Ten Publishing Principles for BBC Online
I wrote in January about our ongoing efforts to improve the quality of user experience across BBC Online. Now that our mothballing and archiving activities are well under way I am looking to the future and at how we can ensure that we raise the bar on quality across the business.
Last week I shared with my commissioning and production colleagues a set of ten principles which should underpin all new activities on BBC Online. These principles are based on a looser set which has existed for a couple of years (and can still be found on Tom Loosemore's blog) but I have tightened them up.
I want to inspire editorial and technical teams to think not just about their project in isolation but how it will really work for the audience, how it will relate to or build upon the best of what already exists on BBC Online and how we can be part of the wider web.
The principles are:
1. Web sites and products should be designed to meet a clearly-defined audience need
Anticipate needs not yet fully articulated by audiences and meet them with products that set new standards and even exceed expectations.
2. The best websites do one thing really, really well
Do less, keep it simple, execute perfectly.
3. Ensure there is nothing similar already published on BBC Online
We are all contributors to one website. How are you adding to what exists already? Can you reuse what has been built and is your content, in turn, reusable? Don't create a web cul-de-sac - we have so many of those already!
4. Any website is only as good as its worst page
Ensure best practice editorial processes, technology and UX standards are adopted and adhered to. Your content may be linked to, forever, so plan for the full lifecycle. Consider how will it look in three year's time, how it can be curated. Will it degrade gracefully - or should you set a date for it to be mothballed or archived?
5. Accessibility is not an optional extra
Sites designed that way from the ground up work better for all users. Your site should, where appropriate, easily translate into other languages.
6. Maximise routes to content
How will people know your site exists? Keep the URL as simple and memorable as possible (and remember that all URLs should be lower case). Optimise your site to rank high in Google and other search engines. Develop permanent URLs and contextualise with as many aggregations of content about people, places, topics, channels, networks and time as possible.
7. Free up your content for consumers to take away
Don't reinvent Facebook or Bebo - just make it easy for users to take nuggets of content with them, with links back to your site or the wider BBC from wherever they are. Wherever and whenever users find your content make sure the feedback loops work.
8. Do not attempt to do everything yourselves - "do what you do best and then link to the rest"
Link to other high-quality sites - your users will thank you. Use other people's content & tools to enhance your site and vice versa.Don't feel you have to host the conversations about your content, just link to them or join in as appropriate.
9. Consistent design & navigation needn't mean one-size-fits-all
Users should always know they're on a BBC website, even if it doesn't look exactly like another. Clear signposting is vital to ensure users won't get lost within or beyond your site.
10. Personalisation should be unobtrusive, elegant and transparent
These will be reviewed every few months and we welcome your views. We are also currently reviewing our Standards and Guidelines and I shall be writing about this soon.
Seetha Kumar is Controller, BBC Online.