Hi, I’m Kutlu Canlıoglu, Creative Director for TV&iPlayer.

Over the last year we’ve been redesigning BBC iPlayer across all platforms. And on Tuesday of last week a public preview of the new iPlayer on the web and connected TV platforms was released. I wanted to share some of the thinking that went into the redesign.

Our goal was to create an improved and more coherent user experience across the different applications that deliver the BBC iPlayer service. As part of the redesign, we’re replacing three different websites we’ve been maintaining for mobiles, tablet devices and desktop computers with a single responsive website. We’re also rolling out a new TV app for connected TVs and consoles that support HTML, which will eventually replace the two different apps we currently support on TVs. And over the coming months, our native apps for mobile and tablet devices will be adopting the new UI framework, patterns and functionality inline with our new responsive website and TV app.

We had four key principles to help shape the design of the user experience across the platforms:

1. Simplify finding

2. Encourage discovery

3. Pave the way to a more personal iPlayer

4. Never a dead-end

Find/Discover

Finding something particular and discovering new programmes are the two main user activities on iPlayer.

We know from stats on our current desktop site that 58% of our users come to iPlayer with something particular in mind to watch. This ratio is even higher on mobile devices.

But there are around 1,200 hours of content available on BBC iPlayer at any one time, and this will increase as we extend the availability window from 7 days to 30 days (subject to approval from BBC Trust). So exposing the breadth of content available, without getting in the way of those users who have come with something specific in mind, was a key consideration.

Our approach to consistent use of the screen across different platforms for user needs

To achieve this on the new responsive website, we used the familiar carousel pattern to facilitate discovery, and supplemented it with a set of tools we refer to as the “find tools”.

The screen framework in use on the home page layout on computers

The find tools get you directly to what you’re looking for, but they minimise if you engage with the featured content in other parts of the page. Similarly, if you use the find tools, the featured content dims down to get out of your way.

On devices with smaller screens, we use a vertical scroll to support finding and discovery, with the find tools at the top of the screen to help get you straight to the programme you’re looking for if you already have one in mind.

The screen framework is adapted to better fit the key user needs on mobile devices

On our TV app, we use a similar framework to the desktop experience. The find tools are on the left, and if you’re here to browse the programmes, you can move horizontally to browse the best of and (previously) hidden gems on iPlayer.

iPlayer home screen on a connected TV app with a similar framework to a desktop computer

In the coming months, we’ll be integrating the new TV app into the Connected Red Button service. And we’ve been working closely with colleagues across the BBC to make sure there’s a joined up experience across the range of BBC TV apps.

Our aim is that once someone is using iPlayer on one device, they’ll be familiar with all instances of iPlayer across all their devices.

Discovery through Channels and Categories

Curated content from the BBC’s TV channels is a new feature we’re introducing as part of the redesign. Previously, the presence of channels in iPlayer was limited to browsing by the broadcast schedule. The new channel pages, with their strong branding, provide a destination where our editorial teams can showcase programmes from each channel, and surface content that is made available exclusively for iPlayer, or premiered on iPlayer first.

BBC ONE page on the new BBC iPlayer

They are also home to each channel’s live TV stream. Of course, we continue to offer the full schedule through our TV Guide, as well as channel-specific schedule pages.

Categories is another area where we’re making it easier to discover new content. We continue to offer the list view of everything in each category but you’ll also find a curated view of programmes you might not have known about.

Categories in the new iPlayer are a key part of the discovery experience

 

A more personal iPlayer

Helping users personalise iPlayer was a key goal of the redesign. You’ll find that favourites work similarly to how they work currently but with the bonus of a responsive approach: now, if you sign in to the site you’ll be able to get your favourites on your mobile and tablet devices as well. We’re also working hard to integrate signing in into our native mobile, tablet and TV apps so we can offer a seamless experience across the platforms.

