2012 on the Internet blog

Saturday 22 December 2012, 16:00

Eliza Kessler Eliza Kessler Content Producer

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Hi I joined the Internet blog as the content producer in November.

There is a distinct feel of Christmas in the air in our office today and as this will be the last blog post of the year I thought it would be a good place to do a quick 2012 round up, Clive James style (without the jokes).

So here is a look at some of our most popular posts as well as some of the topics that have got our audience talking. It would be impossible to cover everything and sorry to any loyal and enthusiastic blogger who hasn't got a mention here.

First off, no one could avoid the Olympics this year (believe me I tried), including the blog. We had a great series of posts on the BBC's role in the coverage of what was hailed by many as the first 'truly digital Olympics'.

24 streams of Olympics

The Story of the Digital Olympics by Cait O'Riordan attracted an audience of 27, 480 users to date. For me one of the key insights gleaned from this post is the incredible speed with which users are able to adapt to new technology and tools to get the maximum personal enjoyment out of the content that appeals to them:

Audiences quickly grew accustomed to being able to switch between up to 24 streams. In between the peaks of Team GB medal moments, our data clearly shows people moving across streams to check out a whole host of different events. For example, around 6pm on Saturday 4th, audiences finished watching GB Gold in Women's Team Pursuit Cycling on stream 7 to take a look at the end of Brazil v Honduras in the football on stream 6, before switching back to stream 7 as the cycling action kicked off again.

The post also offered some valuable insights into the way that BBC audiences consume content on different devices.

The post Olympics: User and Design was shared over 1000 times (which we think is a record number of shares for the blog) Nick Haley explains:

Shaping, structuring and arranging Olympic content for many different contexts and devices was a big challenge but hopefully the end result is an overall experience that feels joined up and cohesive, and most importantly something that you enjoy using. I also hope I've been able to shed some light on the design process involved in the first truly digital Olympics.

Some of our most popular posts of the year were related to BBC iPlayer.

iPlayer app on your mobile

BBC iPlayer: iPhone app & 3G streaming by David Madden continues to generate traffic a year after going live on 12 December 2011 and has now been viewed nearly 100,000 times.

In the first three months this post received 123 comments. The long tail traffic for this post as well as the level of debate generated on this as well as our other posts dealing with Android indicate that this is a hot topic for the readers of the blog. The frustration of some is clear:

Icono wrote: While your goal of having one universal app which also runs on old 2.x versions is commendable, it seems to be doing little more than diminishing the experience for more modern devices (which probably have the highest consumption rate of the app) since the Adobe Air framework imposes its own limitations.
Kevin Chadwick wrote : Flash was the obvious choice for cross platform at the time of iplayers design, but the landscape even within adobe has changed with linux and android flash updates now set to a 5 years maximum. It would be good if the BBC moved all their services onto HTML 5 video and dumped flash.

For the latest on the BBC's approach to this read Dave Price's post and his latest comments as well as Rory Cellan Jones' interview with Daniel Danker.

Elsewhere on iPlayer there was the launch of the (hugely popular) Live Restart function as blogged about by Henry Webster as well as the new iPlayer Radio on PC and mobile which was introduced by Andrew Scott. The User Experience and Design team chimed in with a video post on how they developed the product.

Blogs about BBC Sport products and updates also attracted a lot of attention. Launching the new BBC Sport website by Cait O'Riordan was commented on 164 times, showing the huge level of anticipation around this relaunch.

Rhythm of sport on the BBC Sport site

A follow up blog by Scott Byrne-Fraser, creative director of Future Media User Experience and Design which went into the redesign in much greater detail was commented on 244 times, further emphasising the high expectations BBC users have for this product.

It also gave a chance for dedicated users to take part in a dialogue with the people directly involved in building these products:


bezbarber wrote: in terms of user experience did you look at how easy it was to read the horribly cramped headlines? Please make the middle column wider so they are readable.

Scott Byrne-Fraser replied: @bezbarber: The usability of the homepage and sports indexes was tested. The feedback in the earlier rounds indicated that the pages were too long, so the amount of content on the pages was reduced and simplified to help people find the content they were looking for.

The blog featured an on-going series of posts about BBC Connected Studios from a range of contributors. These gave a really good overview of the different ideas and innovations rumbling away under the surface of the BBC.

Personally I find it fascinating hearing about the new ideas coming out of these workshops and events. I look forward to reading more about what they get up to in 2013 when we hopefully start to see some of these pilots launched as new functions and products across the BBC.

Major changes were made to BBC Red Button this year which were introduced by Daniel Danker in his blog post:

Red Button might have started simplistically as a way for the BBC to provide audiences with instant, highly relevant information right on the TV [ ...] But while some might have expected Red Button to slowly be replaced with the web across an assortment of devices, no one would deny that the simplicity and ease of Red Button is as important today as when it was first introduced. So rather than anticipate a transition away from Red Button, at the BBC we're bringing the very best of Red Button together with the very best of BBC Online, to reinvent the experience on any screen.

Tom Williams gave us some more detail about how and why this is being done:

On 15th October the video component of BBC Red Button on Sky, FreeSat and Virgin Media will be reduced from five to one stream, bringing it in line with our Freeview offer. We are doing this because these services rely entirely on linear broadcast technologies, which are not cost-effective for an interactive service like the red button.

While towards the end of the year the launch of Connected Red Button on Virgin TiVo was welcomed by some, but not so much by others:

ChrisCornwall wrote: Good move, but also concerned at the target launching. I would expect the Corporation to have a broad range of release platforms at the start, even if this means delaying launches to accommodate this.
Expect more posts in the new year about the release on other platforms.


This was the year when BBC Online went responsive with sites relaunched throughout the year. Designer Ste Everington blogged about responsive design for the new TV Channel Homepages:

To achieve a truly consistent experience across all devices we opted for responsive web design - a single code base with an optimised layout for the device or screen size you're viewing it on. While the idea of fluid websites is nothing new, the way in which we design them is rapidly evolving. In our research phase we quickly noticed that the majority of good examples are mainly blogs and news websites.

Interaction and layout changes for browser orientation for channel homepages

Lucie Mclean updated us on the responsive Sports sites:

Pages are assembled on our platform using PHP. The PHP or page assembly layer obtains all the data it needs for the final page by calling several RESTful services (for stats, stories, live event updates) before serving the final, complete page to the audience. Since we assemble a single page for each request it also means that we become extremely cacheable and can benefit from efficient serving of pages using Varnish and Content Delivery Networks in order to reduce the load on our own servers.

While Dan Forys blogged about the new One Response Barlesque which will work across all BBC sites.

And finally, we may live in a high tech world of fast-pace technological change and adaption, but some things will never alter: we are all still obsessed with the weather.

New 10 day forecast on BBC Weather

Some of the most popular blogs for 2012 were about the changes made to the BBC Weather pages. Jo Wickremasinghe, head of product for BBC Weather in BBC Future Media blogged three times for us this year reflecting a number of changes to the service from an easier user experience for localisation, an extended 10 day forecast and a more granular approach to the service.

Let's hope it will predict a good festive season and we can all get home ok!

That's it from the blog. Comments will be closed for the festive period, reopening again in January 2013.

Have a great holiday and a very merry new year - see you all in 2013!

Eliza Kessler is the content producer on the BBC Internet blog.

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