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Redesign Newsnight's website

Peter Barron | 16:25 UK time, Thursday, 17 August 2006

In recent months the Newsnight website has been growing like Leylandii. Podcasts, vodcasts, blog, forum etc. And as result of this rapid organic growth it's become a bit unruly.

Newsnight logoSome of you aren't impressed. Ian Mc sent us this - "I don't think I've seen such a mess of a home page since... well, I don't know when... Web designers should ALWAYS remember: just because it can be done, doesn't mean it should be done."

Stung by that challenge we've resolved to enter a period of rationalisation.

Let us know what you love and hate, what you visit all the time, what you never visit but are glad is there. Some of you have said - is your forum a forum or is it a blog, and vice versa? Does it matter what it is? Tell us what would make it better.

Is there simply too much stuff? Website design fashion seems these days to be heading towards the minimal, personally I like the excitement of having loads to explore. What do you reckon?

Do you want to read long articles, view video, download podcasts or talk to each other? If there was a Newsnight Club, with all sorts of low cost freebies, would you join? And are there features we should quietly put out of their misery? In our office the cry of "Kill Gordaq" has gone up. Should we?

The pruning shears are in your hands.

Comments

  • 1.
  • At 05:40 PM on 17 Aug 2006,
  • Lauren wrote:

Anyone else absolutely itching to join the Newsnight Club?

  • 2.
  • At 06:19 PM on 17 Aug 2006,
  • Chris wrote:

Just had a quick look through the Newsnight website was found it really well designed. Nice simple layout, not too cluttered and well designed. Personally I found it quite a mature and stylish website. One look at Amazon.co.uk will tell you how not to design a website.

  • 3.
  • At 08:49 PM on 17 Aug 2006,
  • James wrote:

The first thing to do is go Web 2.0. Drop some letters from the programme title; Nwsnight, or maybe Newsnightr? Don't forget putting 'Beta' on there too, just to make sure it's got that Web 2.0 feel.

Big text, white backgrounds and some seldom used gradients are also the rage at the moment. Add a reflection under the logo and you're done.

To be serious for a moment, the Newsnight site isn't bad, but it follows the same design rules as many BBC News sites, such as Click and Working Lunch.

I would adopt what's on the radio player by dropping the top "Watch the latest programme" image and devoting the top of the page to a what's on todays programme. Place some links in the bottom of this section to the other days instead of a past programmes select list.

I would shift subscriptions, podcasts, blogs and forums in to an 'interact' section on the right, with maybe the latest contribution or thread to each one. See Radio 2 for their current selected MB thread, as an example.

Finally, move the leading story more in to focus in the middle, ie "Where the car is not king". Place either the news or special reports under it, and it all sorts of falls in to place from there.

Just what I'd do.

  • 4.
  • At 08:58 PM on 17 Aug 2006,
  • Ashley Ballard wrote:

I like the homepage. It's reminiscent of one of theose nineteenth-century newspapers that's so crammed full of information that you need a magnifying glass to read it - entirely appropriate.

A minimalist approach would be completely wrong, but it is a bit of a chore to find what one is looking for. At the moment you've got all the different types of material separate. I don't really care whether it's a debate or an interview so much as what it's about. It would be nice to let people browse by subject and to have one page on, say, the Middle East, with links to all interviews, debates, blog entries &c on that all in one place.

Oh and:

KILL GORDAQ!

  • 5.
  • At 09:18 PM on 17 Aug 2006,
  • Steven Allender wrote:

Never mind the site design... what are 'low cost freebies'

  • 6.
  • At 10:31 PM on 17 Aug 2006,
  • Scott wrote:

My offering. More substance over style. Just like Newsnight.

- The Gordaq is irrelevant. Lose it. Or at least bury it. Does not deserve it current billing.
- Podcast everything.
- Think: Watch. Contribute. Learn. Consider these three themes when setting your priorities.
- Reorganise navigation to reflect new priorities, UP Blog, OUT Gordaq, Mason
- Increase visibility of blog on home page (pull across teaser of most current post); increase accessibility to Newsnight vision from home page, removing generic promos, replaced with vision links
- The interactivity is fantastic. Stay actively engaging in the online discussion.
- All subsequent posts in the "DEBATES" section should have "continue the debate" option (ie, blog).
- Consider posting extended interviews (vision) online where time restrictions limit broadcast time.
- Newsnight Club -- sans the naff name -- is an interesting concept. Throw some ideas at us Peter.
- Make the "Watch the latest program" graphic on the home page smaller. More of the home page needs to be about the here and now. 1/3 is a watch promo, 2/3 is old material with token visibility given to current programme.
- Include on-going blog for special features like Ethical Man
- Resist the temptation to conduct unscientific populist polls via Newsnight site (adds no value and open to distortion)
- Roll Paul Mason's blog into the main blog. Only Paxman should have his own. He is the King.
- Add links to references/sources/companies et. al. discussed on the program -- to aid further debate or investigation

I agree with you about having loads to explore when visiting a website, I agree with you about having loads to explore when visiting a website, I have had a few complaints about my own site that there is too much on it and I should look at removing a lot of my content, some times I am told to remove my flash, java scripts, images, Well I have learnt you cant please all of the people all of the time but in the main most are very happy with lots of information as it keeps them coming back and as a website owner that's a good thing.

