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Bringing Together BBC's Corporate Websites

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Ian Hunter | 07:48 UK time, Monday, 5 December 2011

Today sees the launch of a refreshed version of our corporate websites, About the BBC, of which this blog is part. I have been leading the team who made the changes and I'd like to explain some of the thinking behind them.

The BBC has long had websites aimed at helping audiences and licence fee payers understand various aspects of what it does as an organisation. Some of these worked well and were well maintained, others had become out of date. In all, there were around fifty of them. The connections between them were very limited. There was nowhere to go to gain a broad understanding of how the BBC works or what it does. The sites varied enormously in look and feel.

The old homepages for the About the BBC and BBC Press Office websites

The old homepages for the About the BBC and BBC Press Office websites.

Earlier this year, we outlined the BBC's plans to reshape and rationalise BBC Online to create one cohesive service.

The task we set ourselves here was to improve the quality and coherence of the BBC's corporate online presence, and at the same time to make it much more cost effective.

Our solution: the new About the BBC Homepage, and Inside the BBC site

Our solution: the new About the BBC Homepage, and Inside the BBC site

When we analysed the sites we found they fitted within five broad categories. The new About the BBC, therefore, has five sections. They share a single design and navigation pattern:

Inside the BBC - for licence fee payers and anyone interested in the BBC, covering our history, programmes and services, how we are structured and the principles to which we work.

Media Centre - the latest announcements, programme information, media packs and statements from the BBC's press office.

Partners and Suppliers - providing information for people and companies who want to work with the BBC, become a supplier, or have a programme commissioned.

Careers - for people who want to get a job or work experience with the BBC, or find out about the training we offer.

Help and Feedback - bringing together advice on how to access and use our services, or how to give feedback on them.

In addition to bringing a number of sites into this framework, we have moved them into a single content management system, using common templates. This will radically reduce the editorial and technical costs of maintaining them.

We have also tried to make the site more compelling, accessible and understandable. Here, the main changes are:

  • A new homepage, linking the five sections, featuring the latest BBC news and directing visitors to areas of current interest

  • New unified navigation, with a roll over feature in the page header providing links to the full range of corporate sites
  • A focus on simplicity and clarity, with short explanations of the different sites and the use of images to aid navigation

  • Multimedia embedded across the site to bring variety and interest

  • Social media integration to enable our visitors to engage in conversation with and about the BBC should they choose to, links to some of our blogs and embedded Twitter feeds such as @bbcpress and @aboutthebbc

Creating a new corporate presence for the BBC is a gradual process. We are working with colleagues to migrate their sites into the new framework as they become due for a refresh. Many have moved today but this is not a "big bang". Others, like BBC Shows and Tours and BBC Supplying will move into the new look and feel over the coming months.

We hope you that the new corporate face of the BBC will help you find the information you need more easily, and provide a better account of how a complex organisation works and what it does. We would very much value your feedback, either here on this blog, or on Twitter to @aboutthebbc.

Ian Hunter is the Managing Editor, BBC Online

Related Links:

Erik Huggers: Reshaping BBC Online

Ralph Rivera: Connected storytelling - one service, ten products, four screens

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

  • Comment number 3.

    @1. Care to expand further as I cannot see what you mean.

  • Comment number 4.

    @OfficerDibble Thanks for posting a link here, but discussion around the BBC Homepage is off-topic on this blog. This post relates to the relaunch of the BBC's corporate websites, About the BBC.

    If you want to provide feedback on the design please go to the BBC Internet Blog

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2011/12/bbc_homepage_your_feedback_2.html

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 6.

    How does all this extra software design work save the BBC money exactly?

  • Comment number 7.

    Let us, who have been badly burnt on the new external homepage, hold fire on the re-ordering of the BBC's internal corporate website, and see what it actually does.

    If it can achieve the same or better functionality, stability and usability, yet run more efficiently and cheaper, I see nothing but good in this.

    If cuts must be made, and we can see what these are and mourn their loss and perhaps create substitutes where required in the new structure, then no real harm has been done. We can all help in the slimming process so that we are left with something that hits the budget, yet achieves as much as possible with what is left.

