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News and Sport low graphics switch-off

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Anthony Sullivan | 13:49 UK time, Tuesday, 23 March 2010

We are in the process of making some major improvements to the BBC News website.

These changes will roll-out over the next few months and include a redesign of the site and a re-engineering of the supporting technical systems. We'll be sharing the details on these changes in this blog in the coming weeks.

The first set of changes we are making will see us upgrading the News Website story HTML to use CSS layout instead of table-based layout. The appearance will be the same. The new HTML will be lighter-weight and more accessible. At the same time we will cease to publish the low graphics version of both the News and Sport websites. These versions are scheduled to be switched off on 6 April.

The low graphics version of the site was designed as a low bandwidth alternative to the full website at a time when most users of the site were using slow dial-up connections. Now, most of our users are on much faster broadband connections and as a result, the percentage of users of this service has steadily declined to a current level around 2%.

The reason to close the low graphics is not simply based on the percentage of users but because we are making a wider set of improvements that meet most of the needs of people currently using this version.

We know that there are some users who are accessing the site on slow connections or via a mobile device. For those users we are providing a clearer link to the mobile version of the site. This site shares many of the characteristics of the low graphics site in that the pages are simplified and have a much lower page weight than the full web site.

As Erik Huggers, Director of Future Media and Technology recently explained, we are also working on improving our range of mobile services beginning with an application for the iPhone followed by services for other platforms.

For users of the Sports site, using the mobile version has the additional benefit in that it provides a much richer service around live coverage and statistics than the current low graphics site.

We know that another major reason why people use the low graphics version is that it is simpler to read. For people with reading difficulties this is very important. The mobile site alternative we will now be offering provides a similarly simplified presentation.

And as mentioned above, at the same time that we are turning off low graphics, we will be upgrading the HTML of News story pages to a much improved CSS layout. The News front page and other section pages will be following soon after alongside a redesign of their layout and the Sport site will be similarly updated later this year.

This summer, we are also expecting to roll out a suite of accessibility tools. These are designed to provide much better support to a range of users - especially those with Lo-vision, Asperger's, Dyslexia, ADHD, or those who find text hard to read. For those who have been using low graphics as a more accessible version, these new tools will provide a much better service. You can find out more about it over on the Ouch website.

We're also aware that some enterprising developers have built services off the low graphics output. For people interested in building on our content, visit BBC Backstage for more information on BBC feeds and APIs.

What about old content?

When we make this change, all previously published low graphics will no longer be available. We will be applying a redirect on all low graphics URLs to point at the full site alternative. This is the best way of ensuring that the content context of the link is preserved.

At the same time as these changes we are also switching off our legacy PDA site and Avantgo services. These predate our browser mobile service and the URLs for those services will be redirected to the mobile site.

Anthony Sullivan is Executive product manager, BBC news website.


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  • Comment number 1.

    "What about old content?
    When we make this change, all previously published low graphics will no longer be available. We will be applying a redirect on all low graphics URLs to point at the full site alternative. This is the best way of ensuring that the content context of the link is preserved."

    Will this automatically strip out high bandwidth graphics, embedded video and audio (replacing them with URLs to the content), or would it be better to direct them to the equivalent mobile URL rather than the 'full site'?

  • Comment number 2.

    I'm afraid that I find this disappointing news as a heavy user of the Low Graphics page. Although I use an iPhone, I find the text-heavy Low Graphics version the fastest way to the widest selection of news. If I compare the Low Graphics page to the Mobile page now, the Low Graphics page has 39 stories while the Mobile page has 16. There are 11 Top Stories on Low Graphics, 9 on Mobile. I can't see the top Business, Scotland or Technology stories without more clicks.

    I hope that the iPhone app is customisable enough that I can get more stories with fewer clicks, but I've tried the Mobile site in the past and I've always returned to my trusty Low Graphics. Very disappointing.

  • Comment number 3.

    So as well as kissing goodbye to your 6Music listeners, you're going to bid au revoir to anyone browsing the site from a less than perfect connection... bye bye mobile phone users, bye bye mobile broadband on the train...

    If I tell you I listen to thought for the day, would you get rid of that too?

  • Comment number 4.

