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BBC Homepage beta: your feedback (#1)

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James Thornett James Thornett | 12:24 UK time, Thursday, 29 September 2011

1980s style BBC2 clock, on a widescreen monitor, high on a pillar, in an open plan office

Many of you have expressed opinions on whether the clock - shown here on a monitor near James' desk - belongs on the homepage.

Last week we launched a BBC Online homepage for the first time since 2009 for over a year in beta mode for public use and feedback. I published a post on the day of launch to explain the rationale behind the changes. My colleague Phil Fearnley blogged on our About the BBC blog to explain the broader BBC strategic context.

Showcasing the breadth of BBC Online on one webpage is a huge challenge. The ambition with this redesign was to create a time- and location-aware experience which allows users to quickly find what they're looking for, whilst discovering something new. It's a big change but the response has been pleasing and we're delighted with the level of engagement we're getting.

Initial response

We've opened up various routes for audiences to tell us what they think. We created a simple 'how to' guide which provided an opportunity for feedback via an online survey, and my original blog post invited feedback via comments. Alongside this, beta users have commented on Twitter via the #bbchomepage hashtag. On Twitter we were able to track real-time responses on the day of launch: following the first tweet of the day from The Guardian's @joshhalliday, 'new BBC' trended third in the UK at 11:30AM and mentions were generally positive - unprecedented for a new product launch, especially given the scale of change.

Early press coverage helped spread word also - from the Financial Times' summary of the challenges facing homepages across industry and our response to PaidContent's prediction that 'swipability' would characterise many sites' development in the future. Econsultancy acknowledged that though change of this scale often unsettles, response seemed more positive than negative in general.

As users become more familiar with change initial responses give way to more detailed and specific feedback. We've received some really constructive comments via our survey option though commenting on the BBC Internet Blog has questioned some principles of the page. There are some common themes emerging which I summarise below.

Emerging themes

Location settings

The beta represents work in progress and location setting isn't yet enabled (the page currently defaults to London). Location functionality will be introduced soon. Once enabled, a user's location will determine the nation edition that they see, and the preference will be stored via cookies. If no location preference is expressed the page will resolve via geo-IP to the relevant nation edition, with the largest city set as default location.

Beyond the web and touch screen functionality

The new homepage beta is designed for the web so isn't optimised for touch interaction; anyone viewing the product on a tablet isn't yet seeing a version created for that screen. We know from user testing that users found the carousel format "intuitive", "just like flicking through a magazine". In time, we'll be optimising the product for mobile and tablet; the interaction model will obviously lend itself very well to touchscreen 'swiping' expected on these handheld devices.

Surfacing more of BBC Online - showing less of more

In showing less of more we run the risk of crowding out some things. For instance, some users commented that technology-related content wasn't accessible from the new homepage anymore. This is because there is no 'top-level directory' (TLD) for technology content, as distinct from the Technology section of our BBC News site (bbc.co.uk/news/technology). The 'Explore' panel aims to provide a quick look-up for selected TLDs. We'll be reviewing what's pulled in here to ensure it provides an anchor to the right sections of BBC Online for a majority of the audience.

Rebalancing the page

There have been some comments around the de-prioritisation of BBC News and BBC Sport content, suggestive of 'dumbing down'. This doesn't reflect any shift in the BBC's editorial priorities. Audience research reflected that the homepage wasn't considered distinctive, with some users thinking that the BBC News homepage was our front page. Top news and sports stories remain, but we've aimed to increase the page's coverage to appeal to a broader audience. Over 70% of users entering BBC Online at the BBC News front page come direct, so the homepage needn't serve as a conduit for current affairs content exclusively. In fact, the homepages for BBC News and BBC Sport respectively are only one click away and remain the best place to get a comprehensive view of the latest news and sport from the BBC on the web.

Simple filtering versus customisation

A key point of complaint on the blogs especially is the reduced scope for customisation. This direction of travel - like all decisions behind the page - is based on audience research results. Less than a third of users used customization features, and two thirds of this engagement comprised a simple change to location. When we highlighted customization features to audiences the perceived value was mixed. The way people interact with the internet is changing; we've innovated to keep pace with user demand for simple filtering, rather than wholesale customization. This doesn't mean that we've given up on customisation completely. As we develop the new homepage we will be investigating more ways to easily filter out content that is of less interest, making the BBC homepage become increasingly relevant to every user's interests and needs.

Accessibility considerations

The new BBC Homepage has been built with accessibility in mind - we've adopted best practice from first steps and intend to carry out a full accessibility review of the product as we work through beta feedback. We hope to make the finished product as accessible as we can for users with impairments.

International availability

To confirm, the new homepage will be made available in the UK only, and won't impact the existing international edition. We'll work with partners in BBC Worldwide to ensure we're delivering the best experience for international markets.

***
The new homepage is the result of ongoing collaboration between audience research, editorial, tech, user-experience and design teams and you can expect further updates from these disciplines throughout the beta period. And of course, we welcome your continued feedback and will use this to shape the launch product.

Thanks to all those who have shared their thoughts so far: we'll continue to review all comments around this work-in-progress version and address key themes in round ups to follow.

James Thornett is Head of the BBC Homepage Product, BBC Future Media

Comments

Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

    After reading this my initial reaction is 'Plough on regardless, ignore what you WANT to ignore'... enough said

  • Comment number 2.

    What a whitewash. One only has to read the overwhelmingly negative feedback on James Thornett's original blog (now closed - I wonder why)

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2011/09/bbc_online_homepage_beta_producer.html

    to guage the real sentiment from loyal users of the BBC homepage.
    To say that the 'new homepage' is almost universally loathed as being overcomplicated, ugly, highbandwidth consumption would be just the tip of the iceberg.
    James has demonstrated that he and his department are going to push ahead with this monstrosity without answering any of the main complaints barring a lukewarm potential for adding some form of user customisation at a later date . We all know what that means.

    Where's Anne Robinson when you need her?
    This process of beta testing, 'audience research' and received feedback is a sham.

    When will the full results of the on-line survey be published?
    More transparency is needed.

    One final point I'd like to make is this.. if only 30% of users access the homepage directly, why has my money been wasted on tarting-up (in a thoroughly useless way) the current very succinct and easy to navigate homepage?

  • Comment number 3.

    Dear Mr Thornett (in particular) and the senior managerial board of the BBC.

    Re: The proposed new BBC Homepage.

    First of all, please allow me to point out that having secured a bit of advertising space for yourselves on the current homepage, you invite us, the great unwashed, to leave our comments. Have you tried doing that yourself?

    It's not at all easy. Why ask for our comments and then make it so difficult to do just that? I suspect I know the answer but I would be grateful for your explanation.

    Anyhow, I found my way to your infernal blog and tried to comment but found the facility had been closed. I'm not surprised, as there were so many negative comments!

    So, that brings me to my point.

    Me? I'm just a baby of the 1950's and therefore a teenager of the 1960's, I threw sods of grass in Grosvenor Sq. I buy my clothes in Paul Smith, I read the Guardian, I even eat Sushi!!!

    I'd like to think I'm quite cool, well, maybe not as cool as you but please don't undermine me in your own mind when I suggest that your new proposed design for the homepage is awful!

    Aha, "turning subjectivity into objectivity" I hear you say. Yes, that's correct, just like you're trying to do with this design.

    Blimey, even the typography is worse than appalling. Don't your designers go to art college any more?

    It's just basic stuff. The current design works quite well, the proposed new alternative doesn't.

