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Roger Bolton talks to Steve Herrmann about the redesigned news homepage

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Roger Bolton Roger Bolton 13:55, Friday, 23 July 2010

BBC News homepage

Editor's note: this week's item from Feedback, Radio 4's accountability programme, concerns the redesign of one of the BBC's biggest web sites - SB.

Most of the comments - OK, complaints - we get on Feedback are about programmes (and of course trails, and grammar and pronunciation and presenters like Jonathan Ross and the attempted execution of 6 Music, and management pay, and travel expenses!).

Before the beginning of this month I would have said that I couldn't remember when we last had a complaint about the BBC News website. Like so many of you, I've been a great fan, and my family, and particularly my student daughters, have found the site invaluable not least for the context it provides to foreign news stories.

Now all seems to have changed utterly with what Steve Hermann the editor of the BBC News website calls "the biggest rethink of the design of the site since 2003."

As Mr Hermann said on the News Editors blog "Most of you commenting here... have been critical." Well here at Feedback all the correspondence we have received has been critical. The concerns range from alleged difficulties of navigation, wastage of space, the new banner which is "immoveable", "ridiculous classification" and unwanted ads. Faced with this barrage of criticism we asked Steve Herrmann to come onto Feedback and I began our interview by asking him why he believed such a major revamp was necessary:

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So please keep letting Mr Hermann and Feedback know what you think about the redesign and any tweaks that may be made. By the way next week on Feedback I'll be talking to Kirsty Young about how she prepares for her Desert Island Discs interviews and trying to discover if she dislikes any of the guests, and we hope someone from the Today programme will be coming on to talk about the ever-shortening weather forecasts at 3 minutes to 8. No, make that 2 minutes to 8. No...

Roger Bolton presents Feedback on BBC Radio 4

  • Listen again to the whole programme, get in touch with Feedback, find out how to join the listener panel or subscribe to the podcast on the Feedback web page.
  • Visit the BBC News web site and see the new design for yourself.
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Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    You interviewed the wrong person, Roger. Try Miranda Cresswell, SVP of bbc.com, and you'll get the real story.

    Russ

  • Comment number 2.

    Did Steve forget to mention that the website had been redesigned in order to allow for advertisements to be shown in the USA to pay for the new Washington bureau?

    No? Shame about that. It makes things much clearer when you realise that the UK licence payer has funded the website redesign so that bbc.com can support itself. We in the UK are left with an unwanted and dumbed-down news website, so that the USA can be given their own newsroom!

    This is an excellent quote from post 365 of Steve's no5 blog:

    "As far as I'm concerned the new site, which has shown some improvement, still does not meet my needs so I have given up using the BBC News site and have turned to others that better satisfy my needs and preference.

    "Now before anybody stereotypes me as someone who doesn't like change let them contemplate the fact that in adopting this course I am changing. They might also reflect on the fact that it possibly indicates I'm a person who is capable of handling fairly tightly packed information on a page and don't need a lightweight page suitable for those without the capacity to process information because of a limited attention span."

    My conclusion is that the BBC news website has changed into a magazine. It's not a news site any more.

  • Comment number 3.

    Steve Hermann just can't admit any mistake and this interview confirms it.

    He was told the navigation is worse and then asked "do you accept there is a problem?" His reply....."I accept that is the most fundamental thing of all."

    If they paid most attention to navigation and ease of use, how did they get it so wrong?

    Personally I love it when things change, get updated and made better. So saying I dislike the new site because we don't like change sounds very patronising. The new site is disliked because it has taken many steps backwards in usability, navigation and compactness. In fact pretty much every point Steve said they tried to improve they in fact made worse.

    It was changed for the sake of changing it along with supporting oversea users. Exactly the wrong reasons.

  • Comment number 4.

    Once again, a Radio 4 presenter proves their ability to interrupt someone mid-explanation. More regularly this occurs with politicians, who are trained in such matters; but in this occasion it is directed at a website editor who undoubtedly doesn't have the same experience. Questions should be raised, aye; but to mockingly interrupt explanation just shows lack of courtesy.

  • Comment number 5.

    Greg Tyler wrote "Once again, a Radio 4 presenter proves their ability to interrupt someone mid-explanation."

    He did what a good interviewer would do when someone tries to dodge a question and prattles on explaining how they are right and everyone else is wrong.

    Although I feel Steve Hermann got off lightly in this interview, I feel I have to support Mr Bolton in respect to your comment.

  • Comment number 6.

    Please, please, please! Can someone knock some (figurative) sense into Steve? His high handed arrogance is absolutely breathtaking. The details of why the news website is such a dogs dinner now have been discussed ad nauseum in the HYS blogs, so I'm not going to go into detail here. The new website is a disaster. I've just registered a formal complaint with the BBC over this mess - something I've never done before. I suspect many others are doing the same.
    I'm no longer visiting the BBC news website; it's just too awful to use.
    I also feel less inclined to defend the licence fee now because of this...

  • Comment number 7.

    5 Greg Tyler

    Do you not think the interruption was deserved ?

    Was it not necessary and fair to point out it is not what Steve Herrman thinks that matters here, it is what so many of us think that is the point.

    With the way he avoided almost everything Steve Herrman is as consumate at not answering the question as any politician I have ever heard.

    Dont think he needs protecting my friend.

  • Comment number 8.