    Nice to see that the BBC News site will finally be moving to a CSS based layout. Will the URLs be altered to remove the required '/hi/' part as they'll no longer be a '/low/' variation.

  • Comment number 5.

    I use the Low Graphics option as an unobtrusive way to keep up with the news at work. Low key, concentrated on the content (that's the important bit) not the shiny 'loo-at-me' graphics. Oh well... any one know of a decent mostly text-based news service?

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 7.

    That was a leftover from the dial up connection era

  • Comment number 8.

    These changes are music to my ears! It sounds like you are doing the responsible thing too—moving away from services that are required less often, but ensuring any links to them redirect to the new location.

    Reading between the lines, when you mention moving the 'story HTML' from table-based layout to CSS based layout, it sounds as though this will only effect the content, whilst the surrounding layout will remain table-based. One assumes that the overall pages will remain table based, yet the new News/Sport sites will be fully CSS based. Is this correct? Either way, this sounds like a good compromise.

    Really looking forward to seeing a preview of the new sites too. I've long bemoaned the poor design and underlying code of these flagship BBC properties, so I'm really glad to see them *finally* getting the attention they deserve. Keep up the good work!

  • Comment number 9.

    The only time you would use the low graphics was when you clicked on it by accident so its about time it got swept up.
    For those going on about the iphone loss, I thought the BBC was bringing out new apps for the iphone for Sport and News?
    It wouldnt be a big loss after all and wouldnt you get the Mobile website like I do on my phone?

  • Comment number 10.

    #7. At 7:32pm on 23 Mar 2010, Hyperstar wrote:

    "That was a leftover from the dial up connection era"

    Which some people are still on, and even when on ADSL they might be on ridiculously low download limits - here I'm thinking of people on a mobile tariff via their laptops and not a small screen mobile device, never mind people not in the UK (or does this change only apply to the UK pages?).

  • Comment number 11.

    "The first set of changes we are making will see us upgrading the News Website story HTML to use CSS layout instead of table-based layout."

    Fantastic news.

    A few questions though, what is to happen about legacy pages? As in the way the old pages still have the flags branding, red & cream, red and black looks from previous designs. Will they be brought into the new style or remain frozen?

    Does this involve moving to the CMS used on the World Service sites or is it an upgrade to the existing system?

    And finally you mention the new accessability tools. Does this mean the end of betsie on the rest of the site?

  • Comment number 12.

    Any move to make life easier for the BBC fan is welcome. So, a big thank you.

  • Comment number 13.

    The PDA version is FAR better than the mobile version: https://news.bbc.co.uk/nolpda/ukfs_news/hi/default.stm

    Of course, if the mobile version is also being altered to remove all the unnecessary formatting and prettification, then it might become acceptable. Why is there always such a push to get rid of the simplest presentation? All I want is text; no colour, and I'm not bothered about photographs.

    There are also problems with using Opera Mini with the mobile version: the site thinks I'm in Finland and serves the international pages rather than the UK pages. What's the equivalent URL for "ukfs"?

  • Comment number 14.

    This is just cost cutting because you are focusing on blogs now

  • Comment number 15.

    This upgrade by the BBC has been required for quite a while and from its appearance it begins to show great improvement, especially with this new ability to post blogs directly in relation to the display pages where comments made lack clarity within certain descriptions made within.
    This new version gives better access to the BBC, and I hope it will provide facilities whereby we can make easier contact with the managers, editors, and commentators throughout the BBC, so that we members of the community who regard the BBC as our BBC, which it has been all our lives, with the pronunciation, and terminology with the way to communicate in the British English Language, as was done in years gone by.

  • Comment number 16.

    I welcome the use of CSS rather than cumbersome tables, but have to say I will miss the low graphics version of the site which I have used on many occasions where the full version was taking to long or not rendering properly, or when I just wanted a change from the 'flashy' full site.

    Even on a recent visit to Miami Beach the hotels Wi-Fi was better able to cope with the low graphics version than the full site.

    Nevertheless, overall I believe the changes, if completed and implemented properly should provide a better service to most users.

