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Our new look

Ben Gallop Ben Gallop | 07:01 UK time, Monday, 31 March 2008

You will have hopefully already noticed that the BBC Sport website has a new look. I explained in a previous post why we felt we needed to make some changes – and I also promised I’d come back onto the blog to run through in more detail what we’ve done.

The first point to make is that this ‘site refresh’ is being carried out in conjunction with our sister service, BBC News. A quick flick between the News and Sport homepages will soon highlight the fact that, although the two sites have much in common, there are also some fundamental differences in style. Steve Herrmann, the editor of the News site has outlined what the changes mean for News on The Editors’ Blog. The new layout for Sport is also more consistent with the recent redesign of the main BBC homepage, which you can read about here.

The second key point is that this is not a one-off relaunch. It is the first phase of a work-in-progress, and one that is based on the foundations of extensive audience research. There will be more improvements to come as we build up to what promises to be a superb summer of sporting action.

So what have we done so far…

Wider pages – From now, most of the pages on the Sport website have become wider, to make the best use of the space available. This new wider look applies to all story pages on Sport, like this one, and the Sport homepage . All the other sub-sections of Sport, including Football and the rest of the sport indexes, are unchanged at this stage. We will be widening those remaining pages (including this blog) in the coming weeks and months.

Why did it take us so long to widen the site? The BBC has always taken a gradual approach to this issue - because we want to make sure that the maximum number of people can still access our site no matter what screen or device they use. We’re now happy that 95% of people have their screen resolution set to 1024 pixels or wider – so it’s a good time to use the extra space to improve the site.

Bigger pictures – Sport is all about action, passion and emotion. It’s full of striking images and we want to bring sport to life much more than we have been able to up to now, by using bigger, more visually arresting photos. Obviously a wider website gives us more space to showcase pictures and I would hope that, as we evolve further, you’ll see more evidence of photographic excellence across our output.

More prominence for audio and video – The BBC has a strong portfolio of sports rights, with a range of events from the Olympics, Euro 2008, Wimbledon and the Six Nations to live radio commentaries of the Premier League and Test match cricket. From next year, of course, we’ll also have Formula One and the Football League on TV.

As much as possible, we want to offer these sports to our audiences on the internet – and as part of that process we will be making the UK version of our website more of a multimedia platform. We’ve already started using embedded media and from today we’ve moved our audio-video from a horizontal bar across the centre of the homepage, so that it’s now more integrated with our text content. This is a long term process, but over time we hope to develop the platform to the extent that watching video and listening to audio on the BBC Sport website will become as straightforward as using a TV or radio.

This enhanced audio and video operation applies more to our UK site rather than the international version of BBC Sport. That’s because the sports rights we acquire tend to be divided up by territory, which means much of our audio-video can only be streamed in the UK. But we’ll keep working with BBC Worldwide - who run our commercial overseas site, bbc.com - on ways to develop audio and video services for our international audience.

More prominence for feature content – We always strive to produce distinctive, original journalism on the site – but with our previous lay-out we sometimes struggled to promote this sort of content. Now there is a high-profile area in the middle of the page where we can make the most of a select number of our best features and signpost for the audience what we think are the priorities each day.

Incorporating adverts - For our international users, who already see advertisements on our pages, we wanted to do a better job of incorporating them into the page design. The wider pages make that easier.

That’s what changed so far. As I say, there’s more still to come. We’ll just crack on with making the changes to the site – and while we do that, please let us know what you think.

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