    Good interview, Mr Bolton. It seems as though Steve Herrmann believes that all negative criticism is requesting the site being reverted to how it was. Perhaps he could consider that actually, of course change can be a great thing but the website in its current state has some fundamental design flaws that should never have been put into place to begin with.

  • Comment number 9.

    Mr Hermann: "If we feel there are elements that aren't quite right; so to give you an example."
    Mr Bolton (Interrupting): "No sorry, you say 'we feel' [...] How long do [the users] have to protest before you alter things?"

    See, I feel that here Mr Bolton is merely trying to make the point that he is in-tune with the listeners and understands where they're coming from, at the expense of content. Mr Hermann is about to explain some details of things that have been changed after user feedback, which would undoubtedly be useful information. But he is interrupted and then asked what people have to do for things to be altered.

    So Mr Hermann is basically told to stop explaining where changes have been made to meet feedback, and asked to explain where changes will be made to meet feedback; implying that no feedback has yet been addressed.

    I don't see how stopping people from providing explanation on a programme which demands it is "what a good interviewer would do". In this situation, a good interviewer would let the public hear what has been done by Mr Hermann and his team to meet the criticisms. There seems to be a modern habit of getting guests in to talk and then just speaking over the top of them.

    As for whether the interruption was correct, I think it was just a misunderstanding (which, as I say, isn't unreasonable for someone not used to this sort of situation). As I see it, Mr Hermann was meaning that "Not all user feedback can be addressed, since some of it conflicts. Hence we can't address everything and have to select what we think is viable feedback." I'm sure we can all appreciate this angle. But he was interpreted as meaning "We only address things that we think are important and ignore the public."

    If you can't appreciate "that angle", search the web for "CollegeHumor Windows 7 Parody" - it's an excellent (if exaggerated) example of why not all public feedback can be addressed.

  • Comment number 10.

    Roger thank you for trying to get this debacle aired.

    Ordinary users like myself in their thoudands are complaining.

    Computer design experts are complaining.

    Many are offering homemade tweaks to make the site better!!!! No use to me I wouldnt know how to install them.

    I am not going to list all the things that I find wrong with it, from the USA market driver to the awful in your face design to the hopeless navigation or the inferior news quality that has coincided but, just go yourself to the Have Your Say page still in the old format and see how much quicker and easier it is to use.

    I have moved to Yahoo a not dissimilar design to the new site,but easier on the eye and no scrolling and minimal clicking. Just like the old Beeb site used to be. Oh and news updated much quicker than the BBC site, (an unexpected bonus).

    Please keep the pressure on.

  • Comment number 11.

    9 Greg Tyler

    I have no problem with the way you see it, it is a valid opinion.

    It is my opinion that Roger had sussed he had an evader the other side of the table and was doing his best to get to the nitty gritty of how the thousands of complaints were going to be addressed.

    I think both our positions are valid.

  • Comment number 12.

    Steve Herrmann's responses in the interview mirror his comments on his blog posts; he's entirely failed to answer the specific and detailed criticisms about style, navigation, extraneous information, etc, that have been made by thousands of people. He says "we'll continue to ask people what they think of the redesign" but appears oblivious to the fact that a huge number of viewers/readers have already pointed out exactly what they think of the new layout, how difficult they find it to navigate, the paucity of information and why the site now doesn't work. To imply that the majority are Luddites who only want to go back to the old design is to belittle all those who have commented; the suggestions of returning to the previous design have been made mainly in despair, as the old design worked and the new one doesn't.

    The bbc.com story linked above strongly suggests that the redesign has been motivated at least in large part by the need to include advertising (on international versions not visible in the UK) as a way of allowing BBC Worldwide to pay for a significant part of the BBC's US news operation. If the BBC wants support from viewers and listeners while attacks from commercial news suppliers increase and become ever more vocal, then transparency in its own dealings is absolutely essential: if the redesign is commercially-driven, Steve Herrmann should admit it.

    It looks as though a few small tweaks have been made to the News home page, but most issues raised in the comments have been completely ignored. Mr Herrmann would do his own credibility -- and that of the BBC -- a great deal of good if he would for once say something like "yes, we got it wrong; we've listened to what you say and have changed/are changing X, Y and Z in the light of your comments; sorry." If he showed some respect for the audience (instead of taking the line that "we know what we're doing, you have to change your behaviour and you don't know what you're talking about" that he's pursued so far), then he might begin to correct what at present looks like a monumental PR cock-up on the BBC's part.

    I hope Feedback will pursue this story and try to hold Mr Herrmann to account again in future editions.

  • Comment number 13.

    Thanks for doing this interview, Roger, although I note Steve Hermann is still as unapologetic as ever. It's a good interview nonetheless.

    Personally I think the new BBC News site is a mess, and overall the previous site was better - which is why I can appreciate that many of the comments are asking for a return to the old. As a software developer, however, I also understand that things aren't always that easy.

    What really annoys me is that Steve Hermann is doing the managerial equivalent of sticking his fingers in his ears and going "la la la" whenever he hears a complaint. There are plenty of improvements that can be made to the new site without "rolling back" to the old. Yet Steve sits on his hands telling anyone who complains that they are wrong and he is right. I notice that he started off promoting the new site's use of pictures and video - and it is true that these are better on the new site. I don't think that many users would dispute that, assuming that they can find these pages! However these features don't seem to be the cause of complaints - so this was a bit of wilful misdirection by Steve here, I think.

