Changes to our blogs
Since we at the BBC started blogging in earnest in 2005, we have seen some incredible growth. Now tens of millions of our blog pages are being read every month, and our hope in BBC News is that they add context and expert analysis to the big stories.
When we started blogging it felt important that our blogs should follow the style of other blogs at the time, and because we used a popular blogging program, that was easy to achieve. Since then styles have matured a bit, and this week the design for our pages is also changing.
The main thing you'll notice is that the columns are wider than before, meaning the width of the page now matches that of the main BBC News website.
The page headers are now also the same, meaning it's easier to find other content from across the BBC. We hope that one effect of these changes is to make it obvious that our blogs are now a core part of what the BBC website offers. Do let us know what you think about the new designs.
Incidentally, while talking about blogs, the deputy director of BBC News, Stephen Mitchell, discussed the proper role of blogging in the BBC with media commentator Stephen Glover on this week's Newswatch, which you can watch here.
Update [27 March]: Thanks very much everyone for your thoughts on the changes. There are a few answers I can give.
1 - Isn't this just change for change's sake?
I don't think so. The entire BBC website has been changing over the past 12 to 18 months for a number of good reasons, and we think it's important that the design of BBC blogs is consistent with the design of the rest of BBC Online. Blogs are not a sideshow, they are now integral to a lot of what we are doing in News, and it's right that the design should reflect that.
2 - Aren't the columns too wide?
Given the extra available space, we had a choice to make between a two-column layout and a three-column layout. We did some simple testing of three-column layouts and found a generally negative reaction - it seemed that people found the layout cluttered and harder to use. We do try to consider carefully these changes before we make them, but we hear what some of you have said about them being hard to read.
3 - Why did you move the comment link?
Research told us that many blog readers were keen to see an indication of popularity at the top of each blog post, to help them decide if the blog entry was likely to be worth reading. We incorporated this feedback into our designs. But given what you've told us, and seeing how the redesign works in practice, we are going to investigate incorporating a second link at the end of each entry, meaning you could click through to comments after you've read the entry.
4 - Why don't you paginate long lists of comments?
If we receive more than 500 comments on a post, we do start to paginate them then. Until that point, we believe that the majority of people would prefer to scroll though a list of comments, rather than click repeatedly to a new page.
5 - Why have you moved the categories, calendar, etc, to the bottom of the page?
Very few people delve into the archive of a blog on a regular basis. We can tell this from the usage data we collect all the time. At the same time, it's important to many of our bloggers that they should be able to offer extra functionality - headlines from the News website, Twitter updates, etc. So we have separated our own navigation from the third-party content, which allows us to make more effective use of the right hand side. We did tests with users of the blogs to ask them if they could find the archives when they were at the bottom, and found that they could.
6 - Why can't I use all characters when leaving my comment?
This is obviously a problem and we are working to sort it out. It's worth saying that there is a number of improvements that we wish to make to the comment system across the BBC, and we're on to it.
7 - Why are blogs pre-moderated?
We are always reviewing how moderation works in the BBC, but at the moment we have no plans to move away from pre-moderation for the majority of News blogs. For information, our aim is that the moderators should check all comments within an hour of receipt, although this can vary considerably depending on traffic. There have been no changes to moderation as part of the redesign.
8. What about the other blogs which have not yet been widened?
Some blogs - Blether with Brian, for instance, and the Magazine Monitor - have not yet been widened. Our plan is for this to happen in the next few weeks.