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The Archers website is changing

Keri Davies Keri Davies | 12:24 PM, Wednesday, 11 July 2012

New homepage - upper

The Archers website will shortly be undergoing some significant changes, to bring it in line with many other BBC programme sites.

Before I explain the changes, let me emphasise that they do not affect this blog or the message board, which will look and work just the same. You will also still be able to:

  • listen to programmes online both through iPlayer and by download (podcast)
  • read episode synopses
  • check details of major characters and the actors who play them
  • read information about the programme

However, some facilities will be temporarily suspended, most notably:

  • the map of Ambridge
  • our timeline and past storylines
  • the weekly vote
  • the quiz

Ambridge Ups and Downs, our light-hearted summary of recent events, will continue as a weekly blog post.


The main reason is behind the scenes, and concerns the systems that we use to maintain and update the site. We've been very fortunate up to now, in that the The Archers has had its own bespoke website. But this means that we have been working with tools that only we use, which is complicated and expensive in terms of technical support.

Following the 2010 freeze in the BBC's licence fee, there is considerable pressure on expenditure, particularly in online areas. So by moving to standard systems that are used across the whole BBC, we can rely on quicker and more knowledgeable technical support, and benefit from developments elsewhere in the Corporation.

The new look

You can see the main view of the homepage at the top of this blog post. You'll notice we've retained our logo, the countryside images and the colour scheme - particularly the much-loved mustard yellow. As with the existing site, the emphasis is on catching up with recent episodes.

There are links to the blog (and Who's Who), and a panel in which we can promote and link to other features - in this case some of the audio connected with our 60th anniversary.

Message board users can be reassured that there will be a permanent link to the board in a navigation bar at the top of every page.

This is what it looks like further down the homepage.

Further down the homepage

Here you'll find the opportunity to hear clips related to the programme, plus links to photo galleries and other ways to discuss The Archers.

Who's Who

We have a new Who's Who index page which, as in the current site, lists characters alphabetically by forename.

New character index page

And here's what our new character pages will look like.

New character page

These contain all the information held on our current character pages. Because of the large number of Archers characters, the new site will launch with the emphasis on those who are involved with existing storylines (about 40). I'll be adding to these over the months and hope to build up to a pretty comprehensive listing of both speaking and silent characters.

One facility we haven't been able to incorporate in the new designs is the option to turn off the images in our Who's Who section. It simply isn't offered by the new set-up. If you are one of the listeners who preferred not to see pictures of the characters I can only apologise. Sadly when money is tight we have to make compromises, and this is one of them.

Future additions

As I said at the start of this post, we have had to withdraw some features for the time being. The weekly vote should return fairly soon. And work is underway to make the 'engine' which drives our quiz compatible with the new set-up.

The map and timeline are more complex, but we know how interesting and useful people find them and we're energetically exploring ways in which we can offer these features in the future.

I'm sure you'll have comments and questions about the new site, which I'll do my best to answer.

Keri Davies is an Archers (and Ambridge Extra) scriptwriter and web producer.


  • Comment number 1.

    New site looks great, as far as I'm concerned! (Seen some of it already, yesterday.) I don't mind seeing pictures of the characters/actors at all; such things have been around since the 1950s and they don't stop me from using my imagination when listening. (Some of the die-hards won't agree, I daresay, but there it is!)

  • Comment number 2.

    Thanks Keri. I looked in to Listen Again,and was interested in this. Apart from the Blog bit, which looks good. Except ...
    Sorry to harp on after 6 years, but does this mean there will not be a Family Tree at all?

  • Comment number 3.

    Keri Radio is an auditory media. Why do you feel compelled to force visual information on those who don't want it?

    Perhaps your changed site cannot support opting out of photos. So why not omit them altogether?

    You could offer Who's Who as text only and offer a gallery of cast photos for those who want them.

    I'm sure your prime desire is to makimise listener satisfaction?

  • Comment number 4.