    I challenge you to put both designs in front of designers who you consider to have merit and see what they say. Then, maybe try talking to some people like me instead of a whole raft of teenagers who wouldn't understand good design if it hit them with a stick!!

    Why oh why are you doing this? There's precious little wrong with the original and current page so, if it aint broke, why fix it?

    Honestly, it looks like an ad for Apple, not a homepage for the best broadcaster in the world.

    Get a grip mate and justify that gargantuan salary on all our behalves and not just you and your mates!!

    Regards

    Geeefcee.

  • Comment number 4.

    Well, I think the beta's great (then again I really rather hate the old/current one). The BBC Internet Blog is already very open at sharing its working processes. I don't think you can accuse it of not being transparent enough just because it doesn't have a public quick-hit "love it/loathe it" poll.

  • Comment number 5.

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

  • Comment number 6.

    I feel one of the big problems here is that we all have different notions of what is or should be regarded as 'distinctive', and it's not clear how articulate or specific the BBC audience research was on this aspect. Distinctiveness could be regarded as a primarily visual thing, whereas I get the impression that many of the commenters on the initial blog see it more in functional terms, i.e. how much navigational content the current home page carries compared to the new beta. A quick glance at the code reveals the current homepage has 389 'a href' entries, whereas the new beta homepage has a mere 107. In terms of clickable things, the new beta is therefore far less efficient than the current homepage, so I fail to understand how the new beta "increases the page's coverage to appeal to a broader audience".

    Serious mission failure, I reckon.

    Russ

    P.S. I find the lack of themed structure in the carousel renders it almost unusable, and like many others, this factor alone will force me to reset my browser default home page to somewhere else when the new beta finally takes over.

  • Comment number 7.

    Surely if "over 70% of users entering BBC Online at the BBC News front page come direct" they've come either direct or via a search engine. In either case that probably means that the news is what they are after. So why go to the bother of trying to "guide" (or force) them to other parts of the website's content?

    Re #3 - if it were an Apple ad it would be much clearer and better designed overall (although the quality of the English used would probably be of about the same level)!

  • Comment number 8.

    Twitter ... mentions were generally positive

    There are approx 80 tweets for #bbchomepage. Of these, my assessment is:

    - 32 are neutral, e.g. a publicity reference to the blog
    - 18 are positive
    - 28 are negative

    Check it for yourself.

    Russ

  • Comment number 9.

    Oh and by the way - "Last week we launched a BBC Online homepage for the first time since 2009" is not true. You've forgotten the one from last year.

  • Comment number 10.

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

  • Comment number 11.

    Londonhunter makes a good point, Apple Ads are quite good in my opinion. What we have here is a lousy attempt to ape an Apple Ad.

    Also, if I may add, I think it could be unwise to base decisions of such importance on the results of a Twitter Poll.
    What are the current demographics for Twitter use among the UK population?

    Come on gentlemen, the game's up! The new version is rubbish and you should, in my humble opinion, discard it.
    However, I suspect that like the London Olympic logo, another gem of contemporary design (not!), the decision has already been made and the new homepage will be foisted on us regardless.

  • Comment number 12.

    Sorry James, mine was the last comment on your old blog which was not liked and caused it to close. Your response above convinces me you are going to continue regardless of the negative feedback. The 11 comments above have 9% positive rating, that means 91% are NOT Positive. SORRY .
    Please stop wasting money on something we don't want and use it for what the BBC stands for .... Broadcasting Quality Programmes. I hope this does not cause this blog to close for comments, I'd like to see more comments from the licence payers. I'm looking forward to seeing the stats after launch of the new site. I hope your bonus is linked.

  • Comment number 13.

    I echo most of the negative comments made and it is blinkered of the web developers to interpret feedback in such a way that somehow helps them justify continuing with this project and spewing all this nonsense without seriously revisiting the idea & considering to drop it & retain the existing layout. It does appear that the 'team' at the BBC are compelled to implement this to justify the time and money spent on it & perhaps to save face. This design is not welcome, it is not popular, it is consuming money and time. If the BBC were a private company it would be entirely its choice as to how it would want to construct its website in an effort to attract more traffic/customers. Given that licence payers fund the BBC, the BBC has a responsibility to uphold standards and ensure that its internet presence is clear and accessible. Licence payers rely upon the site & their views should be taken seriously and not glossed over by some of the superficial nonsense being put forward. Additionally the BBC should consider value for money and invest cash where it is needed, not on this 'pigs ear' of a website design. Please listen BBC and 'can' this now.

  • Comment number 14.

    Colin - comment 12 - James' previous post was not closed to comments because your comment there was "not liked". It was closed because this post by James had opened and I didn't want comments on the same subject appearing simultaneously in two different places.

    Can I ask people to stay on topic and keep within the house rules. Please keep the conversation civil. Comments which are abusive will be removed.

    Thanks

  • Comment number 15.

    Operation whitewash has started. Instead of listening to your audiences comments and acted upon it, you just tell us we are wrong and you are right. Typically BBC

  • Comment number 16.

    So you asked for our comments, then proceeded to tell us you are doing it this way , and it's up to us to either like it and make it work or not. In my case the answer is 'thanks, I'll use other web pages than yours from when this thing is inflicted on us'.

    Interesting version of 'consultation' you people have. "And of course, we welcome your continued feedback and will use this to shape the launch product." - that's 'welcome' meaning 'we'll do whatever we want to do anyway, regardless of feedback'?

  • Comment number 17.

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

  • Comment number 18.

    As I look at the beta homepage now what hits my eyes?
    - a large "All the build-up before the big game" for something that is happening on Saturday
    - iplayer links to Newsnight (28/09) and Match of the Day (25/09)
    - smaller box, News Top Story "Germany approves EU bailout plan"
    - headlines: Rio Ferdinand, 80mph, Girls in grandfather murder plot
    - MOST POPULAR with 3 of the 5 items already listed above

    1. Strikes me as much more tabloid than serious
    2. Pushes iplayer rather than current content
    3. Serving the BBC rather than its users

    I suspect the BBC may pick up more iplayer use when the beta page becomes the home page - but not from me.

    James, in your post at the head of this comment blog you talked about rebalancing the page with the aim "to increase the page's coverage to appeal to a broader audience". Surely those who want the mixture of news/sport/technology want their choice of those items and will not want the media/gossip/etc slant. Those who do NOT want news/etc are likely to be put off by the news stuff that is there.

    The layout clearly indicates that the priority is tabloid/media (large top left) and not the news/etc that the BBC does so well.

    Yes, "the homepages for BBC News and BBC Sport respectively are only one click away" but I can no longer see major items from both on the same page which was easily possible with the customisable current home page. The currency value is much diminished with the beta page.

    LOCATION is clearly important. London is of limited interest to the majority of people in the UK. Given the problems with location setting on the current home page would it not be a good idea to get this feature launched now? It might even be possible to recognise all valid postcodes.

  • Comment number 19.

    It seems my previous request for people to keep the conversation civil has fallen on deaf ears. I understand that some of you don't like the beta home page but that does not give you the right to break the House Rules.

    Again, please mind your tone and think about the words that you use.

    Thanks

  • Comment number 20.

    Time that the BBC Trust were forced to review the work of this department and its continual waste of licence fees on things the public have not asked for. Talking of deaf ears perhaps they should also investigate why negative comments on the new beta home page are being ignored and comments such as these hidden away and not even properly listed under Editors' blog. Instead you have to get here via a closed comments page. No wonder you get the responses you seek rather than the truth.

