New Beta Homepages for Radio Stations

Monday 11 June 2012, 18:00

Chris Kimber Chris Kimber Executive Product Manager

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Index cards stuck on a grid attached to a transparent wall. They all sit in the column saying

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.

Menubar, showing Radio (Beta: What's new?), and Stations | Categories | Programme Finder | Schedule | Favourites

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.

Promo image with the favourites

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.

Radio 2 homepage, showing live tab

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).

Responsive pages

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 (radiobetafeedback@bbc.co.uk ), comment below, tweet with the hashtag #bbcradiobeta or use our Feedback page.

Radio3 homepage on iPad in portrait - showing how content boxes rearrange to suite the orientation, from a column on the right hand side to a row on the bottom.

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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Comments

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 1.

    Awful.
    I didn't think you could make it slower to find a "podcast" for a particular programme, but how wrong I was. It was fairly quick a year or so back, but then it got a little fiddly - needed to find the podcast link, then had to re-sort the list, then hunt. But at least there were lots of programmes per page. Now, play hunt the podcast link (not easy now, so gave up and went via the programme itself). Then click on the alphabet link for the programme. Then page through the lists (only one column per page), in my case four times. Then found the programmes page. What was once a few clicks and a few seconds is now, well I lost count quite frankly.
    Why don't you get people to try out the pages, by actually using them, before release?
    Madness.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 2.

    ^ There's always one... Just scroll down and click the BIG button that says Downloads. Sites look good. Some issues with linking to programmes, but just seems to be a URL thing (they go to beta.)
    Definitely a step in the right direction

  • rate this
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    Comment number 3.

    Was this exciting new development responsible for the virtual shutting down of the iPlayer Desktop downloading system?

    Why can't the BBC finish the software they have before launching a completely new beta system to do things nobody ever wanted?

    I for one am quite happy using iPlayer to listen to the few remaining quality radio programmes available from the BBC. Do we really need another new way to slow our browsing down?

    If it aint broke don't fix it! Also, if it IS broken, (*) PLEASE DO FIX IT.

    Can someone not go back and undo whatever they did at the end of last week?

    PLEASE..!?!?

    (*) = It really is very broken again.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 4.

    What a mess the new site is. It is hard to navigate, trying to find a programme to listen again is near impossible, why do we keep getting constant changes if the site works for most people why waste valuable recourses constantly changing it. I keep hearing the bbc needs to save money but it seems to me an awful lot is being spent on change for changes sake. I have no doubt I'll eventually get the hang of it (if I can be bothered to waste hours of my time) just for some clown to change it again to be 'trendy'

  • rate this
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    Comment number 5.

    Looks like the /programmes (and schedule) related links aren't working properly on the beta sub-domain. For example http://beta.bbc.co.uk/radio4/programmes/schedules/fm is redirecting to http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes which is rather unhelpful.

    In terms of the new beta radio sites I think they're a great improvement on the previous version. The navigation is now much easier to understand and looks better laid out. I think the station logo on each page could be enlarged, perhaps by removing 'BBC Radio' from the graphic, as after all this is already present above it on the page.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 6.

    Dreadful!!!

    I either listen live to radio5 or go to demand a programme from radio4(extra). Now I can't find the schedue for any of the stations. Click schedule, and you get a list of the programmes alphabetically.

    WHAT was wrong with the previous version? BBC IT guys run out of work or something?

  • rate this
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    Comment number 7.

    Err, yeah, can't get to the Radio 4 Schedule from the Radio 4 homepage #fail

  • rate this
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    Comment number 8.

    @6 & @7: The problem with the schedule lies with how /programmes is set up to process URLs when running on the beta sub-domain. For whatever reason when on the beta sub-domain instead of mirroring it redirects to the main site without copying the rest of the URL across.

    In fairness to Chris and his team the programme schedules do load correctly on the 'other' sub-domain, which they tested their design on before they moved it to the beta sub-domain. Fingers crossed radio can have words with the relevant people and get this resolved quickly, as it's a big inconvenience.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 9.