    Generally not bad, although a shame to again lose so much of the functionality and features of the most recent incarnation of ML - oh that we could go back about 3 or 4 generations!

    This is no longer the wonderfully quirky TA board it once was - it's just another bland, anodyne BBC website. Oh well, at least we still have the Messageboard pro tem, and the long awaited direct link.

    Regarding the pictures - I share the irritation of O/Icon and a vocal number of posters on the DTA board. It's a real pain in the arse having to shield not just the blog, but also the home page and "who's who" in order to avoid seeing completely unnecessary pictures of the actors and actresses.

    Why can you not just have the cast list & biogs without any pictures whatsoever? It's a radio show, not TV - who gives a monkey's what the cast look like? It's their voices that are important!

  • Comment number 5.

    I like the look of the new site, it's much clearer to read and navigate than before, and the font is better than the previous mixture. I like the way the synopses pop up on catch up but if you didn't know where to look, you wouldn't know they were there. Ups and Downs is no great loss, but good luck with the timeline...my computer always struggled with it. But please can you lose Mr Fry ASAP, Keri?

  • Comment number 6.

    Wow!!!! The new site looks infinitely better than the current one!!!!!!!!! it also looks so much easier to navigate around and looks great..... i love listening to the archers and more often than not listen online and look around the site whilst listening....... i can't wait to see what the new ones going to look like!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 7.


    I'm agnostic about the look of the new site, as long as the MB isn't taken away I'll be happy.

    As you mention the licence fee freeze, I've been trying for some time to say to anyone who will listen that I disagree and would be happy to pay... in fact I recently got a letter in Radio Times to that effect. I've tried to send the BBC a cheque representing an inflation based increase over the current fee, but it was returned. If you can think of a way I might slip the BBC some money, please tell me!

  • Comment number 8.

    "One facility we haven't been able to incorporate in the new designs is the option to turn off the images in our Who's Who section. It simply isn't offered by the new set-up"

    Oh, c'mon Keri! These pages are using jQuery, so this stuff should be simple.

    To hide the images and have them indiviually toggled on and off with a mouse-click, stick this piece of inline script into the "Who's who" page:

    Code snippet here: http://pastebin.com/UsefCwau

    As commented in the code, it would be better if the images were rendered hidden to start with, then we'd need one less line of code and the user wouldn't be presented with a flash of the images before that code snippet can get to hide them.

    The above code only affects the "Who's who" main page - and so images are still visible on each character/actor's specific page - but a similarly simple snippet of code could be applied there.

  • Comment number 9.

    Can someone please tell lme where to find the synopses?

  • Comment number 10.

    So Keri, let me get this right . . . Due to the BBC budget cuts, we
    1. Lose nothing, ultimately
    2. Gain some things
    3. Just have to put up with the the temporary suspension of a few features.

    Sounds good. Just imagine how much more you could do if the licensing fee were scapped altogether!!

  • Comment number 11.

    Hi Rosemary6NW - you'll find the synopses on the new Catch Up page - click on the link by each episode that says "First broadcast"

  • Comment number 12.

    Tayler is that supposed to be intuitive?

    When will studioj(post 8)'s helpful snipped be put in use?

  • Comment number 13.

    All looks good but how will you portray the silents?!

  • Comment number 14.

    Looks OK, and if the program catch up / synopses are added in a more consistent way than before that will be an improvement. One small but useful feature that seems to have vanished in the new format is that from the individual programme Catch up pages you used to be able to navigate between the previous and next days programme without having to "back up" to the top level Catch up page. That is handy if you don't have time to listen to every episode, but only the "important ones"...

  • Comment number 15.

    @14 Beterthanpokeintheeye
    On the episode page there are links to 'previous' and 'next' in the 'More Episodes' drawer on the right hand side.

  • Comment number 16.

    "One facility we haven't been able to incorporate in the new designs is the option to turn off the images in our Who's Who section."