    It's the new layout of the site and navigation that seem to cause many people problems, myself included, and it's these issues that Steve seems to be reluctant to fix. There is a great deal of speculation that this is due to much of the site being designed around advertising for non-UK readers.

    In brief, my problems with the site are mainly that the new changes make it harder both to find the news I'm interested in (lots of scrolling is required to get around the index pages, for example), and if I do find a news article of interest, it's not an easy read - the layout is messy, with too much whitespace and variable column size...

    ...which is often narrowed
    down to one really thin (with something else over here) (and here)
    column which just make
    me want to give up
    and go elsewhere,
    quite frankly.

    Much of these layout issues could be readily sorted out, if it wasn't for Steve Herrmann's intransigent attitude. I do hope that he does relent soon though - many readers will thank him for it if he does.

    An apology for getting things so wrong in the first place would also be welcome, but somehow, I just can't see one coming from Mr Herrmann.

    Thanks once again for the interview.


  • Comment number 14.

    It is such a tragedy - Steve has broken one of the best sites on the web - on the old site in 2s you could get a view of all the key stories 6 or 7 per area and focus on what interested you. Now someone at the beeb is deciding what is important and not letting me make that choice as I can only see 6 or 7 stories in total. It has become a magazine not a news site. The fonts and graphics can be fixed but the mindset is what is really broken as seen by the arrogance of the responses.

    We don't want facebook, twitter, loads of links and videos - we want simple, factual, unbiased (well most of the time), news....

    I understand you can't rollback as you changed content management system at the same time (why!!) but please rememember what we want

  • Comment number 15.

    I am concerned about the lack of transparency in the reasons for this disaster and the total avoidance of any explanation of both the internal and external costs involved in this revamp. Although more in the media are now asking questions (thanks Feedback for your efforts!) there is still complete silence from the BBC Executive and even officially logged complaints are not being acknowledged or recognised. Time for the usually weak and ineffective BBC Trust to become involved I feel. Perhaps they could actually show some mettle for once.

  • Comment number 16.

    Roger

    On Steve Herrmann's blog 5 on the new layout of the BBC News website I wrote the following, however upon reflection I truly have no realistic hope that he will either a)pay it any attention or b) reconsider his ridiculously stoic stance .... and so I hope and think that it will be of more use here:

    Steve

    I have read and commented on each of your previous four blogs on this subject.

    I do not need to re-read your spurious justifications and reasoning behind the changes again, and merely regurgitating them is both counter productive and, frankly, insulting.

    Neither do I need to read your inglorious FAQ section because it is nothing but further self justification.

    I have asked before, and I ask again, why can you not admit that you are wrong to have carried out theses changes, especially in the way that you have done so?

    The new site is less appealing, not more
    The new site is less accessible, not more
    The new site is messy, not tidier
    The new site is less intuitive to use, not more

    I could go on, but what irks me the most is your thoroughly patronising responses to clear and unequivocal criticism from the huge, not to say vast, majority of your correspondents here.

    It is overall a failed revision of the site, and I urge you to reconsider.

    Finally, I think it is now long overdue that you place a vote button on the site asking simply 'do you prefer this or the previous design'?

    That, once and for all will give you the feedback that you appear to be working so hard to simply ignore.

    Or do you not dare to do that?

  • Comment number 17.

    @Rab-Cambs: So this is a case of "Because you haven't sorted and responded to every one of the thousands of responses yet, whilst still being lead editor of an international News website, I feel subjugated and so am going to ignore the response that you do post in lieu of posting the same complaints over and over again"?

    @Ampersand2: Mr Herrmann failed to answer details and specifics because the interviewer wouldn't let him, with his interruptions. We ask so much of this guy and then, when given the chance to explain things, he's given four minutes in which when he says "let me give some examples" he's silenced for an unrelated and misguided point. And this, of course, is entirely Mr Hermann's fault.

  • Comment number 18.

    Thank you for tackling Steve Herrmann over the BBC news website vandalism. Once again BBC managers seem to want to justify their decisions and sidestep the deafening negative howl of protest from the people who pay their salaries and use their product. Mr Herrmann said he was keeping an eye on the website stats. Well so are we. The site stats show a BIG drop in visits and in how long those visitors stay at the site. I would have liked to hear Mr Herrmann to answer questions about tracking scripts, and also about the way in which the design was driven by the need to serve ads on bbc.com over in the US. Failing to discuss this was, to say the least, disingenuous. But then I'm just a listener. And Mr Herrmann is after all, a mighty and omniscient BBC executive. So he MUST be right, even if the statistics prove him wrong. It's a familiar theme on Feedback interviews.
    I don't really care what your designers (and ad sales people at bbc.com) say. When you get this sort of massive negative feedback from users, you need to take the message on board - YOU'VE GOT IT WRONG. SAY SORRY AND CHANGE IT. No tracking. Less scrolling to get us "over the fold". Proper paragraphs like journalists ought to be writing. No big black maps in the middle. Left hand margins. And CSS scripts that know what fonts go where (Helvetica Neue on PCs - shame on you!). Stories with some content. Reversible consistent navigation. Let bbc.com sort out their own advert problems and leave the UK news site alone. The BBC must put UK license payers first.

  • Comment number 19.