    Will you be making widely available the full URL for the alternative, (mobile/PDA), sites to allow users to navigate there without incurring the auto-redirect as happens at the moment when, for example, I visit https://bbc.co.uk/mobile/ on my laptop I am redirected to https://www.bbc.co.uk/mobile/web/

  • Comment number 17.

    #7. At 7:32pm on 23 Mar 2010, Hyperstar wrote:
    "That was a leftover from the dial up connection era"

    #10. At 9:15pm on 23 Mar 2010, Boilerplated wrote:
    Which some people are still on, and even when on ADSL they might be on ridiculously low download limits - here I'm thinking of people on a mobile tariff via their laptops and not a small screen mobile device, never mind people not in the UK (or does this change only apply to the UK pages?

    I bet the same people still use that awful IE6 which everyone with know how says "do not use". Is their any reason why they cant use the library or get their own broadband connection?

  • Comment number 18.

    In reply to comments @ #17:

    "I bet the same people still use that awful IE6"

    What the hell has the non availability of ADSL got to do with browser choice. sorry "Hyperstar", on this you are as dim as a dead star (black-hole)!...

  • Comment number 19.

    Boilerplated - I value your comments on this blog. But could you moderate your tone please. Insulting other users is not helpful.

  • Comment number 20.

    I think you should close this as the comment's are just attacking other users and not talking about the contact. Now back to the low-graphics switch off if there is anyone else to comment on this?

  • Comment number 21.

    19. At 4:47pm on 25 Mar 2010, Nick Reynolds wrote:

    "Boilerplated - I value your comments on this blog. But could you moderate your tone please. Insulting other users is not helpful."

    Nor is someone insulting others based on browsers choice, even more so when some will have no option than to use the browser supplied by employer or how ever.

  • Comment number 22.

    #20. At 5:21pm on 25 Mar 2010, Hyperstar wrote:

    "I think [Nick?] should close this as the comment's are just attacking other users"

    Indeed some people are attacking others for not having broadband (never mind the fact that they can't get it), for using the 'wrong' browser (even though they have no choice), or - in another blog - for not having wide screen TV's...

    The words stones, glass-houses and throwing come to mind!

  • Comment number 23.

    Trying to get this back on topic...

    One of the best things about the PDA / low graphics versions of the site in my view is the single sentence summary for each story, in contrast to the high graphics site which only gives a comment on the top stories. I find myself clicking through to more stories when reading the low graphics version compared to the high graphics version as I'm often more drawn to the story by the summary than just the headline alone.

    When these changes are made, is there any chance that this feature could be retained, please?

  • Comment number 24.

    The changes are all very well, but I'm very disappointed to see that the BBC has succumbed to the temptation to raise revenue from advertising.
    What will this do for the impartiallity of the journalism?
    Who is checking your advertisements for suitability?
    Who was it that thought an advert for pepper spray was a good idea?

  • Comment number 25.

    Why are other political blogs still open for posting comments when Brian Taylor's blog in Scotland has been closed down. We demand an explanation.

    Is this another Union dividend?

  • Comment number 26.

    Thanks drt for getting this back on-topic. The people who have problems accessing the site can use the PDA version of the website. That is what the choice is here for

  • Comment number 27.

    #26. At 8:11pm on 26 Mar 2010, Hyperstar wrote:

    "Thanks drt for getting this back on-topic. The people who have problems accessing the site can use the PDA version of the website. That is what the choice is here for"

    Except that it's very unlikely that anything other than a hand-held device will render such a version, where the only difference in the website will be what .css file is used and rendered, this .css file will be chosen according to the type of browser (or possibly operating system) that is in use (either sniffed by a server-side script or chosen by the browser it's self, so on a desk-top system it will be very unlikely for a "handheld" media type .css file offered or used and because there might not be any choice the only option will be to disable CSS - but this has al sorts of other ramifications, try disabling the .css on this page in your own browser and see what I mean!

  • Comment number 28.

    This announcement is annoying on a number of counts:-

    1. I really, really hate announcements by any corporation which start by heralding major improvements to my service and then detail changes which amount to a significant degradation of service to me because I happen to fall in some unfortunate minority.

    2. Although a daily user of the low graphics site I have seen no announcement about its discontinuance on the site. I only found out about this due to an item in the technical press. It may only affect 2% of users but I would guess that will amount to several thousand users left remarkably unhappy when the service is suddenly withdrawn.