We’ve also made “Recently Watched” easier to find. It gets a much more prominent place on both the responsive site and the TV app and provides a “warm trail” into programmes. We think of this as a form of “lazy favouriting”, and are working to improve this further so we can also use this space to surface new episodes of the things you’ve watched in the past.

The new BBC iPlayer home page with the Recently Watched area open showing three programmes

 

The redesign also paves the way for the future development of a much more personal iPlayer. So, for example, we’ve recently prototyped incorporating personalised recommendations based on programmes you’ve watched and your favourites into the browsing experience.

Never a dead-end

When approaching the playback page, we had to keep in mind the fact that user needs change throughout the watching experience.

Since a majority of our users currently use iPlayer to catch-up with the latest episodes of programmes they follow, most journeys in the new iPlayer are biased towards getting users to the latest episode as quickly as possible. So the first user need on the playback page is to establish that this is the right episode, and if not, to get you to the episode you’re looking for. To aid this we list all available episodes directly below the programme information of the episode you’re on.

Similarly on TV, when the programme starts playing, the playback controls are briefly displayed in their expanded state, exposing the long description of the episode, to help you make sure you’re on the correct episode. And, if you’re not, you can access all other episodes to the left of the programme information.  

 

Playback controls on the connected TV app include an easy way to get to other episodes

During playback the UI dims down if you’re watching embedded on a web page, or disappears completely in full-screen mode. On the TV app, you can still browse iPlayer while the programme you’re watching continues playing in the background – an experience users will be familiar with from our red button service.

At the end of the programme, we display the next episode if it’s already available, and give you recommendations for other relevant programmes.

The More Programmes panels open automatically at the end of playback

 

Similarly, while you’re browsing a category, if you haven’t found anything that takes your fancy, we give you a link to the full listing of that category, as well as links to other categories if you want to skip to another genre.

 

End of the Highlights category on the new iPlayer with onward journeys

And if you’ve searched for something and it’s no longer available on BBC iPlayer, we’ll give you a link to the programme website so you can find out if it’s coming back on air and to iPlayer.

Redesigning for new and existing users

An important part of any major redesign is getting it right for new and existing users.

For example, we knew that to provide a simpler interface that makes iPlayer as inclusive as possible for new users, we might need to move some of the features that existing users enjoy to a different part of the interface.

To get this right we have repeatedly user tested each change. And we’ve been pleased to see that existing users find them intuitive. We think this is for a few reasons: we’ve made sure users can still find what they’re looking for using routes they’re familiar with on the current iPlayer; we reused design patterns that are familiar from other parts of bbc.co.uk; and we’ve ensured that changes to the key part of the iPlayer experience, the new playback page, are straightforward and evolve from the current design.

Finally, one thing we haven’t changed. Users who’ve come to enjoy that little bit extra from iPlayer (and Spinal Tap fans) will be happy to see that, where operating systems allow, the new iPlayer’s volume controls still go up all the way to 11.

Redesigning BBC iPlayer has been a great experience. And I hope we’ve gone some way towards living up to the responsibility that comes with working on a service that’s enjoyed by so many people. You’ll see this is by no means an end but very much a starting point for iPlayer to evolve further in future.

I look forward to hearing what you think. You can use the survey we’ve created to capture your feedback, or post your comments to this post and I’ll do my very best to respond to you.

Thank you for reading.

Kutlu Canlıoglu, is Creative Director for TV&iPlayer, BBC Future Media

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  • Comment number 26. Posted by Karin

    on 27 Mar 2014 13:25

    Part 3 (of 3 :-) ):

    Downloads:

    This is still a disaster area. Please bring Windows (small 'portable' size) downloads that I can use on Windows Media Player! The iPlayer Desktop application has a long track record for crashing my PC. And storing libraries on the C: drive (with the programmes) is out of the question and your developers always seem to get the expiry date aspect wrong.