What I hate about any website and that is pop ups, there should be a law that bans them as they are a real pain for all who use the net.

  • 8.
  • At 11:22 PM on 17 Aug 2006,
  • duncan mckay wrote:

If the newsnight website could miminc the main bbcnews.com website that would be fantastic that way anyone can get what they wish instantly :) The layout is ergonomic and sublime so pick up the phone to the person/s responsible for that site and say help!!!

Please, Please , Please don't use tables for layout on your main page. Its inaccessible and a bad use of standards. Please consider using CSS for layout and making your markup more semantic. This is a subject that is very close to my heart and I would hate to see another site take the route into internet inaccessibility.

Jamie


Chris: Like it or not, Amazon is a remarkably effective commercial website. As that is their aim, one might suggest that was exactly how one should design a website, certainly a commercial proposition.

To me, the Newsnight website is too similar to the rest of the BBC news site to have a distinct identity. Whether this is intentional or not, I don't know.

If you're going to redesign it, don't just rearrange the pieces. Think what new features could be incorporated, and treat it as a coherent whole.

I often find it hard to navigate around the Newsnight website, mainly because things that should be linked together often aren't.

For example if you stumble across the Ethical Man diary from Google, such as this entry: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/4758834.stm you can view April's diary, but then the link at the top only sends you to March's diary, but not May's.

I think the biggest problem is that the subsections aren't easy to navigate. The Ethnical Man being a primary example, it doesn't well using the same templates and ideas as the main BBC News website, the most recent items aren't always the msot useful, there's lots of useful information contained in older "stories" that can't be easily found. If you haven't read them before, you can't use the search engine, and even using the search engine it's sometimes a pain!

I don't have an easy answer as to what it should be like. Just that I think it could be better.

It has to be said, I also agree with "Kill Gordaq"

:)

  • 12.
  • At 12:17 AM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • Lesley Boatwright wrote:

I much preferred the old feed-back pages to the new blog/forum, where there are pages and pages of ranting and precious little wit. I skim through, read the short ones, a few paragraphs of the longer ones, and stop before the end out of sheer exhaustion. If you continue with this format, please impose a word limit.
I value the chance to see good reports and interviews again. It's important to keep certain things available as archive, to consult in light of subsequent developments. I could dispense with the Gordaq, and Ethical Man. Also, I think the side-issues should be curtailed.
I enjoy the podcasts very much but have never yet succeeded in downloading a vodcast.
A Newsnight Club sounds interesting.

If its great, don't fix it.

  • 14.
  • At 02:18 AM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • Ed wrote:

I just had a look through the site too, at it looks pretty good to me. The big ugly fake ipods on the right of the main page could be replaced with an image that's actually been designed, but apart from that it looks good.

As Chris says, compared to Amazon.co.uk it looks like the best website ever!

I'd keep gordaq, nothing wrong with a bit of something a bit different. You could do with something explaining what the hell it is though!

Ed

If you're looking for a web developer's views...

  • Move away from tables and into CSS/Div format. This will allow you more flexibility in future designs and in the long term make changes easier in the future. Also, from the standpoint of a dynamic site, less coding "overhead" to pass along. And it's more accessible for screen readers and others.
  • Too much on the first page tends to confuse rather than lure in the visitor. A common problem with news sites today is they think more is better. In terms of information, yes, it is. In terms of items on a web page, it's not. Allowing one to choose the information through collapsible areas and subcategories could prove quite useful on this site. Perhaps like the recent implementation on the front page of the BBC News site?
  • For heaven's sake don't go the route of most American news outlet sites and put adverts. Especially the blinking, flashing ones all over the page. Less motion is much, much more.

Those suggestions being given, it's not a bad site, certainly seen far worse. But a bit more organization and grouping could do wonders. Make it easier for people to find what they are looking for and not find what they aren't. The Newsnight Club might not be a bad idea for those who want the extra features, allowing them to opt-in rather than opt-out, although the concept of a "low-cost freebie" does seem a bit anachronistic.

  • 16.
  • At 04:38 AM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • miika wrote:

Let's see ...

there is no doctype HTML 4.0 transitional, it's 4.01

your links are using unencoded ampersands.

you're using blank img aligns.

you have duplicate accesskey entries.

you're missing alt tags.

your CSS is almost good, except that your @import seems to be more a case of "let's cover everything" rather than actually write anything specific for each media type.

You might want to actually try checking it against WAI too for accessibility.