    If it is an exercise in restyling with the mentality of a teenager contemplating the coolest hairstyle, and the outcome is that it becomes a pig to find your way around, then we should condemn it, as the external homepage users have condemned the offering that went live last Wednesday.

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    Commenting on BBC website style is always like trying to hit a moving target, but I really like what you're doing here - it's easy to use, there's a compliant frame width, superfluous 'domain' graphics have been avoided, and the dropdown panel (what you call the 'roll over feature') in the header is excellent - congratulations to your designer for not succumbing to those nasty horizontal carousels, which seem to be afflicting other parts of the BBC at the moment.

    This marks the return of solid, reliable, classic BBC webdesign. Big thumbs up from me.

    Russ

  • Comment number 10.

    Very clean and nice pages. Please send your crew down the corridor to redesign the new BBC homepage, it appears the team from channel4.com have hacked bbc.co.uk.

  • Comment number 11.

    Dear BBC, what is now the new GEL masthead, the white one on the homepage of BBC Online or the dark one on your corporate websites? This is not a uniformed approach at all.

  • Comment number 12.

    I found a wrong link.
    On the Help&Feedback subsection, if you click the Complaints link you go to http://faq.external.bbc.co.uk/questions/contact/complaint and not to the complaints page

  • Comment number 13.

    I hope that the "search by category" improves for the press office site. It used to have a menu that helped you find info directly.

  • Comment number 14.

    I think the new website is terrible, I am one who can move with the times but this change is appalling. If you can explain how this saves cost that would be excellent, however your explanation has as much clarity as the new website. Do you munderstand my comments, No -and I don't understand the BBCs logic. 0/10

  • Comment number 15.

    Can you please go back and publish ALL the list of Transmitter issues in Reception rather than using the terrible reception tool, which invariably refers to the incorrect transmitter once all the questions are answered. A simple list answers all the issues that can possibly be asked.

    It's too damn clever for purpose.

  • Comment number 16.

    It appears to me to be far too inward looking and self congratulatory. Where is consideration for your ultimate client, the licence fee payer, who do not appear to have been acknowledged at all in this rushed rash of redesign across your web pages.

  • Comment number 17.

    "There was nowhere to go to gain a broad understanding of how the BBC works or what it does."

    why would the BBC feel a need to explain itself to its users (owners!!)? as long as you kept delivering, nobody seemed concerned. different now, though.

    "The sites varied enormously in look and feel."

    what's wrong with that? variety, proverbially, is the spice of life. Radio4 is enormously different from Radio5 Live, will you be trying to make the same too?

    I feel this whole re-working of the BBC's online presence is purely driven by cost considerations and egos. I second comment 16.

  • Comment number 18.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 19.

    After reading all the BBC press and various posting / blogs from the BBC staff, I would like to paraphrase it into the following short sentence.

    "The BBC can do what ever we like, and if you complain we will remove all links to previous complaints so it looks like no one is complaining!"

  • Comment number 20.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 21.

    Might be worth someone updating this blog's headers to bring it inline with the new /aboutthebbc header & navigation.

  • Comment number 22.

    Thank you for these comments. I'd like to respond to some of them, in order:

    #6 asks how these changes save money. The answer is that providing technical support for multiple content management systems is more expensive than supporting one, bigger, system. Similarly, a single approach to adding editorial content means fewer people can work across more sites rather than needing to learn a different system for each site. The cost of moving onto these central systems is outweighed by the savings in maintenance costs. It also becomes much cheaper to refresh corporate sites because they can use existing templates and processes.

    #11 asks if the toolbar, or masthead, on the new homepage is planned to become standard across the site. The answer is that it is, but this will take some time to roll out.

    #16 accuses us of being inward looking and self congratulatory. I accept that the site is inward looking, but fear this may be inevitable in a corporate site which is designed to provide a guide to the BBC as an institution. We've tried to make the tone friendly and accessible, but I can understand that this won't appeal to all.

    #19 suggests that the BBC feels it can do whatever it likes. I think the position is more complicated than this. Decision makers in the BBC weigh a wide range of evidence. Comments and complaints are a useful, and salutary, guide to the mood of our users. We read them, value them and respond to them. However, our services frequently have hundreds of thousands, or millions, of users and they can only be one source of information. Our job is to do the best job we can for all licence fee payers, and sometimes this means taking decisions which are not immediately popular.