    That the site redesign is a total disaster is obvious to anyone with any common sense. It goes against accepted good webpage design in so many ways that it is really a joke. This shows immediately when attempting to use it... the terrible layout, wasted space, unreability, poor font choice, confusing and inefficient navigation... the list goes on. From a visual design aspect, any amateur learning webpage design for the first time would do better. Unfortunately the Site Editor is the kind of person who is oblivious to anything other than their own ideas. Fine when they get things right and know what they are doing. A great problem when they are incompetent to make those judgements. Any sensible and competent person would never have placed such a mess into production; indeed they would never have built such code in the first place.

    Obviously there is some hidden agenda at work here (the serving of adverts abroad has been mentioned.) It is amazing to me that higher management have not stepped in long before now and ordered an immediate reversion of the site. The longer this rambling mess stays online the more the image of the BBC is tarnished.

    There will always be a tiny proportion of people who see improvement in a forced change, when that change to all others is a retrograde step. These few can cause great damage and inconvenience to the majority if they are given a free hand. Maybe this is the case here?

    If any good comes out of this it will be that tutors now have a perfect example to demonstrate, in their classes, of 1. the result of "change for change's sake" and 2. how NOT to design a website, and the result of ignoring long established rules when doing so. This new site version is a text-book example of both!

  • Comment number 20.

    17. At 10:36pm on 23 Jul 2010, Greg Tyler wrote:

    Mr Herrmann failed to answer details and specifics because the interviewer wouldn't let him, with his interruptions. We ask so much of this guy and then, when given the chance to explain things, he's given four minutes in which when he says "let me give some examples" he's silenced for an unrelated and misguided point.


    Mr Herrmann has and has had ample opportunities to introduce any new, potentially useful information on any future developments of the BBC News website, on his own blog without the need to wait for an interview. He is clearly not using his blog as effectively as he could have, unless he purposely chose to neglect the followers of his blog.

    Listening to the interview and hearing him rehashing the same old stuff that has been in the public domain for ten days (on his blog), I doubt he had any intention to volunteer any new details. If indeed he had, he has multiple avenues, available to him, to do so now.

    The point he is making about some test users who could not tell the difference between old and new site navigation structure/design/whatever unless it was pointed to them is simply hilarious. Where did they do the user testing - in the nursery?

  • Comment number 21.

    20 alex-online

    One poster on the Editors blog has said he was one of the testers and only got it 2 weeks before launch but raised all the points we are now raising.

    QED ?

  • Comment number 22.

    Thanks Roger Bolton for making the right questions. This guy definitely doesn´t seem to care to our feedback. It was very clear how he tried to avoid some questions talking nonsense.
    @ Greg Tyler: In which way are you related to Herrmann? He has plenty of opportunities to comment in his own blog but he has barely post. Just five until now after the mess was done.
    @ Herrmann: please, avoid the inevitable and bring our site back.

  • Comment number 23.

    Roger, do you have any recommendations on what we as users can do to complain about the vandalism of the site in order to actually get something done? Clearly Steve Herrmann has nothing but contempt for the views of his readers.

  • Comment number 24.

    Phew... sanctuary.

    Pity only half a dozen folk were up to hear how interviews 'should' go on the BBC, by the BBC, for the BBC.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00t5x0z/Newswatch_23_07_2010/

    This one seems to have been a wee bit more challenging. Good job Uncle Ray didn't bring it up, eh?

    Personally, I am less concerned with presentation (though how something is portrayed can very much influence how it is understood) than content. PRasNews, opinion over fact and, most worryingly, 'bite-sized' headlines that are poorly representative of the overall story, only made clear by clicking links and working through entire text blocks.

    The BBC often serves up examples of world opinion based on sample surveys of a thousand, especially when it is on matters of approval with its performance.

    Now the views of a few thousand on a niche blog seem to be deemed 'unrepresentative'.

    Does rather suggest a commitment to a a multiplicity of standards, though.

  • Comment number 25.

    Why cant Steve Herrmann just admit that they have got it wrong....

  • Comment number 26.

    Mr Hermann would make a good politician, evading questions and trying to divert you from a truthful answer to one he wants you to hear. I'm sure he believes that if he tells you something enough times you will start to believe it. Having experience in web design the new BBC news page has several basic design flaws and errors.

    If Mr. Hermann thinks that the 'flurry' of complaints are about 'resisting change' and not about the fact that the page is just badly designed, then I do not think he is the right man for the job and the BBC management should replace him. Even users of the news page with no experience or knowledge of web design can see the glaringly obvious, just a shame Mr Hermann can't!

  • Comment number 27.

    I thought that Roger's interviewing style was pretty tame.
    How about getting Jeremy Paxman to interview Steve Herrmann on this issue?

  • Comment number 28.

    In contrast to the Feedback interview, in the Newswatch interview (linked above), Steve Herrmann did at last concede that the site's missing left-hand margin, which makes reading stories so difficult, needs "to be looked at again". Whether this means anything will be done, of course, is a different matter.

    But if Mr Herrmann has finally conceded that one of the numerous complaints made by site users is valid, why can't he now admit that others have credibility as well? Come on, Feedback - this needs a follow-up interview to press all the other issues again and persuade Steve Herrmann to accept that arrogant dismissal of legitimate concerns doesn't fit with his avowed wish to listen to users of the site and their views.