Website design "fashion" is going towards the minimum because no-one has the faintest clue how to actually write accessible sites, so seem to think that it has to look like something out of an infant's colouring books to qualify. That's not the case, but as long as people keep thinking that WYSIWYG HTML editors make them web coders, the myth will prevail.

Hey, you -did- ask! :p

The Newsnight website definitely needs redesigning. Whilst the homepage has exploded with all these new ventures (which I generally like), the left-nav is fairly bewildering and contains a whole different set of links, including links to the blogs, which go off to a page with a completely different design.

The homepage needs more structure so that repeat visitors gain some sense of familiarity, and the main navigational menu (currently on the left) needs to be re-thought so that it is both more understandable (as shown by user-testing) and more prominant.

The Newsnight website is becoming great - it just needs a website which better reflects that and is less of a hastily re-skinned BBC News index page.

  • 18.
  • At 10:32 AM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • chris (not nos2) wrote:

Design of weblog is fine, there is a bit of a
delay when you post and I think people
press the button a number of times and find
their submission coming up three or four
times, the abiliy to edit and delete would be
good.


I'd just like to be able to post up pics.

  • 19.
  • At 10:39 AM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • Tim Coulson wrote:

How about a badge of Jeremy with moving eyes like the Beano Club used to have of Dennis the Menace and Gnasher? Some secret codes and a pencil would tempt me too. My colleague Marc would like a Paxman "nodding-dog" type doll for his car parcel shelf.

The page does look awfully cluttered. I'm pleased that it is not full of Javascript pop-ups or Flash, as those things can really annoy visitors. How could you improve things?

Firstly, ditch the tables and go for a CSS-driven layout.

Change to two columns (three if you really have to).

Centred pages are better and more popular than left-aligned pages.

Go for a liquid design that is usable by both larger (1200px) and smaller (800px) monitors. The techniques are easy to find and use.

Aim for real accessibility rather than just an accessibility badge. Organizations like the RNIB will probably be only too happy to offer advice.

Put your links in a clearly defined area, rather than all over the place as they are at the moment. Maybe colour-code areas of particular importance.

Kill the Gordaq.

  • 21.
  • At 11:33 AM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • Jack Scribbs wrote:

Ignore these web nerds who go on about useability and accessability, CSS and user centred design.

It's all cobblers. I used to be a web nerd, and I can tell you that what was always overlooked, or not given as great an emphasis in a rejig or redesign was THE CONTENT.

People might or might not like the look of a website, but for a news site, the reason they are going to keep coming back is for the great quality news and services you offer. The design is a nice to have, but after the first few visits, it's secondary.

You've just started to build up all this great mass of content, a range of services and got an archive going, and it's great...

Don't loose it all already after just a few months! It's fine as it is!

PS - am interested in the Beano Club style badges.

  • 22.
  • At 11:37 AM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • Philip wrote:

Keep all the special reports - it is always great to be able to find a 'Michael Crick' special or one of David Grossman's films.

Ditch the Gordaq. It was a good filler along the lines of those 'Nationwide' charts, but the betting indices have superseded it. And they cover 'Dr' Reid as well.

Since the BBC Sport site has a 'mini-Motty' to guide you around perhaps you could have a 'mini-Ma..' okay, maybe not...

  • 23.
  • At 11:56 AM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • Andrew wrote:

...a Newsnight Club, with all sorts of low cost freebies...

...as opposed to expensive freebies, I assume?

  • 24.
  • At 11:58 AM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • jane gould wrote:

why don't you just interview some good professionals, like most companies do?
frankly, the views of users are always going to be highly subjective.
as long as the site looks "clean", reinforces your brand, is easy to navigate and above all can handle the traffic at an appropriate speed, well, what's the problem?
newsnight viewers are not five years old, and for aesthetic stimulation and gratification, i go to the Tate.

  • 25.
  • At 11:58 AM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • John wrote:

The website is trying to do two things. Firstly its trying to be a great independent website and then scroll down a little and its trying to fit into the BBC news style. That is the problem. Choose which aspect is more important - consistency with the rest of the bbc news site or a separate Newsnight page.

I personally believe a standalone Newsnight site would be better as anybody who visits will probably have already seen the main bbc news area.

Hmm there are plenty of geeks offering technical advice here but I would like to add to the chorus that that the Gordaq should be dumped.

It was an interesting experiment that failed because it relied on the premise that people were actually interested in Gordon Brown!

  • 27.
  • At 11:59 AM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • Andy H wrote:

Any chance of a 'page 3' section?!

  • 28.
  • At 12:01 PM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • Bruce Sandison wrote:

I miss Gavin's jokes - they lighten up what is sometimes, because of the events being described, a sad read.

  • 29.
  • At 12:04 PM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • TOM KING wrote:

I think it is great that you ask!
Thanks.