    3. The comment about redirecting users to the mobile site is disingenuous. As one commentor has already mentioned the mobile site is markedly inferior. I note that the pda version is also being withdrawn.

    4. I am sick to death of the constant pandering to iphone users. One might imagine that they predominated amongst the mobile phone using population. On the contrary, the percentage user base is probably closer to the proportion of low graphics users who apparently no longer need to be catered for.

  • Comment number 29.

    Can you enable the mobile site on computers as well as it currently links to a page that isn't the page I get on my mobile: htpp://www.bbc.co.uk/mobile

  • Comment number 30.

    Can you enable the mobile site on computers as well as it currently links to a page that isn't the page I get on my mobile: https://www.bbc.co.uk/mobile

  • Comment number 31.

    @Hyperstar: At the top of the PC version of the /mobile website is a link entitled 'go to mobile site' which links to the mobile version of the bbc website.

  • Comment number 32.

    For a light version of BBC news pages you can try reading them using Google's mobile renderer
    e.g. go to https://www.google.com/gwt/n and enter news.bbc.co.uk and it gives you

    You can use Google Reader

  • Comment number 33.

    Thanks, peterdragon. I was thinking of using Skweezer but have found it a bit unreliable in the past. Will give this a go.

  • Comment number 34.

    Thanks Keith

  • Comment number 35.

    Thanks to everyone for your comments. Here are some answers to specific questions.
    Boilerplated: Yes, the mobile site automatically strips out many of the images and embedded media. Ideally, we would have redirected to the equivalent mobile URL but that service only began in May 2009. Redirecting to the full web page is the only way of ensuring the right content is served. And to answer your other question, this is a global change.
    Keith: You asked about whether the URLs would be altered to remove the required '/hi/' part as they'll no longer be a '/low/' variation. No, not initially. As part of some of the wider changes coming up, we will be changing the URL policy in a number of ways, and that will include dropping the “/hi” from URLs. However, we have a policy of supporting all previous URLs through the use of redirects, and that will continue. That will mean all bookmarks, and other links into our content will continue to work after the new URL policy comes into effect.
    Paul Robert Lloyd: We will be moving to a full CSS layout i.e. no tables. The first changes occur in the next week or so on News website story pages with the rest of the site following shortly after. Similar changes to the Sport site will follow later this year.
    Warden: The Opera Mini issue you describe is one we're aware of. The Opera Mini web browser is configured to send a request back to a set of web proxy servers that are controlled by Opera. These servers are based outside the UK, so by the time a requests reaches the BBC Servers it appear as a request from an International user and we therefore deliver the international version. Unfortunately, this is outside of our control.
    Hymagumba: You clearly have some knowledge of the BBC systems. We have upgraded the Journalism CMS rather than use the Top Cat system used by our colleagues in World Service. When we launch the redesigned site, legacy pages will continue to appear in their current design. This is our normal practice. And finally, the new accessibility tools will replace Betsie on bbc.co.uk although Betsie will continue to exist as an Open Source product and can be used by anyone: https://betsie.sourceforge.net/

  • Comment number 36.

    I am very sad to hear that the low graphics version of BBC is going to be switched off. But, is this even really necessary?

    Surely, the BBC's internal representation of the content can be rendered in several different ways without incurring any running costs. Setting up a layout which preserves (or closely matches) the original low-graphics layout should be fairly simple; at the very least, a different CSS style sheet could be loaded for the low-graphics area - a one time effort, which would keep lots of existing users happy.

    I agree it is important to move with the times, but while I applaud the change to a more sensible default design for the site, I also wish BBC could keep old articles (at old URLs) as they were and maintain a version of the site that is as similar as possible to the low-graphics version.

    Chris, Cambridge University

  • Comment number 37.

    Dear Sir,

    I would like to bring your attention to the BBC World Service program on Internet Usage in Africa where a small village was given internet access through a couple of phones. The one point that I noticed was the COST PER MB for the connection.

    I am currently working in Nepal using a shared satellite link to read the BBC news pages. And today could not find the Low graphics version. This may not seem of importance, but just to register this comment has taken me over 20 minutes, I would like to read more, but just don't have the time.