  • Comment number 29.

    Roger,
    Thank you so much for bringing this debacle to the fore.
    The thousands of cumulative comments feel like they've been brushed off in each successive Editors Blog with the hope that these contemptible users will just go away or accept.
    Just hearing the stress within Mr Hermanns voice gives me hope that there is some pressure felt to redress these mistakes.
    Please please please revisit this in future weeks.
    Yours, still searching for an alternative site with the same levels of exceptional content and usability as the previous BBC News website

  • Comment number 30.

    Thank you, Mr Bolton, for speaking to Mr Hermann about this new design.
    What these both readers say in the interview, is exactly what a friend of mine is feeling. She loved to read the News in the morning. When the design had changed, she asked me to take a look and to repair her browser!
    I wrote my complaint to the BBC and in Mr Hermann's blog.

    The new layout for the News pages looks awful:
    - the headline has a size of 48px
    - the introduction and paragraph text have a size of 12px,
    - again changing the size to 34px for a h2 headline
    - not enough, the reader gets to read a 22px h3 headline
    - followed by a list in 11px and a section in capitals (!) with 9px
    I have SEVEN different font sizes in 1 article, not to mention the font-types below an article and the right part of a page. All in all, I can find more than 15 different font-styles.
    Enough is not enough: the buttons Podcast, Mobile etc. are copied from a clip-art collection for free use, bought at PC World for £3.

    BBC News website looks like a weblog kept by a person, who has no idea about web design and chose a template from "Wordpress 1000 free templates".

    The new BBC layout is a pain in my eye. I wish I could stop giving you these £11 a month.

  • Comment number 31.

    The new BBC news web site is a bit like

    reading a child's story book.

    It's all nice and spaced out

    so that the less able of us
    can read it easily.

    Perhaps it was designed this way

    to cater for people with learning difficulties?

  • Comment number 32.

    Mr Hermann apparently has the "listening" skills of the (ex) Labour Government.

  • Comment number 33.

    Great interview Mr Bolton - considerably better than the embarrassment of an interview on the Newswatch programme. A pity the response was so poor from Mr Herrmann.

  • Comment number 34.

    The other advantage

    of a spaced out page,

    in addition to it
    being good for people

    with learning difficulties,

    Is that you have to work harder

    to scroll around,

    looking for stuff to read.

    I am CRAVING

    for some dense text.

    Perhaps I will be satisfied
    by removing the BBC

    from my favourites and going elsewhere.

  • Comment number 35.

    @Greg Tyler

    who wrote "@Rab-Cambs: So this is a case of "Because you haven't sorted and responded to every one of the thousands of responses yet, whilst still being lead editor of an international News website, I feel subjugated and so am going to ignore the response that you do post in lieu of posting the same complaints over and over again"? "

    Not in the slightest Greg, I fear you misrepresent my position.

    Nor, clearly, have you bothered to read my posts or you would most certainly see that I have not posted the same 'over and over again'.

    I do not expect a personal answer from such a busy man as the lead editor of an international website, nor do I expect him personally to read all the responses which he, personally, invited, as I am fairly sure he has plenty of junior staff to summarise the main issues for him.

    What I do expect is that the esteemed editor takes some serious notice, not just of me but thousands of others, and moves on from His repeated (over and over) position that all is well with the site and that we will grow to love it if only we are patient. In short I expect a professional view to the business of Customer Service from him, not to me personally but to his customers in the wider sense.

    In that you yourself misrepresent my views and suppose that you know my motivations, not to say my feelings, I would suggest that you too are displaying a singular lack of appreciation that it is we customers who fund the work that has been done, and that many of us do not like it, and/or consider it a waste of licence payer's money.

    If he is so confident that detractors are in the tiny minority then let him have the courage of his convictions and place a voting button on the site. Since he can control the question to be asked he should have little to concern him regarding the outcome...if he is, in fact, right.

    I do not know why you think I feel subservient, for I do not. I and many others do however feel saddened at the 'we know best' response.

  • Comment number 36.

    My opinion of the new site will be obvious from my pseudonym, but I am beginning to realize that the reason for the changes is to minimize the licence-payers'(yes, I am one) contribution to the funding of the site. It can plausibly be argued that very few licence-payers use the site, so it is unfair to use funds contributed by all television watchers in the UK to subsidize a facility enjoyed by a small minority.

    (I wish I had not felt obliged to say that)

  • Comment number 37.

    I would be very interested to hear Mr Hermann's response to the direct question "Can you deny that the motivation for the change and its design requirements are driven by the need to accommodate advertising in the international edition rather than to improve the browsing experience for UK visitors?"

    Cue much waffling, I'd wager.

  • Comment number 38.

    I'd like to add my voice to those who think the web site redesign is pretty poor stuff.

    I'd also like to point out to Mr Herman that the subdued use of pictures was a good thing. Those of us who travel the world, or who live in rural communities at home, do not have access to fast broadband connections.

    There is too much video on the web pages, far too much.

  • Comment number 39.

    I have already posted several comments on the BBC's Website Redesign blog, but having just listened to the repeat of Feedback, thought I would comment here as well. It was very depressing listening to Mr Hermann's defence of the redesign. In particular it was astonishing to hear his suggestion that the 3,500ish, mostly negative, comments could be unrepresentative and this should be balanced by looking at raw statistics on page use.

