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The Archers website is changing

Wednesday 11 July 2012, 13:24

Keri Davies Keri Davies Web Producer, The Archers

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.


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  • rate this

    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!)

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    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?

  • rate this

    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?

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    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!

  • rate this

    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?

  • rate this

    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!!!!!!!

  • rate this

    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!

  • rate this

    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.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Can someone please tell lme where to find the synopses?

  • rate this

    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!!

  • rate this

    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"

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Tayler is that supposed to be intuitive?

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

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

  • rate this

    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"...

  • rate this

    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.

  • rate this

    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.

  • rate this

    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.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

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

  • rate this

    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.

  • rate this

    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.


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