    My iPlayer viewing has been drastically cut back because my ISP cannot support everyone streaming concurrently. Without a reasonable downloads service (smaller non-proprietary, but still DRM-protected), I am often restricted to watching after 03:00 a.m.! All this tinkering with and destruction of the proprietary Desktop application is expensive. Leave (some of) the high development costs to deep-pocketed private companies like Microsoft (or possibly Google someday) who can more easily keep up the ever-growing range of hardware devices--a plus in these days of licence fee-squeezes and cuts.


    User Feedback and Statistics:

    I did get and complete yet another survey on the new design. Yet somehow I doubt you pay any attention to any of our feedback, unless we agree with you, of course. You and your colleagues always refer to 'statistics' but never seem to display them or explain how they are collected. Credibility found wanting, I'm afraid.

    I urge you to remember that the BBC's Charter is not that of the commercial channels. They can develop their players for narrow markets, but you cannot. Continuing to do so, turning off loyal viewers and listeners who are not in your own demographic, will only strengthen calls from those who want to away with the licence fee (and the independence) of the BBC.

    Sincerely,
    Karin

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  • Comment number 25. Posted by Karin

    on 27 Mar 2014 13:15

    Part 2:


    Tablet/Smartphone Design vs. PC/Desktop/Laptop Design:

    It is clear that you have made the new design exclusively for tablets and smartphones, possibly also for touchscreen PCs if they could support the sweeping action. On a standard PC, however, a sweep is replaced by MANY MANY CLICKS and VERY SLOW PAGE REFRESHES. Also, on larger screens, the images and fonts are SO LARGE with so much wasted black space. You currently support two designs before, one for smaller devices and another for larger screens. Why are you abandoning that?

    Are those of us who cannot afford the latest gizmo unworthy or unwanted by the BBC? It certainly has felt that way for the last couple years.


    Adaptive Bitrate Streaming:

    The one thing BBC did well was to support user-controlled (client-side) adaptive bitrate streaming over server-side. On the new TV iPlayer, after watching a programme, I had to reset it back to Lower Bandwidth after each programme/episode. Not good at all!

    With a poor Internet connection and the generally weak Internet infrastructure in the UK, it is highly irresponsible for networks and others to stream at super high speeds that very quickly max out what is available. My ISP can handle 500kbps (Low Bandwidth TV) from 03:00-10:00 weekends and until 15:00 weekdays.

    Also, for users who have to pay for their bits or have limits, the result is no control over their spending. Given your Charter and reach, the BBC should be setting an example here, not following the misguided commercial pack.

    Lastly, the application logic always seems to get it wrong--buffering is the sad order of the day. So the objective of an improved quality of service (QoS) is lost! Your live-streaming (server-side only) is out of the question for me. I would prefer buffering on pause (a la YouTube) brought back with user controlled bitrates (also a la YouTube). Sigh. Minimally, please ensure that the user can always control the bitrate. Ideally, this would be stored with my user profile, so I would not have to keep reloading pages when I launch my browser.

    Again, are those of us who cannot afford or cannot access the fastest broadband unworthy or unwanted by the BBC? It sure feels that way.

    Continued...

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  • Comment number 24. Posted by Karin

    on 27 Mar 2014 13:11

    I have tried the forthcoming TV iPlayer, hoping it would not be as bad as the recent Radio 'iPlayer' (re-designed Programmes pages actually). Here is my feedback (Part 1):


    Episode Page Screen Size:

    This was the one bright spot in the whole redesign. Larger unzoomed screen that adjusted when I resized the browser window was a great change. Now I can tuck iPlayer up in a corner and get some work done as well!


    Favourites:

    This is the closest admission I have seen yet that Favourites are not important to your teams. However, in the TV Beta, at least you demonstrated how false the Radio 'iPlayer' team's claims were that they could not be ported. All of my TV Favourites were ported from the existing database. However, the new design made it all but unusable. Are you trying to ensure users do not use Favourites? I still navigate the old Radio iPlayer Episode pages by using the iPlayer Search, e.g. http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/search?q=front+row&filter=radio
    And there are my old Favourites, as a proper carousel grouped as Expiring (by date and time), New (by date and time), and All (alphabetically)! I can actually Find what I want to watch and before it disappears (and stream Radio at 48kbps not 128kbps which my ISP doesn't support after 6 pm)! Remember making the Unmissable Unmissable--whatever happened to that vision?