    I can't see how this is going to give him a balanced view. Raw stats can only give a very one-dimensional metric of how good a website is.

    Surely, from day 1, he should have been commissioning in-depth surveys of general user reaction, using a proactive approach. Given the high profile and high levels of usage of this website, it seems astonishing that this hasn't been given a high priority.

  • Comment number 40.

    It's a disgrace and you need to get to the bottom of it.

    My complaint to the BBC:

    The BBC news redesign is awful. That may be subjective, but a staggering, overwhelming amount of people have complained and yet the editor states pretty explicity he is refusing to revert the ill thought changes. This is an abuse of position (any commercial company would be on this like a shot).

    There has also been highly dubios Facebook code in the scripts. This is an abuse of privacy.

    This is also driven by foreign advertising as acknowledged by the BBC. This is a travesty of bias and commercial influence.

    The whole things is widely perceived to have been a waste of time (excluding keeping BBC commercial interests happy). This is a waste of license payers money.

    I demand action as a license payer and an investigation by the watchdog. I also demand that due to the tactics used to defer complaints through lack of response and deferral, that a fresh approach is taken to guage customer opinion in a fair manner - including online polls, and coverage on BBC watchdog, and coverage on Newswatch to let people know that their voice can be heard despite Mr Harmanns best efforts to quell and ignore them.

  • Comment number 41.


    The new layout of both the main news home page and news articles themselves is poorly delineated, cluttered and lacks intuitive navigation.

    The white space to the right of a main news article seems to be randomly filled with quotes, factual background, etc. that is displayed in differing font sizes and widths and sometimes with red headers and sometimes not. It all gives a cluttered and disorganised appearance. There is little alignment that can often significantly enhance the visual appearance and aid navigation.

    Some sections are over-dominant and you feel like you are being shouted at! The Most Popular module is significantly over-large. Why waste space with over-sized numbering of the items; we are not children! What does it add?

    Articles then seem to flow into a variety of following subjects: More on this Story, Related Stories, Top Stories, News from other News Sites, Share this Page, More UK Stories. Sometimes they are there, other times not. My point is there is no consistency, no clear delineation and it just seems terribly muddled.

    Like many, I am not averse to change, but surely after more than 4000 comments on Steve Herrmann's blogs the BBC must accept that they have got this very wrong.

  • Comment number 42.

    Thank you for attempting to bring Mr Herrmann down a peg or two. I used to listen to Radio 4 all the time, before my work patterns changed, and I am glad to see that Feedback has not been dumbed down, which is more than I can say for the BBC News website.

    Many people, including myself, felt the need to register on the BBC blogs for the first time purely in order to express their feelings about the redesign to Mr Herrmann. So far, as I type, there are 4,715 posts on the Editor’s blog – the overwhelming majority are both negative and constructive. Surely a record for a BBC blog?

    The response of Mr Herrmann has been insulting and arrogant, and still he says: ”Reverting to the old design is not something we're considering ...”. I have also made an Official Complaint to the BBC about the redesign, only to find that posting a link to the Complaints page broke the House Rules of the blog!

    The summary of my complaint reads: “In short you have wrecked an excellent website, for no apparent reason, with insufficient consultation or warning, at some undisclosed cost to us the licence payers, with little regard to our feelings or objections.”

    My feelings still stand. Thank you Feedback for airing some of our discontent for us.

  • Comment number 43.

    Monday morning, and although only just over 40 comments on this blog there are now well over 4,000 on the BBC Editors' blogs (Redesign 2,3,4 & 5.) Most of those who comment are unhappy with the redesign and many make constructive and technical recommendations. I hope that Feedback will pick up this subject again soon. Although the numbers commenting may only be a minority when viewed against the worldwide audience, the fact that many have registered just to express their serious concern and dismay suggests that these are regular and committed users of the BBC News site - whose views should be treated seriously.

  • Comment number 44.

    Please take this up again ASAP and ensure we, the licence fee paying public, are represented by someone who has a bit of spirit about them to challenge Steve Herrmann. It would appear that usage of the news website is continuing to drop but still the senior BBC Executive remain silent and official complaints are ignored. Feedback should really follow this aspect up.

  • Comment number 45.

    I find the site makes it hard to follow news stories. I found Steve Herrmanns responses arrogant and poor form for a public broadcaster. Everyone makes mistakes but one should learn and correct ones mistakes. Blindly putting ones head in the sand does not a good manager make.

  • Comment number 46.

    switch the old one back on
    it's that simple, it'll end up costing our beeb much more than it has so far
    if i liked CNN, i wouldn't be here

  • Comment number 47.

    Good interview. Just another once active news reader who loved the old design and HATES the new design! Guess it's not going to go back to the way it was cause it's falling on deaf ears. You are loosing yet another user...bye, I've left the building.

  • Comment number 48.

    I used the BBC as my homepage for years, then BBC home page, BBC News, BBC Suffolk and BBC World Service in 4 tabs -

    Now I am using The Economist, Telegraph, Yahoo and France 24 English and - guess what - the news coverage is much wider, as well as being so much nicer to look at.

    Steve and Miranda are welcome to their repellent new child - After years of recommending the BBC sites to everyone I have left for good and am now recommending the above, which I would never have believed possible

    Nice try Roger, but the Steve Herrmanns of this world are paid too high a salary to admit mistakes. Like so many others he has his job because he could talk the jargon, not because he had any sensitivity or common sense.

