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A More Helpful Help Site

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Ian Hunter | 12:37 UK time, Tuesday, 8 April 2008

bbc_help.pngLast week, we launched a new version of the BBC Help site. Previously, it was just a collection of bits of technical advice about using bbc.co.uk, and the most used section by far was about how to make a BBC page your homepage.

The new site draws on the wealth of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and other information that exists across bbc.co.uk and tries to guide people more effectively towards the area most likely to actually help them. Sections include accessibility, radio, BBC iPlayer and mobile. I think we've made it look a lot nicer, too.

This launch is part of a bigger project looking at how we can improve the way that we interact with our audience. Currently we get over 40,000 emails a month from users, and those are just the ones that we can count because they come through the "official" central route. There are many other routes which we don't record.

Because of the way the website evolved - bit by bit, with lots of small teams working on specific parts of the website - there are now over a hundred different routes on bbc.co.uk for sending feedback. This means that the way we deal with feedback can be inconsistent and, in the worst case, a "contact us" button can be left open when the programme team has moved on.

newswatch_ian_hunter.jpgThis has led to some understandable grumbling and the BBC Trust has asked us to improve things. Ray Snoddy recently tackled me on this on Newswatch, too.

Part of the solution is for us to agree some common standards for how feedback should be handled. We're writing some advice for teams at the moment, and will be publishing these as part of the New Media Guidelines later this year, so that our users know will know what to expect, too.

Another part of the solution is to improve the information that we provide on bbc.co.uk and make it easier to find. A huge proportion of those 40,000 emails (not to mention the ones that never get reported centrally) ask questions about our programmes or services. And the money we spend answering them comes out of the budget we have to spend on the programmes and services themselves. Feedback is valued and responding to it is an important part of the service we provide, but we do want to make is easier for people to find things for themselves. If we can provide better information on bbc.co.uk (through sites such as BBC Programmes), and help users to find it (through searchable and rateable FAQs like those on the BBC iPlayer help pages), more people will be able to answer their own questions without having to send us an email.

The new Help site is another step on this journey. Any feedback is welcome!

Ian Hunter is Managing Editor, Internet, BBC Future Media and Technology


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