    Categories & Discovering/Finding Content:

    The new categorisation on the home page is based on top-level (Genre) only. How on earth am I to discover a programme when presented with over 2,000 options?!?! The second (Format) level refinement allowed me to find Comedy -> Satire or Drama -> Crime for example, rather than the overload of Comedy and Drama, that just turns me away.

    And how are the first two letters of any Category (by expanding with More Categories) supposed to tell me anything?

    If you're committed to personalisation, why can it not save MY CATEGORIES like the current TV iPlayer does?

    I'm afraid I simply CANNOT FIND ANYTHING to listen to/watch unless I already know the title! I give up in frustration every time.

    Continued...

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  • Comment number 23. Posted by Anouj

    on 22 Mar 2014 12:53

    Firstly the website is not 'responsive', on my high res display there is huge black space on the sides of the screen and the images are tiny and my display isn't that high res either! Secondly use the bbc login to allow playback continuation no matter what device i'm on, so if i start playing on my phone, i can easily continue on the tv at the exact spot, on my tivo i can even launch youtube videos from the youtube app without the app even being open !

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  • Comment number 22. Posted by Tom

    on 21 Mar 2014 16:28

    Very good, one thing for now - you mention never a dead end? Please enable the carousel on the home page to actually carousel - at the moment, once you reach the end of the selection, you're stuck. I'm happy to go round and round again, that's the point of a carousel

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  • Comment number 21. Posted by Russ

    on 20 Mar 2014 14:32

    "the new iPlayer’s volume controls still go up all the way to 11"

    Not entirely true. For live radio programmes, clicking on the listen icon makes the pop-out console appear, whereas for non-live programmes, clicking on the icon transfers to the programme/episode page. Not a big issue in itself, but it has an unfortunate corollary for listen live, where the pop-out console is the only option, and its revised format now has only four volume settings, which I find too coarse.

    Russ

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  • Comment number 20. Posted by yrksvillan

    on 19 Mar 2014 23:45

    "Our goal was to create an improved and more coherent user experience across the different applications that deliver the BBC iPlayer service."

    You failed.

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  • Comment number 19. Posted by U13949110

    on 19 Mar 2014 12:04

    @ Kutlu, thanks for the partial response.

    What purpose does the 'recently watched' serve? Could it not be replaced with new/expiring episodes?

    What is a small percentage of users?

    How do you marry the objective of creating a more personalised iPlayer with trying to achieve a 'softer personalisation'? The two seem at odds to me.

    Please, please, please can you add the expiry time of programmes back in, it is impossible to plan watching without it as you have no idea when a programme will expire. This along with the lack of a favourites bar are the biggest features missing from the new iPlayer. It's not like you're lacking the room to incorporate them. Even add the favourites bar into a hidden drop down menu if you must hide it from the people who don't use it.

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  • Comment number 18. Posted by Nick Reynolds

    on 19 Mar 2014 09:26

    @lettice - re Chromecast - you may be interested in this blog post published this morning about BBC iPlayer on Chromecast.

    Thanks

  • Comment number 17. Posted by Kutlu

    on 19 Mar 2014 00:23

    @allitnil - with this release of iPlayer we aimed to improve the coherence of the experience across platforms. To get responsiveness beyond 1024 joined up across bbc.co.uk requires a much bigger piece of work across all the products.

    @colin - I’m sorry you’ve experienced technical issues. Could I ask you to contact the support team with details of the issue, the device and browser so we can look into?:
    https://iplayerhelp.external.bbc.co.uk/templates/bbciplayer/emailForms/emailPage

    @lettice - this blog is the best place to check for any updates from the product team on this.

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