    @8: OK, fair dinkum. Maybe make the 'Return to current Homepage' link a bit more obvious whilst you're ironing things out..?

  • rate this
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    Comment number 10.

    hello,
    some brief answers to comments so far...

    @Keith, @My Say, @pard0e: You are right, we have an issue with /programmes beta domain, which means that some links are not working as they should. In particular, the links to station schedules and categories are not taking you to the correct pages. The good news is that we have a fix planned which will (hopefully) resolve this problem very soon (today).

    @Squirrel: no, the radio beta has absolutely nothing to do with any issues with the iPlayer desktop system. I suggest you look at the iPlayer Help site and then report the problem here: http://iplayerhelp.external.bbc.co.uk/help/downloading/

    @Vanlyden: could you be more specific about the problems you are having? Why are you finding it difficult to find a programme? Have you tried typing the name of the programme into the Programme Finder?

    @RedwoodRon: have you tried clicking the big "Downloads" button towards the bottom of the new station homepages? It takes you directly to the station specific area of our Podasts directory

  • rate this
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    Comment number 11.

    Quick update: the problem with the links to schedules and categories (etc) not working properly has now been resolved, which means for example if you are on the Radio 4 beta site (http://beta.bbc.co.uk/radio4) and you click on "Schedule" in the top navigation bar, you will be taken straight to the Radio 4 schedule.

    Apologies for this problem, but glad we've got it sorted quickly!

  • rate this
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    Comment number 12.

    I am on this page http://www.bbc.co.uk/asiannetwork/latest-programmes and I click on stations , I get re-directed to http://beta.bbc.co.uk/radioscotland .

  • rate this
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    Comment number 13.

    Not sure if it's intentional or another 'beta sub-domain' related problem but the new local radio sites aren't loading. For example typing beta.bbc.co.uk/radiocambridgeshire is redirecting to the local news site, instead of displaying the new beta version of the site.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 14.

    There seems to be a fashion for updating perfectly functional websites with heavyweight Ajax / javascript based dynamic updates.

    While this could be great, I have yet to see an implementation that actually improves the end-user experience. Most of the BBC updates have, while making the sites look prettier and more "iPad" have the effect of making them harder to navigate and slower to load (not to mention less robust).

    It's not just the BBC, either. This is becoming endemic. The update to the Met office site is positively shocking. Looks very pretty, but is a major step backwards in terms of user experience.

    Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 15.

    Never bothered much with the station homepages before as they were a bit of a mess but these are wildly superior both in terms of appearance and functionality. Might start using them now. Ta.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 16.

    Ah, just found a problem. Listen Live launches the Radioplayer. I'd rather just listen in the tab if you don't mind. Cheers.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 17.

    I think it shows the attitude of certain parts of the BBC to English local radio that you have ignored that sector entirely - if you'd really converted most of the BBC's radio stations to new homepages, you'd have to have worked on the local stations.

    As it is, it doesn't look like you've covered most BBC stations at all - none of the English local radio pages have a new look homepage. In fact, bizarrely, none of them have an "old-look" home page either, just a page of news headlines.

    Why on Earth don't local BBC stations have their own station homepage, and relevant webpages? It is crazy that a BBC local station no longer has even a perfunctory dedicated web presence.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 18.

    @17: From what I've seen they are converted, they're just not currently available on the beta.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 19.

    @Ivan - thanks! Glad you like them. I hear your comment about listening in the page, it's something we're discussing

    @NottinghamFlorist: Radio Norfolk is available now, and pages for the other local radio stations will be available soon. We have definitely not ignored local radio, just doing a phased roll-out. http://www.bbc.co.uk/radionorfolk/

    @Eponymous Cowherd: could you be more specific about the navigation problem you mention?

  • rate this
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    Comment number 20.

    Great to see sign-in and favourites, but the latter currently shows a listing different to that selected via iPlayer. There must be a full alignment between the two.

    Russ

 

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