  • Comment number 21.

    The original blog contained the following

    "– if someone comes to the BBC to be informed, why shouldn’t they encounter content that will educate and entertain them also? "

    The answer for me lies in the fact that I use the Internet as a tool. Over the years I have found a number of websites that I find useful. The ones that I visit regularly are the ones that do a particular job well and that has included the BBC homepage.

    Now it seems that I am being ofered a Swiss Army Knife when I want is a specific tool like a hammer or a saw. I don't necessarily want to find out what a can may contain. I do see that a Swiss Army Knife does have its uses. I'm sure that if I was out and about without my specific tools, then it might be very handy. However even on my smartphone, I have my favouites bookmarked. So when I visit the BBC website it is for a reason and I don't want to be distracted. If I want to look up something new that I might be interested in then I use a search engine. If that happens to lead me to the BBC website then so be it, but I am confident that on most occasions it won't.

    It is obvious from the "tone" of the whitewash above that the beta will become the future homepage. I just hope that when the stats inevitably show it to be a failure that the whitewashing will stop.

  • Comment number 22.

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

  • Comment number 23.

    Hi James,

    Personally quite welcome a redesign. Nothing wrong with the proposed strategic direction.

    My view is the BBC has an opportunity to produce a great new page. The problem is the current beta isn't it.

    There are elements that could become one, but I find the overall design very messy and lacking coherency. (implementation of the carousel for instance isn't intuitive as the overly relied on quote says - it relies on two huge arrows and a shimmy affect when you hover over the arrows to prompt the user to flick through the content. So its far from flicking through a magazine - as a mac user I'm used to cover flow, which is intuitive and like flicking through a magazine. Also lacks visual clues as to what content your browsing - using the magazine analogy, most mags use page furniture to indicate which part of the mag you are in).

    The more I try to use it and try to like it, the more I just find it plain irritating and revert back to the old page. Suspect if/when the beta goes live in its current form I'd probably do one of the following: either switch to using the Guardian web page as my home page which i use as a second home page anyway, or the BBC news page.

    I have to say though, to have something to critique is far easier than trying to design something from a blank page. So credit has to be given for trying.

    I do hope you listen to the feedback take it on board, and produce something that really does the BBC justice.

  • Comment number 24.

    Just to add to my last post, just seen the Radio1 Beta, actually thats quite good. carousel on it feels more intuitive. Tabs for different content at the top rather than the bottom works better than the "more from..." buttons on the home page beta.

    Feels like a coherent page as well, rather than one in several bits. Could not the main BBC page draw on the design ideas used on the R1 page?

    (NB I'm not a R1 listener, am more in R2's demographic)

  • Comment number 25.

    Well I said its not for me (customisation is my sticking point) But there's the problem. The Beeb has not dumbed down (though the World Tonight is only the worthwhile news show on Radio). But it has chosen to dumb down on the Web. The Radio Page/ Music is even less of use to me.

    The Beeb is supposed to be for "everyone in the UK who wants to use it".... which has a long tail distribution in tastes and needs. It is in danger overall of excluding its supporters. The BBC Six row showed this. And the web site is going the same way. The new Home Page is illustrative of this. Following a tabloidish agenda, "you can have what we think will interest MOST of you." if not you can...... ... (add what words you like. Nick says we must be polite)

  • Comment number 26.

    @19
    Come on Nick.. 19 comments.. two are yours .. ONE person likes the beta so when you say Some of you don't like it - isn't that stretching the truth somewhat?

    Please can we have a simple "I like" / "I don't like" poll. I think you're all failing to get the message.

    and furthermore.. why are UK users the only ones to have to endure having this unwanted 'upgrade' forced upon us?

  • Comment number 27.

    My biggest problem is everything links to iPlayer - for example in the What's On section if I click on Radio 1 'on now' it takes me through to the iPlayer listen live page. I'd have thought it'd make more sense to go through to the Radio 1 homepage.

    It wouldn't be so bad if the iPlayer pages had links to the channel/station websites, or even the /programmes page for the programme.

  • Comment number 28.

    Why is my previous post up for further consideration. I made the point that the BBC shouldn't be spending money on revamping websites while selling off half its F1 coverage to Sky because it is short of cash.

    i.e. I'm stating that I believe this homepage revamp is a waste of licence money. How is this considered to be off topic?

  • Comment number 29.

    @26 - nogginthenob, although it is well hidden BBC have sponsored a poll at
    http://ecustomeropinions.com/survey/survey.php?sid=979515603
    it may go to a different department and the results not moderated and just counted. I urge readers of this blog to use the poll honestly.

    @14 .. Nick, Explanation for new thread accepted and Warning noted... I'll try not to upset sensitive people with constructive comments.

  • Comment number 30.

    @28 Eponymous Cowherd

    As I have mentioned to you before, a comment of the form "I do not like [topic of post], the BBC should instead have spent the money on [off-topic segue]" is off-topic.

  • Comment number 31.

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

  • Comment number 32.

    I take it from "a user's location will determine the nation edition that they see" suggests that the new home page is designed to replace the existing /scotland, /wales, and /northernireland pages. The /england national URL page has long since disappeared, redirecting instead to the England news section.

    Once customisation is enabled it would be nice if there was a 'my BBC' type tab option available, which once logged in allowed us to choose what we wanted to appear in that particular carousel.

    Overall I like the new beta home page. Nice to see the carousel remembers which tab you were on.

  • Comment number 33.

    Can I ask, how beta is this proposed change? Who will make the final decision as to whether or not the new design will be adopted?
    Is there anyone inside the BBC monitoring the situation and able to intervene on the side of reason?

  • Comment number 34.

    I appreciate that the primary function of the BBC Homepage is to direct people to BBC output etc, but the current layout and customisable content makes it a great everyday homepage - a function which I don't think this new version will fulfil for me.

    Perhaps I'm one of the minority of people who have customised the page. I have local news and weather highlighted and I appreciate being able to exclude elements of no interest to me, like sport and business. I like the iPlayer links, which I use a lot. I dare say I could get used to a new layout easily enough, but I'll be shopping around for a new homepage with just those features you seem determined to remove.

    Put me in the "No" pile, thanks.

  • Comment number 35.

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

  • Comment number 36.

    I've been worrying myself sick about this unnecessary change, worried about which homepage to change to and then I struck upon a blindingly brilliant idea!

    Presumable the internal links for the proposed new monstrosity are the same as the old most wonderful and current version?

    Why not run them side by side and let us choose which one we want?

    Simples!

  • Comment number 37.

    James,

    It strikes me is that the visible reaction on Twitter and as blog comments is not very great considering the large number of people who use the homepage. My overall impression is that, rightly or wrongly, what reaction there has been is more negative than positive. I note that you attribute the view that reaction was generally positive to Econsultancy. This was published by them very soon after the launch and is qualified by the word 'seems' so is not exactly a robust assessment.

