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.


Why?

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.


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.


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


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.

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