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New BBC Home Page: Your Reaction

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Richard Titus Richard Titus | 21:13 UK time, Friday, 21 December 2007

When Nick Reynolds asked me if I would write a blog post I assumed that few people would read it and even fewer would care.

At the end of my first post I asked you for your comments and promised to engage in a conversation. I expected maybe a dozen or so replies. So imagine my astonishment when, as of this morning, more than 280 + of you have taken time to give us your views and criticisms on the new betahomepage.

This level of engagement is exactly why I came to the BBC. The generally positive nature of the feedback was even more wonderful. The success of the web as a media platform has been driven by its ability to rapidly connect people and ideas. Delivering a better BBC homepage must be based on a lively and frank conversation with our audience, so thank you for keeping up your side!

The team and I have been reviewing the feedback over the past few days, from the original post, the wider blogosphere and the feedback form on the home page.

Despite some unconstructive, or should I say, 'personal' responses, ("yankee go home" was my favourite) I am delighted that so many of you have taken time out to explore the new page and tell us what you think.

Some of the key points...

Customisation and Personalisation

One of the fundamental challenges you raised was the philosophy behind our introduction of customization and personalization (as I'm a Yank, please note my use of the Z in personalization rather than personalisation. it seemed disingenuous of me to change to an s when I so prefer the letter z).

Some suggested this indicates that the BBC no longer has a voice or knows what it wants to say. I disagree.

Customization is about collaborating with our audience. As a linear broadcast medium, the web is no better and in many ways far worse than other mediums. The web's power comes from several key strengths...

Its slow and steady growth towards ubiquity

Its ability to give us what we want, when we want it

Its ability to create a conversation where previously there was only one voice or one point of view

Its ability to enrich the user's experience by tracking, collecting, archiving and leveraging information about their activities, tastes and preferences

Clearly there are privacy issues here, and I plan to expand on these in detail in a forthcoming post (essentially, it's about user knowledge, consent and trust).

But as several of you have suggested, our aim is to grow and develop the technology and user experience to move from the current, primarily active personalization you experience on the new home page to passive and suggestive personalized experiences (where the software does more of the work for you).

All of these strengths place the audience at the centre of what we do, giving them choices and listening to them when they make those choices. Success for us here is dependent on giving individuals info they need and want to know, in an accessible and interesting way.

It's worth noting that the customisation is an opt-in activity. The default version of the page which is delivered to every user is an editorially curated window into the BBC which has, I believe, a clear voice and hierarchy of information.

Feature image and box

Another key area of the homepage which has generated controversy was the feature image and area of the site.

First of all, this area is a piece of rich editorial content created and updated several times a day under the guidance of James Price, the editor of the Homepage and his team. Its role is to showcase the best the BBC has to offer with stand-alone packages of entertainment and information.

Conceptually, the feature existed on the original homepage, albeit in a smaller and less visually striking format. We have increased both it's size and the entire page size on the basis that:

99.8% of our users have a screen set at 800px or wider

95.3% of our users have a screen set at 1024px or wider

45.2% of our users have a screen set at 1280px or wider

So I think you can see why we decided to move to 1024 as our standard.

A feature I'm particularly fond of is the way the image breaks out of its frame. Again, we're not in a print medium, so things can come alive. The design and platform of the feature region will support Flash, slide-shows, animation and even video. The video uses the new pan-bbc embedded media player just unveiled in iPlayer, which will grant my brethren from linux and mac entry to the wonderful world of iPlayer. Go there now and try it!

The new design gives the homepage editorial team a sound and visually enticing platform to present feature stories & images. I'm hopeful that the homepage team will outline their vision for the feature in a forthcoming blog post.

Colour Changes

The decision to have the colours change based on clicks on the boxes in the bottom of the feature area seems to have been a real hot-button for many of you, as is the decision to move away from a "fixed palette". After extensive user research we learned that people were tired of a monochromatic blue site ("its been blue for five years for God's sake" was one quote).

The colour change feature is an homage to what we thought was one of the most innovative features of Andrew Bank's original 2002 redesign. From the feedback here it would appear that our concerns were justified as many of you obviously weren't aware of the colour change function in the original page. Colours are there to support the editorial and create an aesthetically pleasing environment. Also, it's a beta, and as many of our testers young and old said "its fun!"

In keeping with your feedback, this colour change on click functionality is likely to evolved into either an editorial or user choice, or perhaps both. We welcome additional thoughts on this idea.