    The things that I'm unhappy about are:

    i) Horizontal scrolling. I'm not against this in principle. I like the BBC News Android app. However I don't think it translates to a standard screen where there is plenty of room to display everything if you want to. User tests may produce the comments you quote but that is not the same thing as saying that given a choice users have a preference for this approach.

    ii) Using unnecessary images. Nearly every item has a relatively large image and these are included at the expense of text. The images don't contribute anything. They are just generic visual filler. I'm not saying that there should be no images but that they should be used more judiciously. It seems to me that you've had to fill up space with images to justify the 'carousel'. The end result is that it is very difficult to tell in many cases whether an item is something that I could be interested in or not.

    iii) Unhelpful categorisation of items There are some very odd juxtapositions. Basically, there is too much noise. If you are going to provide filtering rather than customisation it needs to be finer grained.

    iv) The drawers. On my screen I have to scroll down to see more than the top of these. Somehow they seem to be tacked on to the top 'carousel' rather than integrated with it. They are not very efficient in their use of screen real estate. Once again it's all the unnecessary images that are the problem.

    v) The predominance of links to programmes. It seems to me that what you'd really like is a homepage devoted to links to programmes. A gesture towards news and sport remains but it's only a gesture.

    Having read up on some of the background to the redesign process I suppose the nub of it is that I'm not the sort of person you want to attract to the homepage and I'm using it in a way that you don't think I should so it's not surprising I don't appreciate what you are doing with it. What will be interesting is to see the reaction of the vast number of people who haven't yet made their views known and also whether any significant number of new users will be attracted.

    One thing I'd really like to know is whether traffic is switching from the current homepage to the beta. If this was happening then it could be the clinching argument that the change is being welcomed positively by some users.

    Best regards,

    Roddy

  • Comment number 38.

    If I was as articulate as Roddy, I'd have said the same thing. Instead, I'll just second it!

  • Comment number 39.

    Quote: "On Twitter we were able to track real-time responses on the day of launch: following the first tweet of the day from The Guardian's @joshhalliday, 'new BBC' trended third in the UK at 11:30AM and mentions were generally positive - unprecedented for a new product launch, especially given the scale of change."

    There was an old motto within the BBC: "Let Nation Speak Truth Unto Nation". Basing public reaction to a proposal on a handful of selected Twitter comments that are limited to a few words is breathtakingly dishonest, and betrays the entire principle upon which the BBC was founded, and its Charter upon which it relied on public confidence to continue to receive funding. I had hoped George Orwell's cynicism about the concept of Truth within the ministry bearing its name could have been buried back in 1984.

    Please show me more reliable evidence that the reaction to the proposed changes to the BBC Home Page have been anything but extremely hostile with a few anomalous exceptions (probably generated by friends and family of those responsible for this appalling development).

    The BBC has not been shy in the past in condemning highly counterproductive changes to IT systems within other Government organisations, such as the Inland Revenue and the NHS. Maybe, now is the time for it to show an example and pull the plug before it robs programme makers of even more funding to make decent programmes. There is absolutely no point in upgrading until the new system can show itself to be sufficiently better than the old to warrant the extra spending.

    The current Home Page is not broke. Why fix it?

  • Comment number 40.

    I feel what's in question here is the whole subject matter of BBC polls. Sidelining this blog for anyone wanting to access and make comment by appearing to 'close for comments' on the original blog is a cynical ploy to eliminate more negative responses. There should be a direct link from the homepage banner (Discover the BBC Homepage) with a backlink to the original blog.

    We all remember the murky shenanigans of the Blue Peter cat naming poll
    http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-23412896-new-lies-fiasco-engulfs-bbc-as-it-admits-rigging-blue-peter-cat-naming-competition.do
    As to the underhand processes members of which BBC staff are capable to get their own way (contrary to public opinion).

    Mr Thornett.. you asked for our opinions and our opinions were freely given.
    Now I'd like to ask You to provide a full account of what those opinions are.
    Making vapid claims about comments on Twitter as being the basis for a perceived 'thumbs up' for the redesign is absolutely not enough.
    What are the results from the questionaire?
    How was the original research conducted?
    To say (above) "A key point of complaint on the blogs especially is the reduced scope for customisation." is quite frankly papering over some rather large cracks.

    You've failed to mention other repeated complaints regarding function, appearance, useability, loss of content etc.

    You've also failed to respond to a fairly large number of statements of intention to defect from using the new design as users personal homepage.
    I see lots of data suggesting you will lose readership by implementing the new version and as yet none suggesting you will gain any.

    It is time you came clean on exactly what response the BBC has received?
    I think you're failing to show accountability, which, from a government funded institution, we are entitled to expect.

  • Comment number 41.

    I use the BBC homepage as my main homepage on most browsers I use, at home and at work. I've been trying to get used to the new beta homepage, but I'm still struggling.

    I think the main problems are:

    1. Tabloid approach to top slider-panel content, especially regarding top features. This is most apparent when one looks as the content in the 'BBC online today' panel then the ordering of the categories below, with 'entertainment' and 'lifestyle' coming before 'news'. It feels like dumbing down, pushing the sort of content that many critics of the BBC (I am not one) suggest is not public service and not a proper use of the licence fee as it is available elsewhere. In terms of the BBC's strategy to confront ongoing existential threats, such as the debate over the licence fee (I'm a supporter of it), I think this above might prove to be a negative contribution.

    2. Sense of randomness in the top slider-panels, making it hard to first understand what one is being presented with, then difficult to try and learn the underlying pattern and order so that one knows what to do on repeat visits.

    3. Top slider-panel categories themselves are limited and sometimes don't seem logical (eg. news and sport mashed together as one category). Placing 'children's' content into 'lifestyle' is simply counter-intuitive.

    4. The 'What's on', 'popular' and 'Explore' sections on the lower half of the page - the navigation to expand and contract the panels isn't intuitive. It takes a bit of playing with to understand how it works, and even then, one doesn't feel quite in control.

    5. The 'What's on' feature feels as though with a little more development it could easily allow the user to scroll forward to browse the schedule, but it doesn't. The link to 'full schedule' takes the user away from the page completely, which may not have been the users expectation.

    In summary, I think the underlying issues are:

    - Sense of randomness
    - Lack of utility
    - Counter-intuitive, both in terms of IA and UX

    On the plus side, aesthetically it continues to grow on me, although visual hierarchy is poor - no doubt contributing to the sense of 'jumble' that many have reported.

    Good luck!

  • Comment number 42.

    How come exactly was my last post off-topic? I merely asked where James Thornett's repsonse to the overwhelmingly negative comments on here was. His silence seems to be deafening.

  • Comment number 43.

    Earlier this year it was decided that BBC World Service did no longer need an own homepage. The only BBC radio station without a homepage online.
    Now, the BBC has found out that was a wrong decision and luckily they reversed the decision. THE WORLD SERVICE HAS HIS HOMEPAGE BACK.
    So, even the BBC recognizes wrong decisions, and they will recognize that this bbc.co.uk beta is not the way forward.

  • Comment number 44.

    Love the new home page and thought it was worth posting a brief comment as I'm fed up reading a small but vocal minority who dislike most (if not all) changes to bbc.co.uk but love F1. It always seems that blogs attract the negative rather than postitive comments....

  • Comment number 45.

    @44
    DBOne, out of curiosity what device are you using to view beta homepage?
    Please define "smal but vocal minority" in the context of this and associated blog.

    @developers
    If they removed the iPlayer links from the carousel to the bottom section it would be far more acceptable. I go to the home page to view informative textual content not watch a repeat of a programme I can access from the iPlayer homepage. It is just a waste of space in the carousel.

  • Comment number 46.

    Piet Boon - the BBC World Service is off topic on this post.

    NobbinTheNob - Blue Peter and naming cats are off topic on this post and the BBC's use of telephone polls is nothing to do with the homepage beta.

    martinmrb - your post was removed because it broke the house rules i.e. it was abusive to BBC staff.

    Please stay on topic and moderate your tone. To repeat myself just because some of you (and "some" includes both people commenting here and people who are reading this post) don't like the beta does not give you the right to break the house rules.