  • Comment number 49.

    Shame they did such an awful job of this redesign, I think in brushing off the outcry as expected or people disliking change they're being either arrogant or forgetful because the previous redesigns were all well received by the majority as a positive step forward.

  • Comment number 50.

    The new news website design is a disaster. It looks like a cross between a late 1990's site and a cheap blog. Its cluttered, awkward to navigate, poorly laid out and aesthetically unpleasant.

    I used to use the BBC News site in preference to other due to its clean and intuitive layout. Now its just one of the herd with little to distinguish it from other news services.

  • Comment number 51.

    I have stopped using the bbc news website since it's now impossible to use and very hard on the eye. It used to be so natural, a wonderful site. Just as well, now I can get some work done!

  • Comment number 52.

    So what did I say in post 48 which needs to be withheld?

    I congratulated Roger on his interview, said Steve and Miranda were welcome to their new apalling child - meaning the news website

    I said I was leaving never to return -

    So what is wrong in that?

    I also note that my inoffensive comment on the editors' blog has vanished without comment -

    All I said there was that I had found four alternative sites to replace the four BBC sites I used to use for news

    And they say there is no censorship .......

    After being a BBC person for longer than I can remember (I have had internet since 1997) I will no longer reccommend it and will not use it again

    And if this is not posted I will some back from time to time and re-post it as well as sending snail-mail to Roger B

  • Comment number 53.

    Just check the BBC news page about once a day now to see if the they have fixed the dogs dinner of a design... Gives me a headache to read any of the news items now so don't hang around long. Can't believe it's taking so long. Had this been a commercial site in the private sector the company would have been bust by now.

    Are we entitled to a partial refund of the Licence fee as the news site is now unfit for purpose?

  • Comment number 54.

    I used to wax lyrical about the bbc news website. I would have paid the licence fee for access to that and radio 4 alone.

    It's not just the the diabolical apperance of the thing (it looks like a website circa 1999), it's the fact that I scan it to find a story and I just get a headache and go somewhere else as a consequence.

    Whoever is truly responsible has manged to turn the best site on the internet into one that I wouldn't waste my precious lunch break on!

  • Comment number 55.

    For the first time since circa 1998 the BBC News website is now not the first website I go to for news. Its horrible. I cant actually scan it for stories. More annoyingly, the BBC fail to even consider that they are not 100% correct. Even the Guardain made changes following feedback from users. I look at the site now and I all I see is arrogance.

  • Comment number 56.

    I, for one, felt that Mr Bolton gave Mr Heremman the kicking he deserved, without being at all discourteous.

    I no longer have the BBC as my home page, I see no point in waiting that long for a home page to load and then have it be so poorly laid out.

    Incidentally, we need to get Roger to repeat the interview and try to get some rational explanation for the removal of the low resolution version, that was so useful on slow lines, mobile devices, and for feeding to reading software for the hard-of-seeing.

  • Comment number 57.

    I see the BBC have now closed the comments sections on the blogs about the shambles of a News site redesign. Is this because the vast majority of them were negative (about 5,000 at last count). Roger, please can you get Steve back on your feedback show and get some answers as to why:

    1. The news pages are still a design nightmare.

    2. There is total silence from the BBC News site team about what they will do to rectify the huge blunder they have made.

    3. Why they are restricting freedom of speach by closing the comments on the blogs for the new design, when old blogs about the last changes are still accepting comments some years after they were first posted. Is it because Steve is unable to face the truth and admit the redesign was botched? I'm sure he would gain a lot more respect from the licence fee payers if he held his hands up and admitted mistakes had been made and undertook to rectify them.

    Is this a deliberate attempt by the BBC to make their site so bad that people will not use it and will leave the way open for News papers to gain customers who pay for using their web pages?

    The licence fee payer needs answers.

  • Comment number 58.

    At post 57. above tinman9898 wrote:

    I see the BBC have now closed the comments sections on the blogs about the shambles of a News site redesign.
    ____________________________

    The comments are still rolling-in at:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/theeditors/2010/07/bbc_news_website_redesign_5.html?page=3
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2010/07/bbc_news_redesign_telling_the.html
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/aboutthebbc/2010/07/bbc-news-website-redesign.shtml
    https://twitter.com/

  • Comment number 59.

    I second tinman9898 above. To close the feedback blog when it is the main avenue to express ones concerns on an ongoing matter is disgraceful.

    Not that Mr Herrmann has been drowning us with his replies.

    I went to Yahoo this morning and saw a headline "Call to scrap BBC Licence Fee" . Indeed that is what the story was about a report by the Adam Smith Institute. So I checked the BBC Front Page. Oh yes it was there under the weasel worded headline, no text," Call to Overhaul Funding For BBC".

    At least now I get the true news from other providers and think before this site revamp debacle I trusted the BBC and wouldnt have looked for another news provider.

    Please keep this blog going.

  • Comment number 60.

    @jTemplar 58

    Correction: comments are closed on the first of your links.

  • Comment number 61.

    I posted the following through the BBC Complaints website yesterday (Sunday 1 August):

    I am writing to draw your attention to the controversy surrounding the recent changes to the BBC News website.

