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Music Showcase now live for testing

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Matt Coulson | 15:22 UK time, Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Today, you may have noticed a new section on bbc.co.uk/music named Music Showcase.

The section brings together all of the BBC's audio and video music clips and allows you to browse them in collections compiled by presenters and staff.

You can also search by artist, most popular, recently added choices and last chance to see/hear. You can play clips whilst looking for others, find out more about the artists you are enjoying and explore similar clips.

This is an alpha release and we hope to capture your feedback and incorporate improvements as we move towards beta and final production, and as such you may notice a few bugs or issues with the service. Please check out our FAQ for known issues before notifying us of any problems.

This alpha follows extensive user research (interviews & concept testing) conducted in the autumn of 2009 to find out what audiences wanted from a BBC music site. Key asks were;

more audio/video clips of music sessions and interviews

a highly accessible, immediate and intuitive interface

more control over the playback experience through custom views, and powerful search and recommendation tools

for content to be organised into editorially curated collections to provide ideas, inspiration, context, influences and other facets of good storytelling

By aggregating all BBC off-schedule short form clip content into a single hub or 'showcase', we hope we've met some of those needs with a new offering also that brings the following benefits:

Use of the new BBC GEL (Global Experience Language) design that puts the AV centre stage and emphasises accessibility and distinctiveness

Choices around how you view content (grid, expanded and list views)

'Browse while Play' lets you watch/listen continuously while browsing

A Play Bar and Play Queue which manages your playback experience while you browse

A selection of Collections made by our own DJs and Presenters

Powerful 'Artist Quick Find' and Browse tools that enable you to look for interesting content in a number of ways

'More like this' feature provides clips from same and similar artists promoting extended listening

Lots of linking to related BBC content including news, reviews and blogs as well as relevant info from /programmes and our radio network brand page

Around 2,800 clips at launch with more to come, content is regularly refreshed

This is an early build so we see this alpha as a great opportunity for the development team to get your thoughts, either via the blog or via the feedback form and to us help shape the product you want.

BBC Music Showcase

Image: Screenshot of the BBC Music AV Showcase design

Technically speaking, the Music Showcase has a lot going on under the hood. It's built top to toe on the Forge (Zend, Java, PHP, JS, MVC) technology stack and I think it's the BBC's first all-AJAX site for clip serving

The aggregation and publishing model is also quite sophisticated; music production staff across the UK will use a tool called iBroadcast to tag and encode clips. The website then uses a Java service layer to query central data repositories to acquire, sort and publish clips into the correct views on the website.

Over the next few days some of the team will be posting more details on design choices, technical implementation and content production and workflows behind the product, so come back later in the week if you're interested in getting more technical info. To find out more about the great content and editorial thinking behind the Music Showcase click here.

We're trying to put the music centre stage while providing discovery, search, sharing and participation tools that bring the music to life without being overly distractive or intrusive.

We hope you like it, and whether through posts here or via FAQs we'd love your feedback.

Matt Coulson is Executive Product Manager, Radio & Music Player Services, Programmes & On-demand, BBC Future Media & Technology

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    _Missing Feedback Link_
    The faq about known issues contains text may also be intermittent performance issues typical of an 'alpha' website release. If you believe you've encountered a bug whilst using the Showcase, please let us know at [link to feedback form].

    The text does not at present contain a link.

    I guess I cam across some of the intermittent problems.
    At one stage I was unable to use the page zoom untill I had reloaded the page.
    At another point, using the 'Duffy' clip [ p00c9qf7 | 128kbps | aac | AK of http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/showcase#/collections/p0071598 ] I got stuck in a loop, and despite already having played most of it I got into a repeating loop of a short part of the clip.

    The player was also overlayed with an announcement "This content does not seem to be working, please try again later"

    _ Volume Slider _
    It possibly would be more intuitive if it worked the same way as the usual EMP as in iPlayer, rather than having to click on the volume bar area.

    It does seem a good idea to have such a collection, and is a good idea to offer Alpha and Beta tests.

  • Comment number 2.

    Firstly, I think the visual design of this site is fantastic, and can't wait to see it rolled out across the rest of /music. From a GEL perspective it's interesting that you've also used Georgia italic--did you need to get special exception for use of a font outside those permitted by the GVL3 guidelines?

    I also admire the amount of experimentation and innovation that has gone into this site; there are some really interesting interactions that I've not seen done elsewhere; it's great to see the BBC pushing the boundaries of the medium every now and then. That said, since I've uninstalled Flash on my computer, it's a shame not see HTML5 and used as a fallback. I imagine it's absence is inline with current BBC policy on the use of HTML5 media elements, but a change in this polciy can't come soon enough in my opinion!

    Whilst there is a lot to like, in terms of usability I think the website falls woeful short. I get the impression the opportunity to play with new technologies available on the Forge platform has dictated much of the IA and user experience.

    To give one example, I would expect selecting a collection on the homepage would take me to a new page, not do an AJAX request--clicking an image and seeing a spinner appear over it makes me think the image is updating, not the entire page. Given that clicking on similar images elsewhere in the site plays audio/video, this makes this behaviour even more confusing.

    Whilst mentioning the home page, I initially thought the artist names listed under 'including artists' would take me to content around that artist; the design suggests this content is available yet the functionality is different (the entire block is one link). As a side note, I think it would be really useful to see content around a particular artist.

    There is further confusion around the Play Bar. On clicking 'Play Queue' I'm taken to a new page, of which I have no immediate understanding. Given how other pages appear on the site, I'm unsure if I'm on a new page or the bottom of an existing page where the view has changed. I now understand that Play Queue is a different part of the site, but I wasn't sure initially.

    The miniaturised video is an interesting idea, but it's unclear that this is associated with list view, and that clicking expanded view dismisses this element. The problem is that controls at the top of page effect the play bar and vice versa. Perhaps clearer signposting and labelling would help, especially as the play bar is an entirely new concept to get to understand.

    In conclusion, I would say wonderful visual design, yet confusing IA not helped by the use of (what I think is, at times) unnecessary use of AJAX. By all means use it where it makes sense, but sometimes a page refresh is a really helpful way to transition the user from one place to another ('oh, clicking on this takes me to a new part of the site'). The use of progressive enhancement, and the site still working without JavaScript enabled hasn't gone unnoticed by the way! Colour me impressed on that front.

    I'm enjoying the fact that many BBC sites now aggregate content from around the corporation, and I'm look forward to many more projects like this one--as I am your future posts on the design and development decisions taken during production of this site.

  • Comment number 3.

    The Playqueues and playing video in place on the showcase pages is a really, really nice piece of functionality. Very impressed.

 

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