  • 30.
  • At 12:11 PM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • Ian wrote:

I like your Website. I have no critical comment. I value the facility to DOWNLOAD audio (or video if I want).
I don't know what the complainers are going on about.
Perhaps they just like complaining and sometimes showing how clever they are (or think they are).

  • 31.
  • At 12:18 PM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • Brian Kelly wrote:

No,call it what you will..titles don't matter..so long as it provides a platform for those of us politically minded & can be vociferously opinionated!!or just want to comment on the programme etc . It's certainly attracting lots of attention... Keep up the good work !!

  • 32.
  • At 12:31 PM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • adrianroberts wrote:

Please Please
KILL THE GORDAQ !

  • 33.
  • At 12:34 PM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • Geoff wrote:

How about a brief review of points made during the show from the night before? It would be great for those of us living abroad and for people who missed the programme.

Thanks,

A Brit in the US

  • 34.
  • At 12:39 PM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • Mark in Maine, USA wrote:

Will joining the Newsnight Club make it easier for me to get tickets to the Boston Red Sox?? Seriously, do whatever you want to the website (although removing the "send us an email" box from where numbskulls like myself can confuse it with the comments form for the blog might help), but get Newsnight itself carried on BBC America!

  • 35.
  • At 12:46 PM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • mari dilip.s wrote:

i have no clear idea....

  • 36.
  • At 01:05 PM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • Mick Johnston wrote:

Stop adding lots of video links to this and that and just have one address where you can download previous programmes in their entirety in MP4 format. Then I can download them and watch them when it suits me as I do with Radio 4's 'In our time'.

  • 37.
  • At 01:42 PM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • Mary wrote:


Please do all your very best to put them in.

  • 38.
  • At 01:42 PM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • Joe Froggatt wrote:

Blogs and nerds just confuse me. It's just good to know in advance what can be expected on the programme then we know what's not to be missed on this excellent programme.

  • 39.
  • At 02:05 PM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • Alan wrote:

You should provide a more active forum to discuss the issues raised in the programs. Your moderated forums are too slow; it seems to take hours for contributions to be appended. This makes debate impossible. The moderation seems a bit heavy handed. I noticed that a perfectly reasonable post appended to the “Which side are you on” thread today, was deleted. You should not delete posts unless they are gratuitously abusive. Abusive posts should be shown. Readers can click the complain link to have these removed. It is also a good idea to leave a marker that indicates that a post has been deleted, and perhaps why. This is “our” BBC and censorship should be avoided if you don’t want to be accused of partisanship. I think your strength will be in providing a forum where people can discuss the issues raised by Newsnight and comment on the programs and future program ideas. An index of past interviews and shows would be great. For example, I would like to search for all the clips that include a particular contributor.

  • 40.
  • At 02:12 PM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • chris wrote:

people keep comming back because
people like to "get at" each other on
forums/blogs. epecially when its a
hot topic like the middle east.

The moment a nerd sounds off I switch off.

  • 41.
  • At 02:27 PM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • Kitty Simms wrote:

I like articles, the forum and just to explore. I usually scan Newsnight everyday. On weekends I start with Monday and check out the entire week. Your stuff is kind of fluffy I don't see any reason to download it to my iPod.

  • 42.
  • At 02:42 PM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • Terry cathrae wrote:

Its easy peasy for Newsnight;
1)Start with UK info.
2)Then world news;
3)Action areas (war zones)
4)Political discussions;
5)USA policies affecting the UK.
6)The home scene North to South.
7)Interviews with the local MPs
8)Forum for discussion on the night activities.
9)dont be afraid to be contoversial noe PCs be honest.

On the blog page, I reckon we should just nick the www.slyck.com style outright. Listing by most recently posted and most popular posting along the left, and just a small precis of each blog entry. Every other bit of info on there we just bin.

  • 44.
  • At 03:04 PM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • BENEDICT DAVEY wrote:

It would be good to host emails ...
Rather than blog ...generate an email for viewer type-in with Newsnight formatting and links
...these can then be sent in to a particular topic address...
...and hosted for other viewers to open read and forward...
...that way emails can be written off line with all the typing advantages of that...
...the viewers can then select to read them and forward them back to their inboxes or send them to friends
...Newsnight advertising therefore gets distributed around the planet

  • 45.
  • At 03:14 PM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • Erina Herrick wrote:

I have had difficulty acsessing your podcasts. Their is no link to it I have once been able to get the ten o'
clock news podcast but that is all.
Erina

  • 46.
  • At 03:23 PM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • Erina Herrick wrote:

I have had difficulty acsessing your podcasts. Their is no link to it I have once been able to get the ten o'
clock news podcast but that is all.
Erina

  • 47.
  • At 03:32 PM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • Erina Herrick wrote:

Please could we hve a direct link to the podcast in the newsnight e-mail. I hace only seen this once
Erina

  • 48.
  • At 03:37 PM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • Judith Kramer wrote:

In case the message isn't getting through

1. Kill Gordaq.

2. Keep everything, and sort out the layout.

3. Blogs and ethical man and the like aren't my idea of Newsnight, but enjoyable anyway, perhaps they need a separate section - perhaps they have it already, in the nothing-too-serious after 11 slot.