    You quote that just 2% of users use the low graphics version. I would question the reasoning of the 2%, more to the point, you are a global news supplier how many people even realise that there was a low graphics version who use the site from other countries. How many people like me struggle through the high graphics version, only reading the essential s because it just takes way to long to do anything else.

    Surely before you remove the low graphics version you did a cost per page read analysis.

    You have the news in lots of languages, what is the cost to read the news in each of these languages in there home countries ?

    Cost per Byte in a monetary terms,
    Average Front page size in Bytes
    This Cost per Page must be equated back to the Average wage for the country.

    Reference your program on bbc world service. I would be interested to see the cost of reading your newspaper in full on one day. I would guess to read the complete news in one day the average cost in a developing country would be in excess of $1, and then equate that back to the cost of living and you news is VERY EXPENSIVE.

    Just some thoughts from an ex 10year IT Professional turned international traveller who can't believe how western orientated the IT world is once he started to travel.

    "The internet is global as long as you have a FAST ADSL Connection and FREE unlimited bandwidth, because that's what we have , don't you ?."

    Bandwidths Biggest Virus.. Automatic Updates from Anti-Virus software vendors, One small office with simple XP gets 10mb of updates for every PC, 10 computers. 100MB, now put yourself in the developing country paying for each MB. And it's just cost you your profit for the day.

    Please don't become another High Bandwidth System costing too much for the poorest people in the world.

  • Comment number 38.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 39.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 40.

    Just noticed that my beloved low-graphics version of the BBC news website, which I have been reading pretty much every day since it first came out has just disappeared. Very sad day. I have come to mourn it's passing, and found this blog.

    It was always a far superior way to read the site on PDAs, and smart phones - much better than the mobile version - lots more news and information jam-packed in, and nice and quick.

    Whilst I can understand the justification, and I am sure that supporting less formats will be easier - I think it is slightly short-sighted - as some have mentioned - there are plenty of places in the world with low-bandwidth internet connections. I have experienced plenty myself. Its similar to pulling the plug on short-wave World Service, and going digital, just because most people in the UK have digital radios.

    I have plenty of iphone applications from all the news organisations - but the place where I spent most of my news browsing time? BBC News low graphics in mobile safari. RIP. You will be missed.

  • Comment number 41.

    i echo the comments of 37. At 04:34am on 06 May 2010, Andrew K-Fox

    I also am only ables to use a 2g modem to connect and really enjoy having the option of low graphics.

    This is really unfair.

  • Comment number 42.

    I've just browsed to the Low Graphics News site on my iPhone only to be continually re-directed to the full graphics version. After searching on Google to try and find if the the site was temporarily down, I now find this article and the news that it is down forever. For a start, not everyone spends all day browsing the hundreds of BBC blogs, so at the very least when the BBC remove a site that I and many others have been using for many years, a redirection to an explanation would have been nice.

    I've known about the mobile site for a long time. I CHOSE not to use it because it is lacking in detail compared to the Low Graphics version of the site. Just because you've made a 'clearer link' to this version of the site does not make it any good. I've no objection to the BBC improving its services at all, but this is a step backwards. I now get a massively simplified version in a gigantic font with a third of the number of headlines with no summary to decide if I want to load up a particular story.

    It's not much good saying that it's going to be replaced with an iPhone application when there is no sign of this app yet. I've already got the BBC application for my iPad and to be honest, I don't really use it because similarly to the mobile version of the site, it's more cumbersome to navigate and I can't view it in my browser. Apps might be all the rage right now, but it's actually annoying to have umpteen different programs on your phone to do basic things like read a news story that I could just as easily do in my browser without having to jump between applications.

    Honestly, I can't remember the last time I was this annoyed about something. I've never posted a comment on the BBC before and I've signed up purely to register my objection.

    A big step backwards from the BBC, ironically in the name of progress. I'm going to have to start searching for a new way to get my daily fix of news thanks to this dumbing down.

  • Comment number 43.

    Oh Sheite! This is mighty bad. LOW was supremely beautiful and I used it because it was gorgeous, not because of low band. The new mobile version is painful...

    I will have to find a completely different site for news. Now that'll take some agonizing research. Bye!