    If you want James to comment being ill-tempered and breaking the house rules is unlikely to encourage him to do so.

    Thanks

  • Comment number 47.

    Dear Nick Reynolds, Piet Boon was using another issue to emphasise that the BBC does sometimes take into consideration peoples opinions and preferences in forming its ultimate decisions and policy and hopes that user opinion will somehow prevail in this instance. This is not off-topic as it stresses a point which many appear to be concerned about, that being that the BBC Web Development Team seems intent to plough on with its idea regardless, isn't listening to criticism and does not seem to be accountable to anybody wider than its own team for where this is going.

    By engaging BBC website users (and licence payers) and requesting feedback the web development team surely has started a process that it must now manage properly. One would feel that it has a responsibility to publish statistics and address user feedback properly, taking this into consideration when finalising the development of the homepage/site.

    In my view the reason why people are getting irritated & more assertive in their opinions is because the BBC team are doing none of these things, are not addressing the negative feedback properly and appear to not be presenting the statistics.

    Closing down the old blog (that had many negative comments) and starting a new one that does not have a direct link from the main article seems a bit odd.

    The web development team just does not seem to be acknowledging the nature of the criticism or the large number of people that dislike the new carousel based site design. Childishly taking offence at the tone or comments of participants contributes nothing, it shows that the web team are irritated by the reception to the new site and do not want to properly address the points it appears to not want to hear about.

    This blog aside there appears to be no obvious route to pursue for BBC licence paying customers and site users (that appear to be in the large majority) to address/escalate these concerns in a higher capacity at the BBC.

    A valid point was made by one contributor that stated that it would be a good idea to perhaps have the BBC run the existing site design (in 'Classic' mode for example) side by side with the new site design (if as is expected it is forced upon us). I do not believe anybody in the development team has addressed this point.

    My recommendation (to what are probably the large majority of people that are negative about the new site design) is to escalate this matter beyond the web development team or even complain to the BBC in other capacities to try to get these points properly acknowledged so that this is not glossed over and so that the web development team do acknowledge the many valid contributions.

    Asking for feedback & contributions appears to be a valuable exercise for the BBC team otherwise it would not have done this. To engage user feedback & contributions and then appear to side step it all and pay no attention to what is being said & not be prepared to alter its approach & design seems to undermine the whole process.

  • Comment number 48.

    @ Nick Reynolds

    Quote "If you want James to comment being ill-tempered and breaking the house rules is unlikely to encourage him to do so."

    I couldn't agree more, and would request that James would come back with just a few words to confirm that the views of the many are 'under consideration' Then tempers might calm. But at his high position he should have broad shoulders and not need to hide.

  • Comment number 49.

    I'm sorry James, but I hate it. I think you will lose a lot more of your existing audience that you will gain in new visitors.

    I use the existing homepage as my home page and have it customised to show me what I want, and nothing but what I want: news, sport, science, business news, weather, tv schedules - all neatly laid out so that I can see it at a glance, without scrolling. It's very nearly perfect. I'd prefer it to be better at remembering my settings, but that's about it.

    The beta is a confusing mess with less information and insists on pushing stuff at me that I don't want. If it does not improve dramatically I will be looking to change my homepage. However, the bottom half of the page is not completely without promise. Just three changes would make the home page useable for me without departing completely from your (misguided) design philosophy:

    1. Smaller font throughout (same as existing home page)
    2. Ability to customise the bottom half in a similar way to the existing home page, by choosing my topic headings. There is room for a choice of 4 topics, if the font is smaller
    3. Ability to shrink the height of the carousel so there is one row of boxes instead of two

    Trying to be constructive...

  • Comment number 50.

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

  • Comment number 51.

    This is hogwash. The swipeability on desktops when they have scroll mice is completely pointless, and not intuitive in the slightest, yet, once again [see other BBC redesign feedback blogs] the user is being ignored, and funding is being ploughed into a pointless makeover.

    As for GeoIP locating. What's the point? IP's are rarely where you actually are. When using the Work PC, I'm in London. 500 Miles away.

    There should be a neutral "British" Page as default, instead of the usual London-biased output at present. Then you can set to whatever Nation/Region if you so desire.

    However, I've just wasted another few minutes typing that, as it'll have no influence and be ignored.

  • Comment number 52.

    Dear Nick

    I don't remember abusing anybody in my post. Perhaps you would be so kind as to e-mail me back a copy of what I wrote. I am usually very careful with what I post so I take some offence that you have suggested I have been abusive.

    Or are BBC staff extremely sensitive?

  • Comment number 53.

    On the current home page the link now says "Discover the new BBC home page" which is pretty clear as to which direction things are moving.

    When you go to the page it still says 'Beta' which is understandable with a prominent link to 'Find out more'.

    Click on 'Find out more' and Number 1 in the featured list of advantages: "Local to you". Sadly this appears far from number 1 in the development priorities as this number 1 feature is not (yet) on the new homepage.

    It does feel as though the development team thinks the Local feature is not important - otherwise it would have been in place from the launch of the beta nearly two weeks ago.

    There are some interesting ideas on the new page even if they are not attractive to me (or others). BUT it does not help promoting a prominent feature that is not present and is about the only nod to customisation.

  • Comment number 54.

    Martinmrb - if you wish to appeal a hosing decision made on this blog please use the appeals process laid out here.

    Thanks

  • Comment number 55.

    @46, "If you want James to comment being ill-tempered and breaking the house rules is unlikely to encourage him to do so."

    We actually want him to listen to opinions he clearly doesn't like, regarding this new design. He wanted a blog with comments - so he got them, the vast majority are perfectly polite but clearly disagree with his opinion, and the result seems to be we either get ignored, brushed aside or generally disregarded.

    But let's be honest thought, it's not about 'politeness' of the public, is it? It's a standard BBC consultation - claim to be open to comment but always dismiss anything that isn't what you folks wanted to do in the first place, pretend to 'consult' but never pay attention, leave links to the closed blog on your main page about the changes so anyone wanting to comment gets the inpression the 'discussion' is over... all the usual spin and mirrors without genuine involvement with the people who have to use and pay for your constant 'improved' designs.

    If he's serious about having a conversation, he needs to be taking part in it - not ignoring the blog HE kicked off because he's 'offended' by people daring to disagree with his pet scheme.

  • Comment number 56.

    After looking at the home page again its still horrible to use and you should continue to use the one we use now with iits original accessibility to customising it

  • Comment number 57.

    Yes - I'm really going to waste my time doing that aren't I Nick. I just wanted to see what I wrote so that I could form my own opinion on whether the moderator was right or wrong. You didn't publish my post so I have no record of it.

    On the main topic do you think you could request that James Thornett comes on to this blog to answer the overwhelmingly negative comments about the new home page. He has been silent on the subject for too long now.

  • Comment number 58.

    At 13:32 21st Sep 2011, James Thornett wrote:
    Thanks for all your comments so far on the new BBC homepage. We’ll be rounding up key points of feedback and addressing these throughout the beta period.

    After one hundred responses (mostly negative) the topic was closed and this follow up post was opened. The follow up post simply restated the original post and stated that there was "some negative comment".
    The response from BBC seems to totally ignore any of the previous comments that do not sycophantically follow the line that the web designers are geniuses and all other opinions are wrong
    This "exercise in consultation" seems to have degenerated into an exercise in going through the motions, and since you seem to have a new policy of silencing dissent, I will set a new "homepage" for going on the internet, and set my cookie filter to prohibit bbc.co.uk. just as soon as you censor this post

    Please feel free to replace this post with the following text.
    "This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules."

