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.

Comments

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  • Comment number 41. Posted by Keri Davies

    on 24 Sept 2012 12:02

    Go to the Catch-up page:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qpgr/episodes/player

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

  • Comment number 40. Posted by paulinesusanh

    on 13 Sept 2012 09:23

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

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  • Comment number 39. Posted by Keri Davies

    on 10 Sept 2012 09:23

    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 38. Posted by stampcollector

    on 6 Sept 2012 09:14

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

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  • Comment number 37. Posted by Keri Davies

    on 3 Sept 2012 11:21

    You may have noticed that the vote has now returned!

  • Comment number 36. Posted by RosieT

    on 25 Aug 2012 09:38

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

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  • Comment number 35. Posted by stampcollector

    on 18 Aug 2012 10:19

    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!

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  • Comment number 34. Posted by Keri Davies

    on 13 Aug 2012 12:55

    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 33. Posted by Seagladys

    on 29 Jul 2012 20:32

    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.

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  • Comment number 32. Posted by stampcollector

    on 24 Jul 2012 08:54

    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 .

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