Clicks & clocks

Wow! "The Clock" really seems to be a love/hate thing. But the loves seem to outnumber the hates 10-1 according to our initial unofficial research. For those of you who are concerned about the accuracy of the timing, we are looking at making it more 'time accurate'

Adding & removing content

If you click the customize your homepage button you'll find quite a few choices there (selecting them adds or subtracts this content from the page). We are aware of the issues around the contents' automatic drop into the left-hand column and are working to improve this.

Radio & TV personalization

More feedback here will help us focus on the feeds that are important to you, so tell us what you'd like to have. There were some excellent suggestions here which we are already exploring.

Feeds & content choices

Please be patient, more are in the pipeline. These include technology feeds, refined local feeds and specialized sports feeds and applications such as the recipes search. The editorial content strategy is the domain of the homepage editorial team. Please continue making suggestions as I know they value your input.

Our goal is to enable our audience to find, play or share the best of what the BBC has on offer. We will continue to refine the experience, and have enjoyed and been overwhelmed by your response. The BBC homepage will always have to satisfy a very disparate group of individual users and functions, but there is one piece of common ground. All users want a clear route into the content which interests, entertains or enlightens them.

Thanks to all of you who have joined this conversation. I hope all of you will continue to help transform the BBC homepage to truly reflect its landmark domain name, in both form and function. Please do leave comments here and we'll carry on talking in the new year.

And to all of you Merry Christmas!

Comments

  1. At 09:14 AM on 22 Dec 2007, Matt S wrote:

    As it's the first time I've commented on this, a huge well done to the team. I remember this was tried some time ago, didn't work and disappeared. It's great to see a customizzzzzable front page come back to bbc.co.uk

    You say more feeds are going to become available, I'd say my only criticism right now is there's no local website content pulled in apart from the news section and local radio listings. It would be good to see Where I Live appearing on here.

  2. At 12:06 AM on 23 Dec 2007, Andrew McCreath wrote:

    I started using the Beta Home Page today, and I absolutely love it.
    Talk about making the BBC your HOME page, I can really start to see the BBC becoming a portal as opposed to a website of information.

    Great work.
    There are some things that do not display 100% in Firefox, but seem to work in IE, but I'm sure those will get ironed out along the way.

    Excellent, thank you very much

  3. At 09:05 AM on 23 Dec 2007, Malcolm Chester wrote:

    Thank you for the beta homepage. I love it. I always had the original homepage set as my homepage, but this is so much better. My only comment in a negative sense is that there doesn't appear to be a way to search the internet on the new home page. Is this something that will come later? I hope so as I use BBC search rather than Goodle or any of the others.

  4. At 02:04 PM on 23 Dec 2007, Liam Thom wrote:

    Great effort on the new home page, the 800x600 monitor lowest common denominator needed kicking into touch ages ago.

    How about customising the pictures that go with the feeds. I have unticked the football element of the sports feeds but the pictures and stories at the top of the sports section are (like all of the BBC) dominated by soccer (3 out of 3 at the moment).

  5. At 09:54 PM on 23 Dec 2007, James Cridland wrote:

    as I'm a Yank, please note my use of the Z in personalization rather than personalisation. it seemed disingenuous of me to change to an s when I so prefer the letter z

    Go home, Yank!

    Seriously, it turns out you -are- home after all. "-ize" was the original way of spelling British English in the 16th century, and it was only the influence of the French (the FRENCH!!) that added "-ise" to British English. It even seems that "-ize" is the house style of nothing more English than the Oxford University Press.

    So you're right.

    Except. I've just discovered http://www.bbc.co.uk/branding/pdf/writing_style_guidelines_sep07.pdf - the BBC writing style guidelines - and page 26 tells you to "Use -ise endings (English spelling) rather than -ize (American)".

    So if I might summarise, people may correctly criticise your attempt to personalise, since this organisation emphasises a different spelling. Surprise... ;)

  6. At 03:57 AM on 24 Dec 2007, Flyhalf wrote:

    This has to be the most disengenous post of the year...

    ...you claim that the overwhelming majority of your users have a screen resolution of 800px (99.8%) and so you use that as your rationale for switching to 1024 as standard? And yet, despite this switch to 1024px, it still doesn't fit on a screen set to that resolution.

    And what's the plausible explanation behind this statement - "Its ability to create a conversation where previously there was only one voice or one point of view"? Newspapers have been creating conversations since the concept of a letters page was introduced. And you've not heard of radio phone-ins?

    In what sense are you collaborating with me? I just want information provided to me in a simple, easy-to-use format...if I wanted to design my own homepage, I'd do that instead.

    However it appears that I'm probably pissing in the wind and this monstrosity is going to be foisted upon us regardless - "generally positive nature of the feedback was even more wonderful". And this rosy-tinted view conveniently glosses over the host of negative comment from people with extensive experience of web design.