  • Comment number 59.

    I'm sorry to say but I also can't stand the new design.

    My only hope is for a lengthy beta period in order for me to find another homepage.

  • Comment number 60.

    "If you want James to comment being ill-tempered and breaking the house rules is unlikely to encourage him to do so." Sorry, but it's James' JOB to answer us (licence payers, tax payers etc) whether he is "encouraged" to or not. And in any case "the customer is always right".

    Why is Nick able to comment on our supposed lapses so much more frequently than James can on how he will address our concerns?

    Or is that off topic?

  • Comment number 61.

    @MartinMrB

    Your comment was against House Rules because it was mean-spirited and called someone "a stooge". (It happened to be aimed at a colleague, but House Rules protect BBC staff members and members of the public the same.)

    I have emailed you your full comment, as requested.

  • Comment number 62.

    no no non. The new page is awful. I have tried it out for a week and it does not improve with familiarity. This home page user will need a new home page just as soon as you close the one I have now.

  • Comment number 63.

    @LondonHunter

    My primary duty is to host this blog, including managing comments. In this case, some comments have edged towards breaking the house rules, and not made this a pleasant inviting environment for more folk with diverse opinions. So my job is to remind folk of the House Rules and manage the conversation.

  • Comment number 64.

    It seems the BBC's track record for misinterpreting audience feedback continues true to form.

    I highlight one item: customisation (I assume customisation, if designed properly, is transparent to those that don't need or think about it). So why scrap customisation because a minority don't need it?

    I just wish you would be more honest about the re-design. Don't tell us it is audience driven - the blogs show us what the BBC really thinks of us - this was driven by a need for an aesthetic refresh - a corporate goal not driven by audience needs. As Erik Huggers said " the audience is at the heart of everything we do". Clearly he was mistaken.

  • Comment number 65.

    That's interesting Nick. Maybe you could 'manage' to get that nice Mr Thornett to comment. This isn't so much a blog as a series of press releases each disconnected from the one before.
    I know it's a device to sideline some passionately stated objections and criticisms of the beta version.
    Do I have to make a formal complaint before Mr T responds? Or would he prefer some begging?

  • Comment number 66.

    @OfficerDibble

    I think James addressed this in his post.

    Less than a third of users used customization features, and two thirds of this engagement comprised a simple change to location.

    So that "minority" who do not need the customisation beyond location is over eight users out of nine.

  • Comment number 67.

    You missed the point. When you are very prescriptive about the look and feel of the page - as it is now - news and sport getting demoted for example, then there is greater need to make it how individuals need it. Notwithstanding this, customisation is normally transparent so why disable it? If you get this wrong and people choose not to consume your product at all.

    You may think you are giving us what we want (a lot of evidence to show you failed at that) at least when you give us choice then we can adjust it to our preference (without a downside to those that don't.

    The same goes for messageboards designs (as another example of poor insight into audience needs)

  • Comment number 68.

    Personally I would never want a portal / home page to force feed me what the institution decides is topical and relevant- for the same reason I hate TV trailers, hype, continuity announcements and and homogenised "we know you'll love this" approach to marketing. The new BBC home page just repeats all that and so I would never contemplate using it, let alone bookmarking it.

  • Comment number 69.

    As I mentioned above, the redesign of last year seems to have been airbrushed from BBC history. Would you please tell us why that was abandoned so quickly? We had exactly the same pattern of events then as now - lots of people disliking particular features, and an apparent reluctance from the person in charge to address those concerns ending with the full implementation of the changes exactly as they had been at the beginning, taking none of the concerns into account. Since it clearly matters to a lot of people, how often do you plan to do this with the homepage in the future? NOT changing it would at least save you from diverting resources to answering these questions, so wouldn't everyone (except the webdesigners) be happier?

  • Comment number 70.

    As I recall the previous launch had much heralded customisation in beta. I tried it and all it appeared to do at that stage was change the template colours - pointless. I have just checked the current home page (don't normally use it) and the customise tab is right at the bottom and normally off the bottom of a screen - so it is no surprise it is only accessed by 30% of users.

  • Comment number 71.

    I am coming to this debate late.... a lot of reasonable comments have been said on the other closed blog. The one's that resonate with me is the fact that it isn't customisable (essential), location specific (not enabled yet), and mobile friendly (not designed for it yet. I would have thought those three criteria alone would have driven the design. In reality the design is there to arbitrarily market BBC programmes. Thanks but no thanks. I'll make my own viewing decisions thanks. That is not what a homepage is for.

    Home should be filled with what you like, not with what someone else likes.

  • Comment number 72.

    But here we have yet another unexplained and unsupported 'statistic'...

    "I think James addressed this in his post.
    Less than a third of users used customization features, and two thirds of this engagement comprised a simple change to location.
    So that "minority" who do not need the customisation beyond location is over eight users out of nine."

    Define 'a third of users' please? If that's 1/3 of regular, frequent visitors and users of the site, then it's a significant number (although still no explanation of why coding it in as an option is to be discontinued, since it only needs to be structured to allow 'customisation once, and if the template for that components is then followed for future web articles and sections, there's no further work required...) - but if it's 1/3 of the people who EVER visit the site, the vast majority of those are likely to be simply passing through, looking for one or two specific things, and therefore never, ever needing to explore 'customising' it..... that's nonsense masquerading as 'statistical analysis'.

    So as ever - where did this 'fact' come from, and how was it calculated?

  • Comment number 73.

    Hi RobertIain

    I am worried about what this whole project says about BBC Accountability.

    Not for the first time we have seen a retro-consultation process which is typified by BBC resistance to feedback. I can name 4 or 5 BBC Online projects that have been rolled out in the past 5 years - many of them were launched and only then were the users given an opportunity for open discussion which was roundly suppressed and the resultant design / implimentation remained unchanged. It appeared a sham. The only divergence from this unaccountable approach was the messageboards where we were consulted beforehand - but as most users will attest - the user suggestions were wholesale ignored.

    Perhaps the BBC needs to re-address how they approach accountability. Looking at these blogs it is clear the audience believe the BBC have failed to be accountable.

  • Comment number 74.

    Regarding Homepage feedback, frankly I'm bored with this blog now, obviously no one is receiving or intending to act on this feedback. I have found a cracking default home page for my browser, which is fully customisable, informative, friendly and does not push program trailers at me from all directions about programs which frankly embarass me. I will now take my feedback more formally via a diiferent route. Thanks for the support of like minded people. Here ends at least 7 years of BBC Homepage default.

  • Comment number 75.

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

  • Comment number 76.

    I believe Nick Reynolds is the BBC Online Accountability Executive. Perhaps he could encourage James Thornett to respond and explain what he intends to do with the wealth of feedback we have contributed here. Or are our opinions not of any value?

  • Comment number 77.

    Unfortunately the BBC team involved here are not doing themselves any favours whatsoever by refusing to engage with customers of the BBC and by not addressing the raft of negative comments and dissatisfaction.

    It is really a bit of a sham, what is the point of requesting a customer feedback process when nothing is acknowledged and nothing addressed?

    Has the BBC senior management team sanctioned the implementation of a site design that will lower BBC standards and present a garish, over-busy, cartoonish site that is not coherent.

    Does the BBC management team (outside the realms of the web development team) have any interest or knowledge of what is going on and the resistance to this new site design?

