and confuses. Surely the horizontal rules should be used to dictate blocks of content, not needlessly segment them.
    - Increase the line width, there is no need for the white space for an increased vertical height.
    - Move "From other news sites" and similar blocks to the sidebar, reducing the vertical height.
    - Under blockquotes, what are those links, whats the relationship between them and the article.
    - Move "Democracy Live" to the right sidebar, decreasing the vertical height of the page.

    Video Player Pages
    - The grid of videos by category - Could this not be presented more efficiently. Tab based interface perhaps?

    - The 'more' drop down needs a white border on the bottom edge. On an article detail page it clashes into the grey sidebar.
    - The mobile text should read 'mobile version'

    What happened to paragraphs. This is almost single lines throughout. Is this a standard? (

    I'm gonna stop, I'm boring myself..

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    The color red is confusing--too similar to CNN--and too much of it. Navigationally, I could navigate easier with the old design that showed the geographical areas and topics on the left hand side bar. In the former design, the lead photo and article were more eye-catching and compelling--really drew the reader into the site. Now it looks more like a hodge-podge list of topics, like a gargantuan Chinese menu. Most people I know in America just loved the (former) site. On the other hand, Web sites can't stand still, and I'm sure readers with more experience in design will point out the many excellent new features, which I look forward to exploring.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Thank you for your comments and questions. I know some of you have also commented on Steve Herrmann’s post on the Editor's Blog. Steve will be addressing many of your questions in his next blog.

    There is a frequently asked questions page which you may also find useful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Paul Sissons, the creative director of the BBC News redesign project has posted on the Internet Blog explaining how and why some of the design decisions were made.


  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Steve Hermann has responded to some of your feedback on The Editors Blog

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    I don't bother to comment often, or at all, but as a daily visitor to the BBC NEWS I found the old design easier to scan, see the news, and pick what news I want to read. The new design doesn't work for me, and I'm a graphic designer. There's too much scrolling around, to much eye movement all over the page. The old news site had everything sitting right in front of you and more orderly. It worked in my opinion.


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