  7. At 08:29 AM on 24 Dec 2007, Bruce Carter wrote:

    I really like the appearance and customisation features of the new page. I just hope that after setting ones home region, it does not revert to London, the next time, as it has done on the old home page.

  8. At 12:01 PM on 24 Dec 2007, Dan G wrote:

    "After extensive user research we learned that people were tired of a monochromatic blue site (“its been blue for five years for God’s sake” was one quote)."

    And The Times has used Times New Roman for forty years, and their readers seem happy enough*. To use a web example, Google's homepage hasn't changed in more than seven years and they're still the world's #1 site.

    I honestly don't understand why websites feel the need to reinvent themselves every few years. In the early days, yes of course as new technology came along and people learnt about web design and useability. But now all that's a done deal - the 2002 homepage being the end result of that learning curve for bbc.co.uk.

    To throw it all away just to keep on top of the buzzword bandwagon seems crazy.

    One things for sure, this particular design won't last long. The new beta already looks dated, using pure Web 2.0 design features: huge fonts, gradient fills and rounded corners - and fashion trends age fast. You don't see any new "Web 2.0" sites launching using that style anymore as it's already been left behind by the more understated look typified by facebook.com or for a more obscure but very new example, dopplr.com.

    *The only "broadsheet" I can think of which has redesigned is the Guardian, which was a bit of a failure in all counts really.

  9. At 04:04 PM on 26 Dec 2007, freethinker wrote:

    Is anyone else having problems with the new beta page - and occ the Radio 4 homepage?
    The pages partly load and then fail with the message
    'This program cannot display the webpage '
    then they suddenly partly load again = repeating the process several times!

  10. At 06:05 PM on 27 Dec 2007, Tim Denton wrote:

    The new modular look of the homepage is very nice - the ability to select which modules you wish (or don't wish) to see is a huge plus. Unfortunately, I also have to say that it does seem to fall into the trap of "Web2.0" hype. It's full of elements that serve absolutely no purpose to the content or design, resulting in them only adding additional clutter to the page. On a homepage with so much genuine content, the last thing you can afford to do is add even more clutter. Clean it up and keep it simple! Still, I've seen worse - and the colour scheme is an absolutely massive improvement over the current homepage. Frankly, the old one was bloody hideous.

    However, one thing that I absolutely love is the new local news & weather module on the news homepage. This means that I now actually have everything that I am personally interested in, all on one page (news.bbc.co.uk being my homepage). I hope the main news page doesn't fall into the rut of oversized fonts and heavy usage of needless stylistic images. The clean, easy to navigate and almost minimalistic approach that it has at the moment is pretty much perfect. At this point, I'd have to say "if it ain't broken, don't fix it!"

  11. At 01:10 AM on 29 Dec 2007, C McKee wrote:

    Wow, fantastic reply post; you could have easily shortened that entire diatribe down to "we like it so, SHHH!" and been done.
    Feeds are great and something web designers/developers would like more of, as it makes it easier for us to "lift" changing news for mashups etc.
    New layout, sure go wild, but you’re behaving like a child who's just discovered a new Toy.
    Ramming bits of AJAX all over a page making it look like an ineffectual version of Google customise your homepage.
    It’s hard to like something that has less design finesse then the set of the Teletubbies and looks about as professional and formal as a poster drawn in crayon.

    I just really hope they don’t let you at the news pages.

  12. At 10:20 AM on 29 Dec 2007, Les Whalley wrote:

    I like the customisable home page, but please could you add a section for music (i.e Bach to Birtwistle) and the arts.

  13. At 04:53 PM on 30 Dec 2007, Dale wrote:

    I like the new beta homepage. Custom stuff is great, Championship football option on sport would be nice, and as has been said local things too.

    My new homepage now ;)

  14. At 09:51 PM on 30 Dec 2007, Chris McKee wrote:

    That whole reply can easily be summed up in to "NAH NAH NAH I'm not listening" and will do what ever you please.
    Great.

  15. At 10:13 PM on 30 Dec 2007, mark wrote:

    Great web-programming. BBC has always been fast-loading, easy on the bandwidth/patience.

    Radio access crashes Opera, but I'm not done trying stuff.

    Could you bring some of that Yank ingenuity to HYS? :)
    Please! They ignore my emails that it could be the next-generation step towards at least a demo of real democracy. Huge potential for self-moderation sorting bilge into the bilge and floating great thoughts/ideas.