    These changes have met with widespread criticism, yet this criticism appears to have been ignored. It was the subject of an interview on a recent Feedback programme, but Roger Bolton seemed unable to get Steve Herrmann to accept that mistakes may have been made. Roger Bolton has pointed out that 100% of the messages he has received are critical of the new site.

    In summary, the key complaints are:
    • The new website was launched without making it available as a parallel beta test. This would have enabled the site to be refined before being fully released.
    • An extraordinary number of complaints have been posted (now over 5000, more than 1000 of these since Steve Herrmann’s last posting on the subject). Many of those complaining have registered for the first time in order to comment.
    • Many of the complaints have been detailed and constructive, covering both technical and aesthetic problems. A frequent comment has been “it wasn’t broken, why did it need to be fixed?”.
    • Since 21st July there has been complete silence from Mr Herrmann and his team, and no apparent changes to the website. Meanwhile there are reports of a substantial drop in page visits to the site. Many people posting to the website blog have said they no longer use the BBC as their default news site, and this includes myself.
    • On 29 July, the link to the website comment blog was removed from the News website. Those who wish to log a complaint now have to be fairly determined to find the blog.

    I would be very interested to hear the Governors views and whether or not they plan to take action.

  • Comment number 62.

    61 demain44

    Thank you Sir.

    That about sums up the disgraceful position we are in.

    If Roger reads his blog, and he wants it swamped, can he make it known that it is open for business on the News Page debacle. Thanks

  • Comment number 63.

    I have to admit that the closure of the blog for comments, smacks very much of the Beeb sweeping the whole thing under the carpet!

    The attitude is obviously we're not going to change it so just stop wingeing and get used to it.
    Why else would there be no other comment or feedback since the 21st July.

    Very very disappointed - I'm trying to like the new layout but just find it unusable beyond a 60 second scan.

  • Comment number 64.

    Having an open forum like this attracts almost universal condemnation because the VAST, VAST majority of people like the site, and don't feel the need to log their approval, so of course these comments are mostly from naysayers and dinosaurs.

    I'm not the only one who thinks the new site is clean, easier on the eye and bringing the audio/video content that I want to the fore. Hoorah for the BBC for being bold.

    Let the dinosaurs go elsewhere.

  • Comment number 65.

    @ The_Pied_Piper 64

    The "universal condemnation" is of the BBC NEWS site, i.e.
    news.bbc.co.uk

    Did you think they were of the main site www.bbc.co.uk?

    Audio/video content is available from the main site (or even a television receiver): the news site is supposed to be for NEWS.

  • Comment number 66.

    Obviously individual opinions are just that, and I don't see that it's a problem for one person to say they like it, or another to say they don't. If nobody said anything, nobody would know anything. There's no need to resort to name calling just because someone has a different opinion/way of using a website.

    However, it's pretty worrying/odd that the BBC actively refuse to back up their claims that the changes are for the better, and are approved of by the public. For example:

    http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/publication_of_all_feedback_post

    indicates that the BBC refuse to

    "make available all feedback submitted to the BBC via the
    feedback form whether it be positive, negative or general comments
    / suggestions"

    on the grounds that it is "information the BBC holds for the purposes of journalism, art or literature", a reason that gets used extremely often (and arbitrarily, it seems to me) for FOI requests.


  • Comment number 67.

    Myself and a work colleague used to always peruse the BBC News website, but now no longer do. I agree with all the comments saying it is garish and difficult to navigate. We can't even find specific UK news like we used to. Steve Harrmann is wrong to talk about a flurry of complaints in the first few days; they would still be coming if they opened up their blog to comments again! A few months down the line and still no real improvement, I registered today just so I could add my voice to those asking for it to revert to the previous (not old) style that worked very well. Steve, "step back" and take a look at the twaddle you have been spouting and be man enough to give the public what they want - not what you are saying they want.

  • Comment number 68.

    Actually, I will take some of that back! There is now a UK tab and it has been tidied up a bit. At least it is no longer "in your face" as much as it was. Those adverts are still annoying though....

  • Comment number 69.

    66 Danny Chapman

    I dont think the BBC can use obscure FOI refusal reasons to totally deny access to information.

    Under para 23.(f) of the BBC Charter it MUST ensure that the BBC observes high standards of openness and transparency.

    Perhaps a request under this rule would not allow them the FOI defence that they use.

    A further refusal would prove the point that the BBC is being not just obstructive to reasonable requests for information but that it is open to accusation of being in breach of it's charter.

  • Comment number 70.

    Because Steve Herrmann has refused to revert any of the changes (none requested by any users) We have come up with a simple tool that converts the site to look like the old. This is FREE and was created because we cannot bear the current 'monstrous' look. Steve Herrmann won't do anything about it so 'we' have to.

    o Gives you back the left hand menu with the previous 'look and feel'
    o Changes the masthead to black and reduces the font size
    o Removes the new top menu
    o Reduces the headline font size
    o Changes the default font to verdana
    o Reduces the section font sizes
    o Reduces the garishness of the Most Popular tabbed group
    o Removes a few news sections that intrude on the browsing experience
    o Removed new promotional sections used for non-UK advertising
    o Removed unnecessary extra images

    This change does require Greasemonkey and Firefox web browser. Sorry about that IE users... Once those are installed then install the "BBC news fix to awful new website" script that can be found here:

    http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/87428

    Gives you back the previous look and feel to the BBC news website, peace at last!

 

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