    Finally, #20 reminds me, quite rightly, that we've still got a long way to go!

  • Comment number 23.

    Dear Ian Hunter,

    Thanks for your response. I was one of the people asking about the new masthead. I understand that introducing a new masthead takes time, but I would have thought that a new launch would be the ideal time to implement it.

  • Comment number 24.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 25.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 26.

    I fully understand what you're trying to achieve and accept the reasoning behind it. However, by making such substantial changes to possibly the most significant Website in the world (Social Media sites excepted) a stunning incompetence has been demonstrated. The homepage, which ties everything together is a PR disaster in the making. Removing a core capabilty (customisation), failing to test on all possible platofrms and failing to understand your core audience are very fundamental errors. The biggest error is to launch an incomplete site - mention of further developments coming does not instil confidence. Perhaps a more robust approach would be to upgrade less significant areas, test them and then roll out the final result to the publc - a much less risky approach.

    In the long term I believe that it will cost you far more than you save by rationalising. Any way, who on earth allowed so many CMS systems to prevail? Isn't there a preferred supplier list and a unified system policy? I suppose you also have several different email systems in use as well.

  • Comment number 27.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 28.

    Ian Hunter #22: "#19 suggests that the BBC feels it can do whatever it likes. I think the position is more complicated than this."

    evidence counts, not belief.

    for instance, a good number of comments on this blog are held in limbo ("This comment has been referred for further consideration") because, although you cannot outright remove them since no house rules were broken, you still contrive to deprive the readers of the opinions of their peers.

    seems that markus1972 at #19 does have a point after all.

  • Comment number 29.

    So there is still no decent way of commenting on things like the home page, which has turn from one of the best kick off pages on the internet to a pile of junk.
    reading the comments when you can find them are mainly negative, because it is a huge step backwards.

    Comments on the home page are closed, as soon as the page changed I tried to provide feed back but unless there was an error (no error just a mess up) there was no where to leave the feedback.

    I would like to know what was the point of the consultation if we weren't listened. to.

  • Comment number 30.

    With reference to a question that the BBC has carried out this exercise in attempt to force cost savings within the BBC, please read @22. At 12:32 6th Dec 2011, Ian Hunter.

    Thank you Ian for your comments Ian. In my opinion, it is the first time I have read an answer that admits the real reasoning behind the redesign.

    In my opinion I feel that a justification to save money far outweighs any need to use surveys/market data or hide behind corporate market speech. By explaining in a user friendly with non-corporate speech, that the designed is a 'forced' action, may go some way into the facilitating some understanding on the blogs. This still may not be enough of reason to justify putting up a very high corporate wall of denial that it is an unpopular design.

    Many thanks

    Marcus1972

    I will also post this comment on http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2011/12/bbc_homepage_your_feedback_2.html as it appears to be equally relevant there, as that blog has over 650+ comments regarding the redesign.

  • Comment number 31.

    As an avid commentator on the blogs relating to the 'consumer' home page, I have to say I quite like the new corporate pages.

    If the new design for the corporate pages had been applied to the old 'consumer' home page, I don't think it would have generated nearly as much dissent.

  • Comment number 32.

    Dear Ian
    I just tried to use the links to your 5 different sections described above and cannot get the full content as they require Flash and I am on an iPad. I am surprised you are using Flash as there seems to be a current move away from this - I think I read recently that Android are also dropping it?

    Could you please tell me where in your new 'bringing it together' arrangement you are putting the QI Fact of the day? It is the thing I miss the most dreadfully about the new BBC homepage as it used to cheer me up.

  • Comment number 33.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 34.

    I like this new design. Definitely an improvement aesthetically. I can't really comment on functionality as I didn't really use any of this part of the site before. I'm assuming that it's not finished though, as when you dig down a few levels, e.g. to here, http://www.bbc.co.uk/outreach/, the styling is all different. That page will certainly be improved by tidying it up and formatting it like the top few levels.

  • Comment number 35.