    By some nasty posts here.. I don't mind blirting out that current HYS is a huge placeholder for the day when a serious mind happens along.

    Huge potential is a SAD THING!

  16. At 10:48 PM on 30 Dec 2007, mark wrote:

    Very fast! I would be leary of change since the BBC seems the only site left that sees that seconds turn into lost years.
    Great design, well executed!

    Radio access crashes Opera, but that's normal EVERYwhere.

    Cut to the chase: BBC = HYS to me.
    Huge audience, (14k posts over Bhutto in a few days)
    All those with a 50% chance of being posted and .01% chance of being read.

    Huge potential over time becomes a SAD THING.

    Anyone else notice a 20+ year old vaccuum where an online self-moderated democracy-demo could have been?

    Sort bilge into the bilge and float great thoughts/ideas? Several sort criteria? Intelligence, reliable data, overall agree, whatever, etc..

    If not, imagine consigning THIS post to hell.
    Sound better? :)
    Here, maybe this will help:
    LOLOLOLOLOL!!!!

    Siiigh.. won't post under opera.. won't post under IE.. oh well.. democracy is a stupid idea..

  17. At 11:54 PM on 30 Dec 2007, Alex wrote:

    Good to see the dialogue continues, but disappointed that you didn't respond to the issue of the 'look' of the new page.

    A fair few people (myself included) said that the functionality is good, but the look is too chunky and tries to hard to be Web 2.0ish. I think it needs to be more understated and elegant than it is now (everything needs to be just that little bit smaller and less bold). I notice that you can now change the font size in options (could you do that before?) and that helps improve things a bit.

    I think the giant BBC logo should be halved in size. We know you are the BBC... keep it subtle guys!

    (Oh one final thing: I miss the grey top nav-bar that has always defiantly refused to display a link to 'News' - always a strange omission from my perspective).

    Rant over!

  18. At 12:50 PM on 31 Dec 2007, Andrew Webb wrote:

    Who's 'Andrew Bank' from 2002? Do you mean me? I was the only Andrew involved in the 2002 redesign and the surname's Webb, as in, er, the internet.

    When we launched the 2002 page there was a lot 'change it back'! At least you've soft launched this and can gather feedback and hopefully make some tweaks.

    What's also made me chuckle about these series of posts is everyone's linking to my 'history of the homepage' set on flickr. Good job I took th etime to complie it when I was there!

  19. At 09:11 AM on 01 Jan 2008, Antony Watts wrote:

    I don't like it. For three reasons

    1.Customisation: this will trap me in a limited world of my own, whether the customisation is done by me or by your software noting my clicks...

    And by the way the site is clunky and needs to be cleaned up to remove the many layout boxes. KISS.

    2.The BBC is a world wide news service. It has to provide wide ranging and well edited news, and prioritise it for my consumption. Its job is to bring things to my notice, not the other way round by me asking for specific information (remember: "educate, inform, entertain..."?). By all means solicit feedback, but when you do edit that also to summarise the points of view.

    3.The internet is world wide. Nothing should be offered on the site that is not available world wide - ie stop this silly business of offering videos but blocking international access. This is a rights issue which must be solved.

  20. At 08:56 PM on 01 Jan 2008, Alex wrote:

    Mark - what are you on about?!

  21. At 11:51 PM on 02 Jan 2008, Chris McKee wrote:

    Wow that's a nice long rant basically defending the design (no doubt as lots of cash has been spent on it), defending the flashy pointless DHTML/AJAX and pretty much ignoring the hundreds of comments and huge commentary by the design community. Most of which think its Web 2.0 Ugly tripe.

    Sorry Ricky, it just isn't worth the licence fee, stick some adverts on there.

  22. At 01:49 PM on 06 Jan 2008, Josh wrote:

    I hope that when you complete this, you'll update many more websites. The grey bar at the top is like a wrinkly, 500 old person that cracks when touched.

  23. At 12:53 PM on 09 Jan 2008, Robin Webb wrote:

    Just to say have only now seen the beta and it's excellent. Well done, Beeb!

  24. At 06:13 PM on 27 Feb 2008, Geoff wrote:

    It seems to me that Richard Titas is saying "It's my (baseball) bat, and if you don't let me play this game to my rules, then I'm going home."
    Yes, please - and the sooner the better!

  25. At 06:45 PM on 27 Feb 2008, Gideon Bullock wrote:

    I'd echo Andrews message above, when the homepage changed in 2002 it proved that change can be unsettling for some... but bedding down and familiarity was quick to follow.

