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More changes to the site and some interesting Radio 4 news

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Steve Bowbrick Steve Bowbrick 10:26, Friday, 24 April 2009


A couple of days ago in a comment here on the blog @ooergosh asked a question about the new 'week-at-a-view' schedule on the Radio 4 web site. He or she said:

Glad you're listening to about 1% of feedback. Now how about tackling the rest? For example I have just noticed that the schedule for the full week doesn't observe any horizontal logic: a programme at 11.30 a.m. on Saturday appears at a lower visual level than a programme at 2 p.m. on Friday. This makes it horribly difficult to find things at a glance. Whilst the site generally has far too much white space, a little more on the full week's schedule page would make it much easier to read and also give a feeling on the length of the programmes.

Good question, I thought. So, I emailed the Radio 4 interactive team and asked them: "why doesn't the schedule line up horizontally" and a day later, Ant Smith, the man responsible for ongoing maintenance of the Radio 4 site now that it's live, sent me this picture: a mock-up of a new schedule that lines up horizontally! Ant wants me to tell you that this is a very early mock-up of a new schedule page and it might never make it into service but, still, it's exciting to see this kind of progress isn't it?

Ant also alerts me to this list of routine changes to the site, all of which should be live by now and all of which are direct responses to user feedback here on the blog:

  • Main Promo title now acts as a link

  • Text resizing on homepage no longer obscures any content

  • Contact us now allows 1000 characters (up from 255)

  • Genre panel lists genres in alphabetical order


Here's a fascinating post from one of BBC Audio & Music's software engineers, Yves Raimond, about the catalogue of programmes that underlies the new Radio 4 site (and all the other BBC sites, for that matter). This is pretty technical stuff - and you'll find plenty of words like 'ontology' and abbreviations like RDF/XML - but it's really worth reading because it's about the way the next generation of BBC sites will organise data better to make information easier to find and expose all sorts of interesting connections.


Here's Mark Friend, Controller, BBC Audio & Music Interactive, on the BBC Internet blog, explaining the decision to provide links to online shops selling Archers audio books. This is obviously a pretty controversial step for the BBC to take and Friend's careful to point out that:

The suggested suppliers have been assessed against published criteria which include purchasing security, data protection and customer support. These criteria are intended to give a simple and reliable way to find BBC products while not favouring any one retailer over others.

The BBC doesn't make any money from these links to retailers:

Buying media online can be confusing and daunting, particularly for those with concerns around security and legality. I believe the BBC has a public service role to play in helping people to find older content, and in guiding those least familiar with purchasing media online. Acting as a 'trusted guide' is something that we take very seriously.

Friend says that providing links to suppliers of historic Radio 4 content is analogous to the way BBC News online provides links to archive news stories and features. He's looking for feedback on this trial so click over to his post and leave a comment there if you have an opinion about it.

The same, of course, goes for our new blog design! The new design, which you'll notice is wider and a bit more like the rest of the Radio 4 web site, went live yesterday and a few snags have come to light - you'll notice that the features above the big banner at the top aren't behaving quite as they should, for instance. The tech team is working on this as I write. Please leave a comment to let me know what you think of the new look, though.


  • Comment number 1.

    Many thanks for the 1000 characters for Contact Us. Please may we now have About Us pages on Red Button on Radio on Digital TV giing the latest on Contacting RAdio 4 programmes?

  • Comment number 2.

    For the homepage team, can the title for the "Radio 4 Blog" panel be made a link to the main page of the blog? To get here from the homepage involves two clicks.

    Also in the big promo image thing, I always find myself going towards the title text expecting it to be a link when it's not. Could this recieve the same treatment?

  • Comment number 3.

    Hymagumba (2),

    • "can the title for the "Radio 4 Blog" panel be made a link to the main page of the blog?"
    It already is, but not the text, and not the whole area. Check around the sides of "The Radio 4 Blog" ....
  • Comment number 4.

    Haha, oh dear, that's not very good is it.

    However I was actually referring to the link on the radio 4 homepage (bottom right, underneath topics) although I could have made myself clearer :)

  • Comment number 5.

    Thanks for taking on board the week's schedule display and I am pleased it's going to be revamped. Maybe whilst they're on the schedule pages, they could insert hot links on the home page to morning/afternoon/evening on the one day schedule page?
    And is there a magic way to get at the Pick of the Week page to suggest a clip. Click on the P int the alpha chart, choose PotW from the list (2nd click) you get given an episode date to click on and then back around in a circle - no way to make a suggestion.
    (And as you are good at passing things on, maybe you ask PotW to include Mitch Benn's first Now show song on the toddling bankers!)

  • Comment number 6.

    Don't mind the revised layout, it does seem to have a cleaner style.

    Getting here is an issue though. When you click through to the blog page from the home page there is a list of blogs down the right hand side and I looked for a while for the threads (thinking they were now part of one of the other blogs). It was only by accident that I scrolled all the way down and found the threads and it was only when I looked further did I find the 'jump' click at the top of the page right over on the right hand side. Could this link be made much more obvious please, perhaps on the left at the top so when you go to a blog you see it right away?

    I was about to abandon the blog, thinking that the old treads had been tidied up (scrapped)....glad I perservered.

  • Comment number 7.

    Oh and when you 'preview' your comment it puts a huge gap between paragraphs that is much bigger than a single line space.

    And where it says 'complain about this comment' is it posible to have a 'comment about' option. I've read several I might like to comment on and none I want to complain about. Or am I missing something?

    Thanks and good to be reminded that the comments do get read :-)

  • Comment number 8.

    Can something be done about the size of the page mast-head and banners, although this is not just a R4 issue but a BBC wide issue, again the designers have been allowed to ride rough-shod over any usability - the page headers are now taking up 50% of the screen on my 17" (non WS) monitor running at 1024x768 res, these pages must look horrible on a 17" (or even 19") WS monitor, it's almost gone back to the bad old days of those once common 'splash screens'.

  • Comment number 9.


    "And where it says 'complain about this comment' is it posible to have a 'comment about' option. I've read several I might like to comment on and none I want to complain about. Or am I missing something?"

    I think you are missing something, if you want to comment on something someone else has said then (do as I'm doing) just use the "Post a comment" form box just as you did to post your original comment! :-)

    It would be nice to have a 'threaded' layout but I suspect that would either need a total rewrite of the current, or the deployment of a totally different, server-side application.

  • Comment number 10.

    #8 we're having another look at the banner depth boilerplated for a number of the blogs including this one. agreed that its too deep at the moment. Expect that to change.

    Jem Stone.

  • Comment number 11.

    I hope the mocked-up schedule does become a reality - it looks awesome. And I echo poster 5's comments about wanting to have links to jump straight to morning/afternoon/evening.

  • Comment number 12.

    #9 Doh! I see your point Boilerplated. I think the software running my brain crashed when I wrote that :-)


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