This morning we launched a new look for the BBC News website, you can see what it looks like here on the right, with previous versions further down the page. We’ve been working on this for the past few months, and in fact it is still a work in progress, because the changes will continue to roll out across the site in the coming days and weeks, and beyond that we have further improvements planned for later in the year.
But for now – here’s what we’ve done:
First - we did some research asking you what you thought we should change about the site. Many of those we asked said leave it alone - don't change a thing. But it was also clear from the feedback we got that there were others who thought the site design could do with a bit of a revamp – something we’d been thinking about doing for a while.
So our designers embarked on a mission that they have called a “site refresh” - they say it’s “like gardeners doing a bit of pruning and weeding, but not digging it up and starting from scratch" ie it’s not a fundamental redesign of everything – many of the basics stay the same, because we know they work.
Specifically, here’s what HAS changed:
It’s wider - We’ve had lots of feedback from you about making best use of available screen space - we’ve always taken a rather cautious and gradual approach to this because we want to make sure that the maximum number of people can still access our site wherever they are, whatever the screen size or device. But we now reckon that 95% of you have your screen resolution set to 1024 pixels or wider, and we’re confident that it’s the right time to use the extra space to improve the site.
More open design - Our research told us you wanted the content on the site to have more “room to breathe”, so we've opened up the design to let more space in. We hope this will make it easier for you to read the pages and to scan for what you're looking for.
New masthead and centred pages - Some of the changes are part of a new visual style that will apply across all the BBC's new and redesigned websites. The centring of the pages, the underlying layout grid, and the pan-BBC masthead are examples of this. Areas of bbc.co.uk with this new “visual language” that have already launched include the bbc.co.uk homepage, /programmes beta, BBC Wales and Cymru, and The Passion. The new BBC masthead aims to strengthen the presence of the BBC brand across the breadth of the whole BBC site. We'll also be adding a button into the BBC banner area that says "Explore the BBC", which reveals links to other parts of the BBC's site.
Bigger images - Elsewhere in the user feedback, people have told us they think the pictures we’ve been using on the site look a bit small and cramped. So the new design takes advantage of the wider pages to allow bigger photos - something our journalists also really welcome, recognising as they do the power of pictures in telling stories on the web.
Incorporating ads - For our international users, who already see advertisements on our pages, we wanted to do a better job of incorporating them into the page design, and that’s made easier with the wider pages.
Better presentation of video and audio - As I’ve mentioned previously, we are introducing embedded audio and video on the site – so that you can watch and listen within the page, rather than in a separate player. This should significantly improve ease of use, and should also enhance your experience when following a story – the text, stills, graphics and video should work better together as an integrated whole – and our journalists will be able to adapt their storytelling to make best use of video within the narrative, rather than apart from it. To coincide with this new development, the way we signpost video and audio from the main pages is also changing slightly – we are moving it higher up the page, and displaying the links more simply, replacing the multiple options and expandable “stacker” area on the page (which, some may recall, a number of you weren’t too keen on from the outset).
TV and radio news programmes - We’re creating an area on the front pages where we can show you highlights from the great range of journalism produced each day by the BBC’s news and current affairs programmes on TV and radio. Here we’ll be able to link consistently to the best of their audio and video offerings, also to related text articles and to the programmes’ own websites, which are going to be undergoing changes and improvements too.
So have a look around, and let us know what you think. I hope you like what we’ve done so far. Meanwhile, work is continuing – to widen the rest of the pages across the site (there will be a period when they aren’t all the same – but we’re bringing the rest into line as fast as we can) and work will also continue to build in the other improvements and new features we have planned in the coming months.