4. Serious interviews and discussions would all be welcome as podcasts.


  • 49.
  • At 04:00 PM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • Benedict Davey wrote:

Each of Your links should open a new window...

Dear Peter,

There are some significant improvements you could make to the site, not least in blog performance. As an existing and approved supplier of website work to the BBC, I'd be happy to offer you some free consultancy and advice. If you're interested, please contact me via my email address.

best regards,
Andrew

  • 51.
  • At 04:07 PM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • Tony Norris wrote:

Too many imputs!!! ...Result: I hardly look/listen/read anything now.

All these new 'toys' at the disposal of the Newsnight team - websites, blogs, podcasts, vodcasts - and that's before anyone starts thinking about watching the programme (!). ...It's a complete multimedia mess.

Suggestions:-

The programme is obviously the core; complement it with just three additions: Website, Blog, Vodcast (can we call it VideoPodcast?). ...I say "complement" insofar that the same theme/identity runs through all four productions; i.e., the snazzy new mauve programme visuals already run into the 'Newsnight Blog' and would look good as a prominent feature on the website and in the opening frames of the vodcast. ...In other words one good multimedia product, not quite so obvious as four. ...I suggest this enity encompass just one area of comment/feedback, albeit linked from all four corners.

Kill the podcast and simpify the vodcast into daily downloadable episodes of the complete program. ...Unless I've missed it, it would be helpful to let people know where to find free MPEG4 codecs to watch these programmes on their MediaPlayers (many have probably already given up!).

Finally, let's not lose gravitas with all this excitement in cyberspace. ...I trust the 'Newsnight Club' was just tongue in cheek.


  • 52.
  • At 04:16 PM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • Michael Harris wrote:

What ever you disgard please keep the facility to view last night's programme. It's helpful if you miss the broadcast or want a re-cap.
Regards
Mike Harris

  • 53.
  • At 04:49 PM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • Paul D wrote:

Newsnight makes a refreshing change from the 'over to you Natasha, over to you George' mentality of the other channel and a programme which allows enough time for serious and in-depth consideration should always be welcomed. With this though comes the possibility that you will have a well informed and articulate audience who, given the chance, will be keen to share their views and this will always mean a high volume of web site traffic over a wide variety of subjects.

I also happen to be a web site developer .

I actually think that across the whole spectrum of news and current affairs, the BBC's sites are world class and, while I might have esthetic reservations, the way in which varied and rich content is presented is easily navigated and well presented. This is especially true of the Newsnight site (purple beats dark red hands down).

An old maxim applies. If it ain't broke, don't fix it!

  • 54.
  • At 04:57 PM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • James Shea wrote:

It is rather tabular and similar to the rest of the BBC website. I'd like to see it more blog-led (a red lorry yellow lorry phrase if there was ever one) and have a distinct identity. How are we ever going to get young people looking at hard news with the same misty-eyed wonder that we have if we can't take a leaf out of their 'instant-win' style life?
As a Head of English and Media I despair of them all. Do you know, even the geeks are not really clued up about podcasting and the like? Call themselves the interactive generation?
Please immediately post 'Geriatric 1927' and let's be done with it...

Cut long transcripts,
More vido highligths,
Keep downloads of podcasts,
Have a ticker tape running of
items that come in late.
Kind regards to all concerned. Les

There've been a few queries about what low cost freebies are, as well as the suggestion that "low cost freebie" is a contradiction in terms. What I meant was low cost to us - I had in mind the kind of crap prizes we sometimes give to competition winners - like the Newsnight 25th anniversary commemorative bracelet.

I hope that clears things up.

  • 57.
  • At 05:41 PM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • Leon wrote:

I appreciate that Newsnight on the web is trying to keep up with technology but....there are so many glitches - Vodcasts turn out to be merely Podcasts, URls result in error messages and what about those truly irritating messages for those of us abroad that content is not available outside UK (while obviously it is but one has to go searching for it in other ways). So it is a bit of a technical mess with what you already have and now when you start to redesign it may make things even worse. Sorry, but you must take some lessons from US and Canadian websites and see how it is done properly, as far as technology and being user friendly. And the picture and voice quality is still in the dark ages. Websites in North America would be embarassed to have such low level of technical quality and forcing us to subscribe to broadband - I will resist this. For a start take a look at the NBC News website. The 24 hour limit for programme accessibility is also a bit crazy. Start an archives section and is Newsnight from past decades being digitised?
I am a fan of Newsnight but more often than not on the web it is an irritating experience.