  • Comment number 44.

    Additionally to my last post No. 43 where I cried into my porridge about the loss of the fantastically beautiful LOW graphics version of BBC news (R.I.P), I would merely suggest that instead of distraught people like me having to look around for a better alternative to the new (terrible) mobile version - would the BBC please introduce Paying BBC Membership to cover access to a LOW graphics service which is much better presented. Thank you. Best regards,

  • Comment number 45.

    I am VERY disappointed with the low graphics switch off - the mobile version is nowhere near as good as the low version - there are no summary stories of each category and it requires a lot more surfing to see all the news.

    Please turn it back on, this is such a backward step where more and more people are using mobile devices with small screens - the new mobile version is not good at all.

    Dr Steele

  • Comment number 46.

    This is a disaster. I just tried to log onto news.bbc.co.uk/text_only.stm only to be redirected to the main site, and then found out about the low graphics site switch-off.

    What the BBC doesn't take into account is that for the 2% who use (sorry, used) the text only site, this accounts for a significant proportion of the way in which they get their news - otherwise, why would the 2% persist with this lo-tech avenue of access?

    For me, and I'm sure for many of the 2% who used the low graphics version, this is the only way to get unbiased, uncensored news at a reasonable cost.

    I frequently travel to places in the world where access to unbiased news is not a given. Quite often, the only way to get around landline firewalls and government censoring has been via mobile internet access, and almost always in those countries mobile data is horrendously slow and expensive. Having a low graphics version of the full site is the only way to keep current of world events with unfiltered, unbiased journalism from the BBC, at a cost that won't be prohibitive.

    Also, what I want is access to the full site in low-graphics mode, not a cut-down subset of articles and items presented for 'mobile' access. Who chooses which articles to present in the cut-down mobile version?

    What does 'mobile' access mean anyway? The spectrum of mobile devices and their differing capabilities is so wide these days that it doesn't make sense to have one single 'mobile' version of what is still predominantly text-based content.

    Surely it is better to present the user a choice in terms of the actual content presentation (i.e. text-only, with multimedia etc.) rather than asking them to choose according to a generic categorisation according to their means of access.

    I know what my device can handle, and I know how I want to see the content presented. The 'mobile' version of the site is not it.

    Having a text only site can't have cost much (if anything substantial at all) over the cost of maintaining the main site. And yet, for those of us who cannot reasonably access any other way unfiltered and uncensored news content, this really was a lifeline. From today onwards, the Internet is a poorer place to be for the demise of the low graphics version of the BBC News site.

    For those that relied upon it, it really is that significant.

  • Comment number 47.

    The Low Graphics version was a cost effective way of getting a quick overview of world news ... news delivery was something that the BBC once prided themselves on.

    I have broadband ... I generally use the latest Browser version available. So the dial-up & browser version arguements/comments are irrelevant.

    Isn't it my choice if I want to download 35-40 news items without graphics or 12 with graphics or 20 headlines with mobile.

    The BBC do themselves another disservice by letting their lazy developers opt out of maintaining the low graphics version ... "oh it's too hard!".

    Oh dear, never mind ... it's easy to serve a news site with only a few items; much tougher being a leader.

  • Comment number 48.

    I've been reading the low graphics version on various mobile phones for years. The high graphics version is completely dysfunctional on a small screen - 4 columns, and the mobile version assumes that we are idiots who can't read very much. What I want from a mobile version is the same information as the full web page, but presented in a quick to download version. Your web page is about text, and communicating via the written word. We don't need multi-column layouts, complicated menu options, multimedia fads.

    Either sort out the mobile version - at the moment, it's rubbish, or give us back the low graphics version.

    And as for how it was communicated to us - all of a sudden, I was being redirected to the high graphics home page from my bookmarks. No intermediate splash page, no news stories, nothing. It just seems so arrogant - look at my pretty pictures, forgetting that it is the content that makes us use the page, not the pretty purple header.

    The mobile version reads like a wap page, the apps are vapourware, and the only option is the incredibly slow to load and hopeless on a small screen high graphics page. How on earth can you even begin to think that this is progress?

  • Comment number 49.

