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Roger Bolton talks to Steve Herrmann about the redesigned news homepage

Friday 23 July 2010, 14:55

Roger Bolton Roger Bolton

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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:

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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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

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


  • rate this

    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.

  • rate this

    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.

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    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.

  • rate this

    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.


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