  • 58.
  • At 05:57 PM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • Simon wrote:

I would suggest being radical and use the website to move away from the constraints of the single narrative format that broadcast tv demands - but obviously I'm not saying abandon it, it covers most of your audience 'cone' and is an excellent discipline.

Treat the website as an archive - with a nice entrance, including a few highlights, giving access to shelfloads of often boring but sometimes facinating detail, with multiple access routes - broadcast date, subject, medium, location etc. etc. Good search is essential - and you will probably find yourselves using it more than anyone in tracing background. That's the techy bit.

To be really journalistically radical start to make a lot of your background material available on line. Links to press releases, documents/data sources used, notes of briefing conversations (suitably anonomised obviously!). Bring the audience into the whole newsmaking process.

Investigate the possibilities digital gives you. Alongside the main (and obviously central) analogue style feed think of e.g. letting viewers choose who to watch on roundtables, or a separate window for each. Put key documents (excerpts of big ones) up for people to scan through during the piece, if they want. Have a window showing selected comments coming in live, from the site, plus email, text etc., possibly a choice of streams - funny, leftish, rightish, etc. All very low bandwidth stuff.

Use the site to encourage more interaction on stories with a longer lead time, not everything goes on air the day it is first worked on. As you have said, despite a one million passive audience, active is considerably less. If you do start getting overwhelmed, start getting smarter. Or provide tools to help your audience interact smarter. Its not just about attracting new audiences, but about higher quality packages, which will improve the quality of public debate.

As I say, keep the core narrative discipline, but let people in on what does on behind it, and encourage them to interact with it.

  • 59.
  • At 06:42 PM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • alex wrote:

Please keep the Gordaq!

This is a grownups arena. It should be less Mary Whitehouse than the 'Today' forum.

But I've often thought that many messageboards would benefit from a word limit to each post.

The types of words should not be a problem. The numbers are.

But in order to move ahead of those relatively antiquated interfaces, and be in keeping with Newsnight's status, there should definitely be more scope for micro-journalism. Even if it was only at the level of the Parish Council Mpeg.

  • 61.
  • At 08:18 PM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • richardson wrote:

Keep it simple please

  • 62.
  • At 08:58 PM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • Andrew Dean wrote:

The Newsnight Club? Ha, i started my own on the dreaded Myspace website! Membership is currently 10 unfortunately, but perhaps things will pick up some day.....

http://groups.myspace.com/newsnight

(For those brave enough to join!)

  • 63.
  • At 01:52 AM on 19 Aug 2006,
  • walter wayne wrote:

Improving the video quality on the Newsnight website should be a priority. As it is, watching the program or individual reports is painful with the low frame rates and small frame size. The high quality of your program should be equally seen online as on air!

Hi I have just viewed your site in different web browsers and guess what it loaded and looked ok, just had a giggle to my self after reading what others had to say, as if they were all as good as they point out then why are they not working for you or doing your job ?

There is no law on how a site should or should not be built on the net anymore its old hat, the only thing that is a must and that is, it should load, look, and have ease of navigation, you have that and you cant go wrong.

  • 65.
  • At 10:30 AM on 19 Aug 2006,
  • Muntazir wrote:

It's good . But needs blogs from freelance writers & needs to be published freely sans any political favor or biased policy.

  • 66.
  • At 11:09 AM on 19 Aug 2006,
  • Doreen Richards wrote:

Keep it simple, this 73 year old Silver Surfer enjoys your website as it is, dont make it too complicated

  • 67.
  • At 03:23 PM on 19 Aug 2006,
  • Albert Rowland wrote:

Please can we have some uplifting news to compensate for all the war news.
Best Wishes Albert Rowland.

You know, looking at the feedback numbers this site is working ok.
If it ain't broke don't fix it.

  • 69.
  • At 12:48 AM on 20 Aug 2006,
  • David Rose wrote:

Rule 1: DON'T get a web designer to design it. "Web designer" is a misnomer - they don't design, they BUILD techy stuff - it's like getting your local printer to design Vogue because he knows what off-set litho is... or a brick layer to design building because he knows how much muck to put between bricks. Little wonder the internet is a complete mess...

Rule 2: There isn't one - Rule 1 is all you need to know.


The MP4 video podcasts are great, unfortunately not viewable my Pocket PC (with the right software I can still only get the silent video). Is it Apple-specific and should not the BBC use an open or alternative format as well on principle and to help those of us who have had pocket video technology for years? Thanks especially for RSS and podcasts.

  • 71.
  • At 10:24 AM on 20 Aug 2006,
  • Marilynn Morgan-Dodge wrote:

I actually have liked the original layout best of all. Every day I check first of all to see if it's by Gavin . . . I like the way he writes both brief serious as well as funny bits . . . and especially the Jokes Fit For A Ten - Now Eleven - Year Old ! . . . or whatever in that category. These are my preferences as I can not get your radio broadcast here in LA . . . and I often will copy and mail, particularly the funnies, to friends saying 'and again, from Gavin' or 'it helps to be a Brit'! . . . and then I read the rest of you -- so thank you all very much for your newsletter . . . it is much enjoyed.