    Well I am one of the listeners who prefers not to see pictures of the characters. (Not only in the Who's who section, but anywhere.) And by posting the photos it will simply cause me to use the web site much less. I agree with others, THIS IS RADIO. Ask yourselves, are you hiring actors based on their looks. It's RADIO, of course not. Please let the pictures be formed in our mind's eye. And it's apparent I'm not the only one that feels this way.

    Just have a separate photo section with links from the character names.

  • Comment number 17.

    Am I being stupid but I can't find the synopsis. I click on "Read the synopsis" button but I don't see the synopsis.

  • Comment number 18.

    New site looks good, but I cannot find the link to the synopses anywhere. The only one I found led nowhere.

  • Comment number 19.

    Although I'm not too bothered about seeing photos of the actors (makes it easier to recognise them when they're in other stuff on telly for a start), I'm not at all sure these should go on the character pages. If the characters were described as looking like their actors it'd be fair enough, but they're not - just a few weeks ago someone recognised Adam from "that red hair of his", which is notably not how you'd describe Andrew Wincott.

    The obvious solution would be to have a series of cartoons of the characters. I realise money is very much an object here, so how about a portrait competition? You could even cover the silents then.

  • Comment number 20.

    I must say I'm very perturbed to learn on here that Adam (character, not actor) has red hair, because I never heard the episode where this was mentioned, and so I've never imagined it. I'd really like Keri Davies to tell us exactly when this fact was broadcast; I certainly remember a photo of Adam and Ian appearing on this site when they had their civil ceremony some years ago, was there a problem about lack of red hair then?
    I'd always found specific references to physical appearance rare on The Archers; about thirty plus years ago, when Clarrie was first mentioned, I remember her being described as sturdy or even overweight, but that's about the only one I've ever heard.

  • Comment number 21.

    What's happened to the synopses?! They aren't visible and 'Catch-Up' just displays the same as 'What's on the I-Player'. Let's have quick catch-up again!!

  • Comment number 22.

    What am I going to do without my daily fix of the Quiz? Bring it back soon!

  • Comment number 23.

    I miss the quiz.......please bring it back asap......I was doing so well!!!
    I love seeing the photos, it makes it even MORE real!!

  • Comment number 24.

    When Adam was born, it was broadcast he had "a shock of bright red hair," Nemo.

    The "Who's Who" is a "Who's Who of Actors," not of Characters in Ambridge.

  • Comment number 25.

    "When Adam was born, it was broadcast he had "a shock of bright red hair," Nemo."

    What, way back in 1967 and it's not been mentioned since? And we're supposed to have held that alarming Ronald McDonald image in our minds all that time? Is it in the archives, I wonder? Do the scriptwriters know?

    Mind you, in my experience of babies, the colour of hair they're born with often isn't life-long; plenty have a lot of dark hair at birth, and it falls out at around l-2 months to be replaced by fairer hair.

  • Comment number 26.

    I'm having the same problem as other people, I can't find the synopses. I don't get a pop up box when I click on the 'first broadcast'. It's very frustrating, not at all user friendly and really, is it too much to ask to have a 'read synopses' box? We're not all internet junkies who have endless time to poke about the revised site looking for stuff - I just want a quick link. Thanks

  • Comment number 27.

    Yes, Nemo, it is also mentioned in Adam's entry in the Archers Encyclopaedia. ""When he was ten, red haired Adam Macy ..."
    And Keith mentioned it a couple of weeks ago, "I recognised him by the red hair" or similar."
    So we, and the scriptwriters know that the character has red hair.

  • Comment number 28.

    Can you please tell me which episode it was when Keith said he recognised Adam's red hair so I can LA? Or give me a link to a synopsis, either here, on AA, or on Lowfield?

    I'd have thought it wasn't very effective radio script-writing to suddenly allude to a long term character's physical attributes in specific terms: that, in my opinion, would give a listener far more of a jolt than posting photos of the actors on a website! ng\anbdiarr e eouvc dytertssafbyt

  • Comment number 29.

