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Changes to the BBC Sport website

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Ben Gallop Ben Gallop | 06:06 UK time, Wednesday, 1 February 2012


This entry is now closed to comments. Ben has written a new blog responding to some of the initial feedback. It can be found here.


Posting this as a re-comment but also adding here to highlight to new visitors to the blog-

I just want to reassure all commenters, that we are listening to all feedback - from a number of sources not just this blog - and will be collating and assessing to help us inform the decisions we take on how best to fine tune the new-look site.

Far from ignoring feedback, we are reading every comment posted on this blog, and in Cait O Riordan's blog, and really value your feedback, either here or via the survey linked in the original post.

There are some very clear themes that have come through which we will be investigating further - some of the obvious ones being our yellow banners, journeys to football statistics and the formatting of the stats themselves.

Those comments which highlight specific user issues are particularly useful - as I said we are taking in all your comments and assessing but we cannot respond individually to them all.

For those asking about testing, we conducted user testing and other research, for example a survey of 2,000 people, at various stages of the project and will continue to thoroughly test any planned changes before pushing them to live, so hope you can appreciate we won't be making any rushed decisions as the new site beds in and we take a sensible period of time to gauge things properly.

Thanks, Claire


You will notice that we have begun the process of relaunching the BBC Sport website. Today, February 1 2012, marks the start of a significant piece of work that will see us completely overhaul our online service - the first time we have done so since 2003.

The timing, of course, is no coincidence. We are making these changes to put us in the best shape for one of the busiest years of sport in the BBC's history, which will culminate in the London Olympics, our biggest event yet.

The changes are in response to audience feedback and research. Clearly a huge amount has happened on the internet since that last re-launch in 2003. Our audience has grown significantly over the years, but the website had not been updated in corresponding fashion.

The changes we are implementing now are significant and go beyond a mere 'lick of paint' - they are designed to give us the tools we need to provide more effective coverage of sport and to get people to the content they want.

What this relaunch is not, is a change to what we cover. You can expect the same level of coverage from us, as we look to capture the biggest live events as they happen and bring you the latest news and analysis from across a range of different sports.

New-look homepage

BBC Sport's new homepage as per the February 2012 relaunch

So what is changing? In headlines terms we are introducing:

• A new navigation
• An updated look and feel
• Wider pages
• More prominence for live coverage
• Better connections to the rest of the web.

But before I get into some of the detail around the redesign, it's worth stressing that today is only the start of this process: we have changed the Sport homepage and some of the sections that command the most traffic, but there is a significant amount of technical work involved and it will take time to change all of the site to the new look.

My colleague in BBC Future Media Cait O'Riordan has written more on those technical aspects of the project.

So, with the Olympics approaching, we will also be bringing in new sections and content to boost our coverage of the London Games - hot on the heels of the newly-revamped BBC 2012 site. Meanwhile, away from the main website, we will also be making significant improvements to BBC Sport's mobile and connected TV services - so keep an eye out for those developments in the months ahead.

In terms of some of the specific changes to the website, here is more detail on a few of them, which hopefully explains what we are doing and why we are doing it...

1. Navigation

Let's start with the navigation - this is one of the most obvious differences with the new site, which involves switching from a vertical to a horizontal list of sports.

This is in line with the rest of BBC Online - and indeed with virtually all other major sports websites. By doing this we are simply giving ourselves more space to work with on the page - a more expansive canvas, if you will, for us to use for our coverage.

It means we can be more visual and can give more prominence to video, which (as the continued growth of BBC iPlayer shows) is an increasingly important element of the web output for a broadcaster like us.

The previous site had a long list of sports on the left-hand side of the Sport homepage. But crucially that was the only page that did so.

With more and more people bypassing that front page and coming straight to specific pages deep within the site (via search engines, links from social networks and other recommendations from friends) we needed a way to guide them around the rest of what we have to offer.

So the solution is a horizontal navigational bar. The key thing to note here is that, once the redesign is complete, for the first time there will be a link to every sport section at the top of every page on the Sport website.

Our audience research and user testing indicated we needed to keep this horizontal list of sports concise - the longer it is the more confusing it can be.

Our list of sports is based on those areas of our website that generate the most content and which drive the bulk of our day-to-day traffic: so football, Formula 1, cricket, rugby (union and league), tennis and golf; along with our editorial priority for 2012, the London Olympics; plus a link to 'more sports'.