    If anyone does feel that this is of sufficient importance and wants to draw these matters to the attention to the BBC in a wider context then you can use this page to address concerns and maybe even direct them to these blogs to see for themselves how insular the web team appear to be: http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/

  • Comment number 78.

    I must say, I don't post on these blogs at all, but I am a regular BBC Website user and visit many times a day. I have tried the new Beta Site a few times now and it has drawn me into posting.......to sum it up in one word..TERRIBLE! It is messy, unclear, unsightly, chaotic, confusing, too much imagary and simply frustrating to use. It is just not easy on the eye and is generally quite a stressful experience. The current site is perfect, so I hope you leave an option in place for me to stick with what already works.

  • Comment number 79.

    Hi Brett,

    After a study into BBC Accountability and Social Media (partly revealed here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2010/08/social_media_accountability_2.html?postId=99744787#comment_99744787 ) Nick Reynolds did state a year ago: "One of the points the research made was that it needs to be made clearer to people what kind of engagement they can expect on blogs (i.e. whether the blog owner will respond in comments or a follow up post or not). I'm working on that. "

    Looks like he hasn't succeeded.

  • Comment number 80.

    In reply to Colin @45, I've used the new site on a laptop, desktop and (Android) tablet although I'm not sure the relevance of the question. Small means exactly that, 79 comments from less than 79 users is small compared with the number of people visiting the site.

    The BBC is a broadcaster - why is it that so many of the people posting here are surprised that their homepage has a high proportion of pictures, links to programmes and iPlayer?

    Design is often divisive - what some people like other people may dislike. To me the old page was text heavy, dull and uninviting to others is was structured, unchanging and 'safe' - horses for courses.

    The BBC website should be seen in the same way as the programmes the BBC make and broadcast. As a license payer and viewer I can choose to watch a programme or not but I wouldn't expect to be consulted on every programme commissioning decision made and the website should be the same. I expect the BBC to be bold, experimental and challenging because that is where they excel and where some of the best TV, Radio and Internet sites are. Sometimes the decisions will be wrong but at least they were made....

  • Comment number 81.

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

  • Comment number 82.

    I'm another who has not posted before but feel I have to comment on the new homepage (which I'm afraid I dislike intensely).

    I've checked across the web to see if it's just reaction to this blog that is overwhelmingly negative and interestingly found that many tech websites love it whilst comments on said websites are again overwhelmingly negative. Maybe it's just that people who don't like things comment whilst those that do don't fele the need to, but it does seem to me some designers have decided that the "Windows 8" look (which I also dislike) is the future and everything is going to look like it despite what most people are saying.

    I guess at my age I may not be your target audience any more, but there are clearly other people like me around! Any chance of leaving the old site running somewhere so that those of us who like the way we can customise it can still use it?

  • Comment number 83.

    @OfficerDibble regarding clarity on how bloggers will respond to comments.

    @nogginTheNoob, @londonhunter, @RobertIan, @MartinMrB and all others who have demanded in strong terms that James respond in the comments.

    James ended this blog post saying:

    we'll continue to review all comments around this work-in-progress version and address key themes in round ups to follow.
    I appreciate that several folk here would prefer him to engage via comments, and within a couple of working days of the post. But that is not what he said he would do.

    Talking about how and when James should respond has always been off-topic, but I have been reluctant to moderate comments for that reason alone. But my job is to run this not just for the folk that comment but the many more who simply read it.

    From now on, I shall remove comments about how James should reply.

  • Comment number 84.

    Paul, I too think the "windows 8" panels look was what they thought would appeal - I too hate that approach.

    DBOne stated "Design is often divisive - what some people like other people may dislike. To me the old page was text heavy, dull and uninviting to others is was structured, unchanging and 'safe' - horses for courses."

    Well yes all design is divisive - although the current customisable page doesn't appear to be.... and of course customisation helps make it broader in appeal o avoid such reactions. As for inviting .... this is a home page, which by definition is one people frequent and often have as their home page... so they don't have the same needs as a casual visitor who needs to be invited. Imagery is important in selling, but not so a home page - and especially when it is not imagery that is relevant to the user's wants - as in this case where a large proportion of users are disinterested in the drama /CBBC / Sport or whatever else a designer as decided will dominate the home page on that day. When I look at the beta homepage 75% of the imagery is a turnoff - and re-enforces my view that I dislike a lot of the BBC's current TV and radio offering. That is a very poor hit rate for a home page....and so I am pretty sure we will see more and more people dumping this as their home page (as a few intimated above).

    So from a function / form / success point of view, this site is destined to fail.

  • Comment number 85.

    My feeling is the customisation features of the current homepage were never really successful because they were stored primarily on client-side cookies rather than server-side cookies, i.e. most of the customisation needed resetting every time the local cache had been cleared. Notwithstanding the interesting debate over the associated 'statistical analysis' (RobertIain's #72), that's why I detect the customisation usage was comparatively low.

    Let's backtrack to an interesting BBC homepage announcement snippet from December 2007:

    For now, all this customization is saved in a cookie, but from January we hope - with the launch of Identity - to incorporate this data into your unique personal user profile.

    Yep, December 2007. Something, and its a big strategic something, has gone drastically awry since then. A read through old homepage blog posts is revealing, with their continuous emphasis on integrated customisation/personalisation features. Since then, there has been a continuous struggle with ongoing problems with homepage customisation settings, and the once-vaunted 'Topic Tracker' now seems to have been aborted. Are these problems arising because the BBC is struggling to recover server expertise following the cancellation of the ill-fated contract with Siemens? Or that the BBC is running scared of the forthcoming (and horrendously complicated) cookie legislation? Whatever the causes, the reality is that the BBC could never deliver the degree of homepage customisation it has been publicising to us over the last four years, and I don't suppose we'll ever be told the real reasons why the BBC has now done such an abrupt about-turn, but it's clear from James Thornett's blogs that it has finally decided to throw in the towel on that avenue, or has decided that the dwindling numbers of homepage visitors has simply made any development not worth while, or that financial cutbacks make the ongoing servicing of homepage customisation non-viable or impracticable.

    That being said, the strange thing is that personalisation has been a success in iPlayer. I think this appeared during the V2 rollout. (The less said about the disastrous "This time it's social" V3 the better, but at least it has now reverted to a V2 equivalence in those respects pertinent here.) Now we all know that trigger-happy host's fingers are hovering right now over the catpee button owing to any mention of the 'offtopic' iPlayer here, but it really is fundamental to this issue, viz: why does the BBC iPlayer team think customisation is great whereas the BBC homepage team think it's old-hat? My experience of any customisation based on BBC iD is that it is rock solid. My reading of events is that any customisation based on a complex mixture (client-side/server-side) of non-BBC-iD cookies is that it is fraught with difficulty.

    There is no guarantee that any personalisation settings will be retained in the next version of iPlayer of course, but my big concern is that given all radio content is soon to be dropped from the (TV-only) iPlayer V4, radio users will lose all access to any personalisation settings because the new radio beta homepages look like they will dispense with them. Radio users will be stuck up the proverbial creek without a paddle.

    Leaving aside the dire future predicament of radio users for a moment (the silence in the associated parallel radio blog is deafening of course), flaffing about with flavour-of-the-month widgets like the carousel is a smokescreen tactic by the BBC - what is needed first is a clear stragegy statement from the BBC concerning the future role and purpose of BBC iD across both its homepages and content-streaming pages.