    Oops! Reposting in case the above gets modded for the unintelligible 'scribble' accidentally posted at the end!

    Can you please tell me which episode it was when Keith said he recognised Adam's red hair so I can LA? Or give me a link to a synopsis, either here, on AA, or on Lowfield? Funny you didn't mention this before, btw, when you simply said the red hair was mentioned in 1967!

    I'd have thought it wasn't very effective radio script-writing to suddenly allude to a long term character's physical attributes in specific terms: that, in my opinion, would give a listener far more of a jolt than posting photos of the actors on a website!

  • Comment number 30.

    It's actually a little misleading to click the "First broadcast" link as that jumps you down the page past the synopsis.

    From the 'Catch-up' page simply click the episode title to get to the episode page. The episode titles for the Archers are the date so click the green link in the format DD/MM/YYYY
    The longest synopsis currently available will then be shown near the top on the same page it was always shown (with a slightly different layout).

    I think the main issue is that synopses are not being updated quickly enough after broadcast. People think they can't find it on the new website, when in fact it's just not there.

  • Comment number 31.

    Hi and Shwmai Keri. The Archers Homepage has always been a first and last stop on my way to Mustardland... so on that score it looks good. But given the history and iconic status of TA I would have thought that the site would have been given some leeway in terms of some of the more important functions such as the Timeline. The Timeline is so important for researching and settling arguments as well as giving newcomers a sense of history. The family trees are also useful but less so than the Timeline but the maps are central to any feel of the who, what and where of TA.

    I see that someone has described the new look as anodyne but I disagree. For me the finished article gives me faceache... so anodyne it is not... although I know that this is and will be a temporary condition.

    The new look is akin to taking a wonderfully quirky and individual High Street shop and giving it a makeover... with the brief designed, not to make and keep it individual but to bring it into line with other establishments found on any and every High Street anywhere.

    I appreciate the pressure from above to bring TA site into line with other BBC sites but someone needs to fight its corner regarding functionality and the uniqueness and central importance of some of its appendices.

  • Comment number 32.

    The joy of so called "intelligent" radio, is that you have to exercise your brain and imagination if you feel the need for visual imagery (e.g. of the actors) in order to "enhance your listening experience". I do not like, nor need photographs on the website .

  • Comment number 33.

    I can't find the synopsis (synopses?). Whatever - I don't really like the new look, can't see what it adds - thought the old one was just fine.

  • Comment number 34.

    Sorry I've been slow in responding to these points. I had the temerity to take some leave!

    Family Tree - Certainly no plans in the short term. As you know we had problems with the previous version anyway.

    Hiding cast images - I'll continue to pursue this. Thanks for the code, jont!

    >I appreciate the pressure from above to bring TA site into line with other BBC sites but someone needs to fight its corner regarding functionality and the uniqueness and central importance of some of its appendices.

    I'm doing my best, Bert! I certainly hope that the Timeline and associated storylines, and the map and associated location pages will return in due course.

    (And the quiz - that should be back quite soon, I hope, as it's the simplest fix)

    Thank you for all the comments.

  • Comment number 35.

    Thank you, Keri, for your reassuring comments about the return of the quiz. I had the awful feeling that 'temporarily suspended' might have meant 'permanently suspended'
    I really am suffering from being denied my daily fix! Please bring the quiz back asap!

  • Comment number 36.

    Thank you, Keri.At least I know know there will be no inaccurate Family Tree,

  • Comment number 37.

    You may have noticed that the vote has now returned!

  • Comment number 38.

    I'm fed up with rearranging my stamp collection. WHERE IS THE QUIZ?

  • Comment number 39.

    There is progress on the quiz. The 'engine' has now been tweaked to work with the new system. Our Radio 2 colleagues will be trying it out first and assuming all is well then we will be able to take it on.

  • Comment number 40.

    I have searched high and low-where oh where are the synopses

  • Comment number 41.

    Go to the Catch-up page:


    And click on the date of the episode you are interested in.


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