It is worth stressing the purpose of this section of it is not a promotional area, it is a way of navigating around the website. It is not designed as a hierarchy; it is a tool to allow people to find the content they want. All sections of the site are now contained within one single strip. So you should be able to find the right sport wherever you are on the site.

The 'promotion' of sports will happen elsewhere on the site - particularly on the BBC Sport homepage, which, with its new lay-out will allow us to properly showcase key events, stories and features from across an array of sports.

2. Live sport

When we started covering sport on the BBC website - first for the football World Cup in 1998 and then with a specific sports site in 2000 - our coverage was based around news 'stories'. The look and feel of the site reflected this focus on self-contained text stories, each with a beginning, a middle and an end, and in this respect we were just the same as the site from which we had grown, BBC News.

However, the internet has transformed the way sport is covered. The dynamism of the web, its multimedia nature, its connectivity and its portability have all demanded a different form of output. Technology and user behaviour have moved on massively since the early days of sports websites, which back then were little more than 'electronic newspapers'.

Live sport these days is covered in video, in audio; with text commentaries, live scores and rich data; through social networking and interaction. Our website, which generates its biggest spikes in traffic around the live events, frankly needed to be transformed to allow us to keep up with the needs of our audience and our ambitions for our coverage.

So the new-look site has live coverage at its heart:

• We have enhanced our scores and tables, making more of the rich data available to us;
• There are modules for live scores and stats on the homepage and each sports index;
• Our live event pages, which bring video and audio, audience interaction and text commentary together in one place, have been updated
• The new colour palette offers signposting for live content, with the use of blue labelling to highlight appropriate links

3. Other changes

Among some of the additional changes we are making are:
• New ways to better promote sport from the UK's Nations and Regions, including headline feeds and an area for radio commentaries on our homepage.
• A brand new section for England Sport, to complement our existing services for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, which will capture the best of the distinctive output being produced by the BBC's network of local radio teams.
• And we are also launching new content for the website - including regular columns from former England captain Alec Stewart on cricket and middle-distance great Steve Cram on the Olympics ahead of London 2012. There will be more new features and columns to come as our big year of sport progresses.

The changing face of BBC Sport

BBC Sport launched its website in 2000 in time for the Athens Olympics, here is a screen grab from that summer

This is not the first time we have gone through significant change - and tellingly, we have tended to update ourselves around the Olympic cycle. If you're interested, here's how BBC Sport online has developed over the years:

Our first website looked like this in 2000 - a new site for a new millennium and, as now, a major Olympic year.

Then in 2003 we changed again to become less like a long linear list of stories, ensuring we were well set for the Athens Games in 2004.

In 2003 we relaunched the site, ahead of the Athens Olympics, dropping the yellow background for white

Another Olympics, Beijing, was the catalyst for further change in 2008 - when we responded to the rise in high-speed broadband connections and the growth of sites like YouTube to offer embedded video on wider pages.

The BBC Sport homepage in 2008, when we made some small changes such as adding embedded video and make more of live pages.

So that's how the website has changed over the years.

And here's a sense of how the audience has grown during the same period - to the extent that we now have around 11.5 million people in the UK using the BBC Sport website every week, with another 4.5 million coming from overseas.

Over that time the website has established itself as one of the central elements of BBC Sport's coverage, along with our TV and radio services. But it cannot stay still.

It is a truism to say that the web will keep changing: innovation is its lifeblood. Or, as the renowned digital commentator John Naughton recently put it, for the internet "disruption is a feature, not a bug".

We have to embrace change - but we need to do so in a considered way: by listening to our users; by researching and analysing; and by using our editorial, design and technical expertise to make the best decisions we can.

Graph showing the increase of average weekly browsers to the BBC Sport website from 2007 to 2012

That is how we embarked on this project many months ago - and it is how we will approach the next stage too.

The work is far from complete: we will review what we have done so far and make further changes if necessary, once we have had a chance to assess how the redesign is going. But we will take our time and will not be making knee-jerk reactions.

In that spirit we look forward to receiving your feedback on what we have done so far.

You can of course post your comments and questions here and you can also send your feedback - good and bad - via our internet survey.

And we have a page of Frequently Asked Questions which may also answer some of the queries you may have.

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