    Regarding the colour change .. the original intention in 2002 was for the page to change colour 3 to 4 times a day as a new main promo image went live: an editorial decision - The current colour change, on tab click.. does seem to suggest that the content as a whole has changed.

    that said .. for what its worth , i think it's a wonderful improvement well done to the team.

    gideon

  26. At 09:27 PM on 27 Feb 2008, ronald day wrote:


    i would like my old bbc homepage returned please.

    thank you. r day.

  27. At 10:04 PM on 27 Feb 2008, Geoff Mann wrote:

    I've had the BBC site as my home page for a number of years, but if I can't search the internet directly from it, it goes. Sorry.

  28. At 10:27 PM on 27 Feb 2008, stephenhardy wrote:

    It is appalling. Where is the news? Under the old regime I must have been able to access 20+ stories direct, now it is hardly three. The website is to convey news not to provides links to radio and tv. Think again buit quickly. look at France 24, where probably not as much money has been poured but it maintains a healthy news content for France, Europe or the world.

  29. At 11:22 PM on 27 Feb 2008, juniper3 wrote:

    I don't like the new page - especially the weather (which is what I look at most. No problem with finding the radio (for liston again) The weather is fine if I go on to the 5 day forecast - how can I get this format as the 3 day forcast? Thanks

  30. At 12:09 AM on 28 Feb 2008, M T Hawkins wrote:

    I want the search engine back; and what is all that blank area on the top right of the page for? Oh - and it also takes about four times as long to load. People will fix what ain't broke. It is now.
    Michael

  31. At 12:58 AM on 28 Feb 2008, Jeremy Boden wrote:

    It's very sad.
    I can't find anything - not even the news.
    It's even got a silly clock on it. My computer has it's own clock.
    There's lots of grey space everywhere.

    I see (if you look hard enough) that there is even a button I can press which will explain how to use this web page!
    That's a really bad sign.

    Yet again our money has been wasted.

    You could have spent the time on fixing the bugs in iplayer so that I could download late night programs.

  32. At 05:32 AM on 28 Feb 2008, David Daly wrote:

    the new website is rubbish! it looks like a 10 year old designed it in 5 mins , i bet you had top designers working on it for months earning top doller what a joke!


    good to see what our licence money is being spent on its obvisely not getting spent on the secconf rate tv programs you provide us is it!

  33. At 10:59 AM on 28 Feb 2008, Joe Richards wrote:

    Hello

    I think the new design is good. Very good in some areas, but not great.

    I like the top banner, it's fresh and feels nice. And moving content around the page, well yes that's nice but not essential - I would in all honesty rather an editorial decision made for me - I don't feel that I'm looking at the BBC home page now, just my own home page, which feels a bit lonely.

    But here's my real issue: I have to scroll the screen 3 pages to see all the content on the home page - which, in actual fact, is relatively little content.

    I think the design is an improvement however, I definitely think that - the previous home page really had such little content it felt so bare.

    The clock - I like it - I initially thought 'how gimicky' but then I thought - 'no that's great, a reliable online source for time - the bbc home page! it's like dialling 123' but then I just read above that you were looking to make it more 'time accurate' -- you mean it's not even accurate! That's criminal!

    The new promotional area though with the 4 tabs is great - and I love how the colours change with the content. I like its size.

    The news images changing as you scroll the top 3 headlines is good too.

    I just think my main issue is the overall 'size' of it - it's quite bulky looking. The font sizes are maybe too large. And the permanent 3 customise buttons at the top -- agh! What a waste of vertical pixels! And all the arrows to the left of the section header - these could just not exist -- I'll remove it if I don't want it - who expands and minimises content?!

    Hope this is helpful.

    Joe

  34. At 04:23 PM on 01 Mar 2008, Martin wrote:

    Overall, great way to customise the page how I want it .....APART FROM the oversize feature area that means I still have to scroll down for a couple of my favoured sections. Apparently this is so the BBC can brings things to my attnetion that I might otherwise not have had access to
    1) The feature area is unneccessarily large
    2) Today's feature is on Eurovision. Really!!

  35. At 01:18 PM on 05 Mar 2008, Luc wrote:

    Given that its customisable, can we have a button that restores the old 'look & feel' please? The new design hurts my eyes!

  36. At 04:03 PM on 06 Mar 2008, John wrote:

    I have just discovered that I cannot change the new BBC homepage for another homepage in Inernet Explorer 7.0. It seem to be embedded. Try it yourself...Anyone else have this problem? Better still does any one know how to fix this and if you have done this on purpose BBC...shame on you!

  37. At 06:20 PM on 07 Mar 2008, k martin wrote:

    what a great way to drive people away from the bbc.i am "p" off where is the default button

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