BBC Online's top level directories
The thrust of our recent strategy submission to the Trust on BBC Online is that we need to do fewer things better. We know that the parts of BBC Online that our users really value are significant, coherent, regularly updated and provide a great marriage of content and technology. Products like News, CBBC and iPlayer all have these characteristics; we want much more of the site to have them in future.
A symptom of our previous, less focussed, approach is the number of top level directories - we have on BBC Online, some 400 (this does not include the many re-directs we set up to make it easy to promote sites in our broadcasts). A number of people have asked us to publish the list and anyone who is interested can access it at the end of the extended entry of this post or as a .txt file here.
I know some have questioned the importance of this number, among them the Guardian newspaper. However, tackling the symptom of a problem does provide a real incentive to change, and in meeting the tld challenge we are reviewing the entire site from top to bottom. As a result, we willl be making some tough decisions about what we want to commit to in future, and what not.
The review will, of course, go beyond top level directories and cover all parts of BBC Online. We'll look at every major section of the site and ask three questions: does it meet our public purposes; does it fit one of the BBC's five editorial priorities; how does it perform in terms of reach, quality, impact and value for money? The Trust is currently consulting on the proposed strategy for the BBC, which includes proposals about how BBC Online should develop in the future. Once the Trust has set the overall strategy for the BBC we will begin to make major changes to BBC Online in line with this.
Then there is the question of what to do with sites to which we no longer wish to commit resources. For some time now we have been mothballing older sites like bbc.co.uk/testthenation so that users understand that we are not keeping them up to date. That is fine for now, but the user experience on these sites will inevitably degrade over time, especially as we upgrade the infrastructure which powers BBC Online - due over the course of the next year. So for sites that we don't want to modernise or simply delete, there is a question about the best way to archive them for future generations and we are looking at the options now. If anyone has a solution to this, we'd be pleased to hear from them.
Erik Huggers is Director, BBC Future Media & Technology.