    Russ

    P.S. Throughout the above, I have used the terms 'customisation' and 'personalisation' somewhat interchangeably. Maybe it would help if there was a better clarification of what is meant by 'customisation', 'personalisation' and 'user-filtering'.

  • Comment number 86.

    As the BBC denial process seems to be in full flow, with the removal of many adverse comments on the new beta homepage, I would urge greater use of the formal complaints system as outlined in post no 77. Perhaps then senior management might address the comparative hiding of this blog rather than open and free consultation.

  • Comment number 87.

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

  • Comment number 88.

    Ian - what evidence have you that the lurkers have a completely different opinion to those that post?

  • Comment number 89.

    I've raised concerns about the beta homepage and have posted a comment on this blog page and the previous one too. I'm still struggling to get on with it.

    However, regarding the BBC response to this feedback, I think people should be a little more patient. It's perfectly rational for the team to wait, to gather feedback, to gather it from different sources, to see how views do or do not change as people get used to the beta page.

    Whatever we think of the beta page, it's been a major project in its own right. It is clearly not professional behaviour for James Thornett or any of those involved to make direct knee jerk responses to the initial feedback and there would be nothing gained from engaging with people on a point by point basis on an open forum like this. One only has to imagine it. They'd have questions coming in from all sides, from all directions. It would be a time consuming mess and I would imagine they have better things to do with their time.

    I'm just assuming they are reading the comments and taking the feedback on board. If they are, we should be content with that.

    Sign of the times, isn't it.... everyone wants instant gratification. Immediate responses. Immediate changes. Immediate results.

  • Comment number 90.

    @84 - The current page is probably divisive - those that don't like it don't use it and therefore have no need to complain on this blog. Those that do use it and don't like the new version do......those that are passive don't enter the debate.

    How many organisations (as opposed to sites such as Yahoo and Google which are financed via advertising) allow customization on their homepage? It's like Tescos allowing you to goto their homepage but filter our all references to Groceries beacuse you're only interested in cheap clothing....

    The fundamental question appears to be one that says should the BBC control what you see on their homepage or should I be able to choose? The BBC see it one way - we want to make sure our customers see the bits we consider to be good (and see that we deliver lots of variety) and some of their users who want a page of their own design with a bit of weather and news. It appears to be a difference in view of what constitutes a homepage and probably one that is not fixable.

    I can think of some great programmes I might not have viewed - Deadly 60, Being Human or Wallander - had it not been for the homepage highlighting them.

    @88 OfficerDibble - When was the last time you complemented the BBC in a post? If I believed the evidence of the blogs then as majority of posts are negative (including the open posts with no agenda) then the majority of the UK must dislike the BBC a lot but in reality they don't its just that people are always more willing to complain than compliment.

  • Comment number 91.

    @90

    Tesco is a private sector retailer, with a commercial interest in pushing particular product and making a profit.

    The BBC is a public service national broadcaster, funded by a licence fee which we must all pay (which I'm in favour of btw).

    I think that is an important distinction that one must bear in mind when thinking about the issue of allowing users to customise the BBC homepage. The idea must surely be that the BBC is theirs, and that by extension the BBC website is theirs, designed to serve their different needs.

    That's certainly how I've viewed the existing BBC homepage, with its customisation - as a service the BBC is providing to me, to enable me to choose how I want to digest the range of BBC content that I an helping to pay for.

    The new beta homepage therefore feels disconnected from that particular aspect of public service, and your use of Tesco as a reference point is actually very apposite.

  • Comment number 92.

    @91 the same way as Tesco uses it homepage to meet its primary objective (to a make a profit), the BBC needs to use its homepage to meet its own mission to educate, entertain and inform. I also think it has a duty to demonstrate how it uses the license fee. Surely the homepage is the right place to be doing these things? Where else does get a good view of the complete range of needs the BBC caters for.

    Filtering content (as the current page allows) to just those things each user is interested in reduces the ability of the site to meet the BBC's mission by allowing those that do not want to be informed (or entertained) the option of removing it. Lots of the posters on this blog seem to like that but how so they know what they are missing out on? Next people will be wanting a good news only filter on the news homepage...

  • Comment number 93.

    Holy dropdown menus, Batman, we'd all be in hog heaven if the BBC website was half as good as Tesco's!

    Russ

  • Comment number 94.

    @92

    I know, and that point is taken. From that point of view, the beta page has some merit.

    However, I hope they find a halfway house, perhaps where they can keep the 'BBC online' panel as the shop window of diverse content, but then have better categorisation available in the menu strip below, with a little more utility and ability to scan content, especially in the news section (which really should be split from sports - makes no sense!).

    As I said - I'm still struggling with the page (I don't feel in control, of either the content in the top half or of the navigation in the lower half) - I will say that the situation is improving with use.

    Who knows. I may end up really liking it. However, I suspect some modifications would be needed.

    I do wonder if the rather prissy tone adopted by one or two of those offering feedback here will be counter-productive though. For example, trying to starting a complaints campaign about how the team are not responding to feedback a mere week or so into a beta period does seem a little childish and it demeans the well meaning feedback offered by everyone else, if only by association.

    Anyway - I've said more than enough here already. It's not a chat room.

  • Comment number 95.

    Thank you all for continuing to provide lots of really useful feedback on the new homepage.

    We have been receiving thousands of comments via email and our online survey so unfortunately it has taken me a while to respond directly to some of the comments on this blog.

    I’ve read everything that has been said above and some specific points have been raised which I will attempt to answer in comments below:

  • Comment number 96.

    @Russ (comment #6) Your comparison of number of links is interesting although I’m not sure that the figure of 107 links on the beta page reflects all of the additional links available from the non-visible pages of the carousel or the ‘More from…’ filter which displays an even greater range of content.

    However, what is important is how we evaluate our success at providing good navigation to the rest of BBC Online and we do this by measuring the number of click – throughs from the homepage to the other products, both the overall number of referrals and the detail of which particular sites the majority of people are visiting.

    Increasing the number of links on the page does not necessarily mean that more people will click through to other parts of the site.

  • Comment number 97.

    @londonhunter (comment #9) Yes, you are completely correct.

    We did launch a new homepage last year (http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2010/05/new_bbc_homepage_launches.html) which was focussed on transferring the page to a new technical architecture. This was a simple mistake in my post which you have spotted, so well done!

  • Comment number 98.

    @EKandrew (comment #23 and #24) The task of making the homepage carousel intuitive and coherent is certainly one of our biggest challenges, particularly when we are hoping to showcase the entire range of content provided by the BBC online.

    Along with the large volume of written feedback we are receiving about the new homepage we are also using our analytics tool to measure how the page is being used.

    It is very clear that a relatively small number of people are using the ‘More from…’ filter bar underneath the carousel at the moment and so we will certainly be looking at alternative designs and placement of this function so that it becomes more visible and easier to use within the page.

    By the way, really happy to hear that you like the Radio 1 beta site.

  • Comment number 99.

    @Keith (comment #32) Your idea for a ‘My BBC’ option that would allow users to create a customised carousel once you were logged in is an idea that has proved very popular with people in feedback so far.

    We’ll be looking to investigate this idea further and hopefully you will find it on the homepage in the future.

  • Comment number 100.

    @roddyofour (comment #37) Fantastic post Roddy! Thanks for all of your detailed feedback on the new beta homepage.

    It is certainly true to say that even with the thousands of responses we have received so far, this is still a very, very small number compared to the weekly average of 9.1 million unique browsers that accessed the homepage across all devices in July this year.

 

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