  • 72.
  • At 03:04 PM on 20 Aug 2006,
  • Karin Edwards wrote:

While style matters, content always matters more to me than style ... assuming I can find the content.

Could you please make at least a week's worth of shows available on the Website? I don't mean text summaries or digest v/podcasts.

That would let us watch what we want, when we want it, and how we want it (medium of choice). Isn't that a BBC mantra of the moment?

  • 73.
  • At 10:42 AM on 21 Aug 2006,
  • duncan mckay wrote:

As it stands the proportionatly few of us that post have a huge advantage as our comments are accessed and read by stakeholders of the program. If the site changes to become more ergonomic that will change. So I recognise this bias & agenda in the comments already posted. However if your internal need is to increased online response than I sincerly believe your team should study the bbcnews.com website. Its layout is simply fantastic with rapid access to issues of individual intrest in seconds. It would also give the program the chance to offer content in different foreign languages - perhaps something of vital importance given newsnight's relevance and access to senior stakeholders of UK politics.

  • 74.
  • At 10:55 AM on 21 Aug 2006,
  • Frank wrote:

Most of the Graphic Design is great but...
Your MASSIVE promo for the Audio and Video Podcasts is grotesque. It looks like its been photoshopped by someone who doesn't know photoshop very well. For starters its been enlarged from a smaller source image (one design fundamental that I can't understand why a designer in the BBC would allow it). Then its been hacked to pieces with images being placed rather crudely in the area where the iPod-like screen is supposed to be.
Are you doing this shoddy work yourself Peter?

On design - I agree with Jack Scribbs, post 21, when he says "The design is a nice [thing] to have, but after the first few visits, it's secondary". By the same token, if you keep the design simple and straightforward enough, then it can be easily changed, refreshed from time to time. Think of small things, like not having always the same pictures of your presenters there, or even just changing a background color occasionally, details that don't affect functionality and structure, but help break a monotony of one and the same layout all the time.

There are small technical glitches and bugs. More people have noted that comments are posted double sometimes due to a way your cgi script handles posts, and a somewhat misleading error message suggesting that one should try and re-post a comment later. Following this advice usually results in same comment popping up there in duplicate. Another example is a "Back To Top" at the bottom of sometimes lengthy comments pages. Clicking on it gets you nowhere. These are just small details, but as this project and site grow in volume and complexity, there will be more of such bugs, and it would be handy to have a kind of technical error reporting feedback channel.

Some comments prompt a response; these could be "hidden" behind the post which initially triggered them, in a fashion similar to submenus which fold out as one clicks on a menu item, usually a Java script does it, but there must be many different solutions to it out there. At the bottom of any posting that triggered a response, there would be a button or so; clicking on it folds out all responses, also with a different color background, like postings by the Newsnight. Comments on comments, on comments, etc... it could all be contained and kept together in this fashion, and that would help keep the blog and its many threads more coherent. Additional advantage is that people who are not interested in these "exchanges" and discussions between the bloggers don't even have to see them.

Finally, I would argue against imposing a word limit - most comments are of a reasonable, manageable length anyway, and I for one find some of the long pieces very interesting and well worth reading too.

John
MP4 is a non-proprietary video format and our video podcasts currently work on iPods, PSPs and some mobile phones. Unfortunately, it does not work on all platforms. Be assured our technicians are working hard to make the files work on all possible devices.

  • 77.
  • At 06:17 PM on 21 Aug 2006,
  • Nick Edell wrote:

Is it entirely appropriate for a Newsnight editor to use the word 'crap' in a blog?

Some people might find it offensive. I don't but I wouldn't expect it in this context.

  • 78.
  • At 10:41 AM on 22 Aug 2006,
  • Tony Norris wrote:

Ian; re comment 76.....

As I said earlier in this thread, as far as Vodcasts are concerned, many have probably given up (never to return!).

Bearing in mind - allegedly - half the planet can't even set the timer on their video recorder, how many are going to delve into the intricacies of getting their MediaPlayer working in MP4 format? ...That said, I'm somewhat puzzled that Newsnight "technicians" are "working hard" to resolve this, when you have only to direct everyone to any of the well known freebee downloads to do just this; http://www.3ivx.com/download (use links top right of page) got me up and running on the Newsnight Vodcast in MediaPlayer within minutes (other options there for alternative operating systems).

  • 79.
  • At 11:25 PM on 22 Aug 2006,
  • Roger wrote:

I don't go to the BBC to find out some blog about what other self-promoters are saying.

I go to the BBC, and Newsnight in particular, to:
1. find out what will be on
2. find out what was on and look/listen again
3. read any dditional un-broadcast material

I don't give a monkey's about other people opinions, especially not the kind of people who have time on their hands to add to your blog. So if you ARE going to have a blog, keep it well away from the real BBC content.