    Why under "Topical posts on this blog" does it not list the 700+ blog post on

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2011/12/bbc_homepage_your_feedback_2.html

    Is it because the BBC have received 1000s of negative post and 100s of complaints?

  • Comment number 36.

    Dear Mr Hunter
    Your new BBC website landing page is NOT fit for use by me, your fee payer.
    I understand you put lots of time in it. A lot of money. And that your career and bonus depend on this website.
    But, please, have the decency to admit you got it wrong and reverse it.
    Until then, I will not use the website.
    By the way, I have to admit I don't watch much of your BBC1 and BBC2, which spread attic treasure hunts and similar nonsense. BBC4 can stay.
    QEII

  • Comment number 37.

    I often find it frustrating that we cannot find out more about the production teams, writers, directors, etc. All info output seems to be about the 'stars' of the shows. I assume this is policy. Still, nothing any of us can do about these changes so we might just as well get on with it.

  • Comment number 38.

    A few more thoughts in response to these comments:
    #23 I've asked our specialists about this and they say this: "rolling out the new toolbar is complicated and very risk prone. Creating a hard link betwee the launch of the homepage and the new toolbar adds risk for very little benefit. Google are currently rolling out changes to their toolbar in the wake of Google+. Properties have received the bar in stages over a number of months and the roll out itself is phased, with changes almost daily followed by testing". I'm not going to argue with that.

    A number of others have conflated this launch with the changes made to our main homepage. They are separate events: that homepage is a gateway to all that we do online; while this one is intended to make it easier for licence fee payers to find out about the organisation they fund.

    I understand the antipathy that the new, general, homepage has caused. It is a big change. What I would say is that we were meticulous in our research and testing before launch, and we do have a clear strategy of which it is a key part. Our job now is to look at the widest range of evidence about how it is being used, by whom, and respond accordingly. I think we have to acknowledge, too, that people's reactions to change alter over time. For that reason I am reluctant to rush to judgement, even if to some that sounds complacent, or even arrogant.

  • Comment number 39.

    Hello Ian

    I think I've read everyone of the thousand's of negative comments about the new homepage that can now be found across the internet. These aren't people who are afraid or averse to change, they are users objecting to poor choice of content and lack of functionality. A great disservice is being done by assuming that they'll feel better in a week or so.

  • Comment number 40.

    Hello Ian.

    First of all, you can see above that I like your own redesign.

    Secondly, apologies for the following but I have to try...

    I, along with several other people, have asked this multiple times on the homepage blog and have been deliberately ignored on every occasion, so I am hoping you will be a little more receptive: This is a more general question about the design process, so also broadly applies here.

    Who was involved in this initial research for the homepage redesign? I.e. how many people? Who was leading the discussions? What sort of demographics etc? Is it focus groups in the same room, discussing things, or were people surveyed independently? I used to work in market research and I'm now a web designer and programmer so have experience in both fields.

    From the small amount of information we have been given, it seems that a small focus group approach was taken to the initial research, whilst a HUGE amount of feedback from the regular users (20,000+ responses), has been largely ignored.

    It also appears that all research is being used to justify decisions that have already been made rather than to reassess anything fundamental.

    Many thanks if you can give a better response (i.e. any response), than the people who are meant to be accountable for the homepage.

    Kind regards,
    Mike

  • Comment number 41.

    Ian, thans for finally acknowledging that you failed to convince us. Maybe, you could look at your strategy and change that, than try to change us.

    I am not change averse, but I just do not want to click at least 4 times to see science, food, economy and music.

  • Comment number 42.

    Dear Ian,

    I am confused by the mix messages?

    "Our job now is to look at the widest range of evidence about how it is being used, by whom, and respond accordingly. I think we have to acknowledge, too, that people's reactions to change alter over time."

    1. "Our job NOW is to look" - what was your job before? To randomly guess? What are the widest range of evidence? Is over 2000 negative posts in 10 days not enough?

    2. "people's reactions to change alter over time." So If do not like it now I will like it in the future.....but if I do like it now I hate it in the future.

    3. "meticulous in our research and testing before launch"....why are so many people reporting issues and there is ongoing testing? James himself admits that the homepage is not finished? How can you use the word meticulous when this is not supported by other staff within the BBC.