  • 80.
  • At 12:35 AM on 23 Aug 2006,
  • Ashley Ballard wrote:

There seem to be rather a lot of bloggers here who want to turn this website into... a bloggers' website.

Surely the purpose of the blog is to get feedback on the show and to discuss issues with us so you know what to put onto the show. If people want a dedicated website for their comments there are hundreds out there.

There should be a prominent place for items that don't make the show because of time or whatever. What happened to Paul Mason's piece on inheritance tax?

  • 81.
  • At 04:07 PM on 23 Aug 2006,
  • Jenny wrote:

Ian Lacey - Newsnight wrote: "John, MP4 is a non-proprietary video format and our video podcasts currently work on iPods, PSPs and some mobile phones. Unfortunately, it does not work on all platforms. Be assured our technicians are working hard to make the files work on all possible devices."

It plays perfectly using Apple's Quicktime, which is available for free for many platforms.

Would that other bits were so easy to play. I use Realplayer for the non-downloadable BBC material and it plays archived material fairly well. But I cannot get Newsnight live. Clicking on the button on your page (during the programme's broadcast times) gives me a 3 second BBC News ident, and nothing more, every time. Could that be fixed? A broken link I expect.

  • 82.
  • At 11:06 PM on 23 Aug 2006,
  • Rob wrote:

Check out the channel four news website, the video archive is an amazing resource and well organised.

  • 83.
  • At 11:28 PM on 23 Aug 2006,
  • John Fee wrote:

Another dose of US arrogance, bile and invective on tonight's programme - this time from the lips of one, Babbit. Why does Newsnight insist on giving people like this a daily mouthpiece with which to offend and insult others? Paid for by me and thousands like me!

  • 84.
  • At 05:21 PM on 24 Aug 2006,
  • Tony Norris wrote:

Roger; re. comment 79...

I see we BOTH seem to have 'time on our hands' to be here (!), but I tend to agree.

I've added several comments highlighting technical issues in the hope of enhancing the very content you/we want available; but once the Newsnight multimedia mishmash is streamlined, I can't see myself here debating the issues of the day.

To be honest, my interest in blogs in general - BBC included - is waning rapidly as a result of 'comments', in the same way that the 'phone-in' has trashed much of radio. ...In a further development, both TV and radio seem increasingly to inflict people's e-mails on us.

I find the actual Newsnight blog worth viewing. ...Reading comments is optional, but sometimes one is drawn by the number, but invariably let down, like the phone-in, on discovering the subject trivialised,. ...Perhaps a blog without comment; plenty of them? ...Then you are full circle back to what is in effect just another website, in the same way that we have rapidly gone from TV, via podcast. to vodcast; i.e., just watching TV again. ...You begin to wonder what all the fuss is about.

Newsnight is looking for suggestions. ...I've revised my view as this debate has gone on and now favour TV programme/revised website/vodcast. ...You only need one area of comment and the established website feedback works well. ...Perhaps just ONE “no comments” blog (NewsLog?) incorporated via the website, with all Newsnight editors, reporters, etc., contributing in ONE place? ...The vodcast would be more than adequate with simple downloadable daily episodes of the full programme.

  • 85.
  • At 02:49 PM on 25 Aug 2006,
  • JennyM wrote:

Save the Gordaq - it is great!!
More downloads/podcasts would be good too. Club membership sounds super fun!

  • 86.
  • At 03:37 PM on 25 Aug 2006,
  • Greg Hewson wrote:

Forget "The Newsnight Club".

Fanzines and groupies are not for serious current affairs programmes.

  • 87.
  • At 10:10 AM on 29 Aug 2006,
  • Sophie wrote:

sorry, just back from holiday so I didn't see your request for comments on the home page. the thing I use most is the watch again which is hard to find. also, the volume is incredibly low. I end up sitting on the floor under my desk to be next to the computer. I don't have this problem with other BBC watch again sites.

I can't understand technical term but i found very interesting. Long story? Long article? You can post anything which should be concern on public and that should be interesting.
Any way, Congratulation !

Just as long as you make the site, accessible for blind folks, you're one step in the right direction.

Kevin, accessibility isn't about being blind, it's about being accessible. Mobility, language, dyslexia, visual impairments such as colour deficiency, motion, contrast, operating system, device, browser and many more all affect accessibility which is why coding to the recommended W3C Web standards ensures maximum compatibility.

As for long articles, it's the delivery that's key. Content can be structured effectively with good use of headers, line spacing, font and contrast but bear in mind that the Web is the Web and not print, which the homepage has the feel of, almost magazine style with no defining structure.

Lots of things to do is a good thing when everything is summarised, usable and findable. The eyes need to fall onto components of the page and not struggle to focus on things. Again, this is a document structure issue.

I wish you all the best on the new design and look forward to seeing it's launch.

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