    Ian, to be frank, you have dropped the ball. I won't mind put it wasn't your ball to drop, it's not even your game. You were meant to be the referee - the one that insures everyone else is having a good game. Stop looking inward and patting each other on the back and start to change! After all if you expect my reaction to change with time I surely can expect your reaction to change too!

    Hugs and kisses

    Marcus 1972

  • Comment number 43.

    How do online comments like this from a Web Design and Development company gel with your statement that you were meticulous with your research and testing?

    "The new BBC homepage got launched the other day. First impressions? Awful. Hideous.
    A significant lack of colour makes the page feel clinical, gone are the nice red's from the old version of the design.
    The elements within the scrolling feature block are such a mishmash of sizes it makes it incredibly difficult to concentrate on any particular item. A massive usability turnoff for me."
    ( http://www.designthatfits.co.uk/news/19/65/New-BBC-Homepage )

    Or this from a Social Commerce Specialist

    "In the process, we have lost a significant part of the former’s information overview - there are actually far fewer items of content displayed on the screen at any one time, and in a harder-to-read format."
    "It’s pretty for sure, and zippy to use, but in terms of information retrieval / transparency / discoverability and reproducability it all leaves you feeling somewhat underwhelmed - a typical triumph of style over substance."
    "There are some nice features, and the overall navigation is slick and effortless, it’s just that we have lost too much of the utility and depth of the former version. This is very much a case of 1 step forward, but 2 steps back..."

    ( http://www.comrz.com/blogs/my-blog--stefan/new-bbc-homepage-design-has-several-drawbacks )

    Do you really understand the 'apathy' the new homepage has caused?

  • Comment number 44.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 45.

    Sorry, my final line in #43 should read 'antipathy'

  • Comment number 46.

    "Our job now is to look at the widest range of evidence about how it is being used, by whom, and respond accordingly. I think we have to acknowledge, too, that people's reactions to change alter over time. For that reason I am reluctant to rush to judgement, even if to some that sounds complacent, or even arrogant."

    How is a severe drop-off of users going to aid you in determining how the new site is being used and by whom?

    People's REactions might not change over time but their actions will. Simply put, they will stop using the BBC website all together. This has already been recorded countless times on the other blogs about the new homepage.

    How long are you going to wait before you pass judgement? When 5% of 9 million users a week stop visiting the BBC website? When 10% drop off? When will you concede that this new homepage launch is a total and utter failure?

  • Comment number 47.

    One plea, made in open posts and elsewhere in my messageboard and blog posting history: please would the BBC Online editors ensure BBC Online, BBC Ceefax pages 695, 697 and 698 and BBC Digital Text Red Button Services' Page 9990 and The Phone Book all have the right postal address information for viewers who like to use something with a Postage Stamp to get in touch. Royal Mail's Postal Address Finder and Postcode Finder services are very user friendly.

    Ceefax page 695 still has the wrong telephone and/or textphone numbers in it for some services andit is a shame to see the original Steampunk British Wide Web so out of date.

  • Comment number 48.

    See my comment #12, this is still not corrected. Wrong link in new site.

  • Comment number 49.

    I note the BBC has ceased attempting to defend the use of a carousel as an efficient or ergonomic navigation device.

    Russ

  • Comment number 50.

    Thank you everyone for your comments but as a reminder, discussion around the BBC Homepage is off-topic on this blog. This post relates to the relaunch of the BBC's corporate websites, About the BBC.

    If you want to provide feedback on the design please go to the BBC Internet Blog

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2011/12/bbc_homepage_your_feedback_2.html

    @PietBoon The link you mentioned in #12 is correct - it links to the "How can I send a complaint to the BBC?" page, advising how to contact the BBC depending on the nature of your complaint.

  • Comment number 51.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 52.

    The blog of James is closed

  • Comment number 53.

    #50
    Thank you Heather, but I was responding directly to comments made by Ian Hunter in Post #38
    :)

  • Comment number 54.

    Why has the Updating the BBC Complaints blog been closed?

    Russ

  • Comment number 55.

    The 'About Us' link on this page's navbar is a 404.

    Russ

 

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