    Horrible, horrible, horrible. The low graphics version was efficient, looked elegant and provided good news coverage - as another poster points out "the Low Graphics page has 39 stories while the Mobile page has 16". This new version is brash, wastes valuable screen space, looks like it was built out of duplo for kids and uses too large a font on the actual news stories. Still, I suppose we should be grateful that we don't have to register as Facebook friends of the BBC to get to the news and then Twitter every random, worthless thought that flits through our minds while we're digesting the stories. Yet...

  • Comment number 50.

    I will also miss using the BBC news site. The mobile version is a complete joke.

    I cant believe the stupid thinking of turning it off when there are no good alternative.

    If this is part of cost cutting measures and as a result my liscene fee will go down - im happy.

    I expect not - its more part of the great BBC/Apple plan to get people to buy more iPhones - as the only way to get decent mobile news from the BBC is to buy an iPhone so it can have an 'app'. (Just like the iphone is the only device allowed to have special iplayer treatment).

  • Comment number 51.

    The 'mobile' site is awful when compared to the low graphics version of the site, it has half the content and is much harder to scan quickly. I'm afraid this change means I won't be using the BBC news website anymore. BRING BACK THE LOW GRAPHICS VERSION!!!

  • Comment number 52.

    Mr Sullivan,

    I've found this post having wondered why I could no longer read my morning diet of news as Low Graphics. I've now tried your Mobile offering and it is inadequate and not a replacement. As David Allardice wrote above, #2, it presents far fewer stories than Low Graphics. And additional problem is the size of the text is controlled by you rather than being left at what I've told my browser I prefer.

    I have a broadband connection but I stuck with Low Graphics because it was a faster way to peruse and read the News. I don't want moving, distracting, tickers, and my screen space taken up by irrelevancies. There was a survey of Low Graphics users a while back and one option put to us was that High Graphics would have a choice of style sheets. That could work well, so what happened to it?

    1/50th of your readers is a lot to annoy.

  • Comment number 53.

    Online petition to bring back the site here: https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/bbclowgraphics/

  • Comment number 54.

    The dropping of the low graphics version is a great shame. The mobile version looks designed for the casual user with only the top stories available whereas the low graphics version gave rapid access to the full BBC News website.

    Please reconsider this decision as it can't be too much trouble to keep the low graphics version running: the conversion from the full graphics version is obviously automatic.

  • Comment number 55.

    I woke up this morning for my daily dose of low graphics BBC..... low and behold I was redirected to the new BBC website sans low graphics. Needless to say I am not pleased... I joined the BBC for the first time in my life just to chime in my disappointment at the BBC's decision. I have read most of the comments here and can understand the frustration on many levels. I DO NOT want all the thrills/buttons/ and whistles of the main BBC website.
    The PDA and mobile versions of the BBC fail to deliver or live up to the BBC low graphics page. I read it daily and enjoyed the short-direct-relevant articles on a variety of subjects. I do not think it takes much money or time to keep the low graphics option available for the minority of users who use it. I have a netbook that works much faster with the low graphics page. I suspect others have many reasons to use the low graphics page as well.

    One of the beauties of the Low graphics was three simple headlines in each area... I don't want a cluttered page of photos, multiple articles and links to video that my netbook plays slowly......I want simple headlines with relevant news. So, Plese BBC, bring the Low Graphics option back and PROMOTE it for a change....


    Sapporo, Japan.

  • Comment number 56.

    I have used the low graphics version because I want the news. Just the news, no graphic content, no video, no pretty artwork, in a format that allows me to get all of the news in 5 minutes or less, and then move on. I can read just fine, thank you, and I have had broadband for 8 years.

    If I wanted lots of graphics, video, photos, blablabla, etc, then I would switch on the TV. I don't do that anymore because I don't have time. Your mobile version is just a miniaturized version with too much clutter. I am not going to search for the news, I just want it in a simple format such as you presented in the Low Graphics version.

  • Comment number 57.

    I am yet another person who read the low graphics version every day.

    I wonder if the 2% usage of the low graphics site relates more to the additional functionality of having more information in one page rather than indicating that less people use it.

    With the mobile site you might read 20 pages and get less information on what is happening in the world.

  • Comment number 58.

    This is a sad day, turning off the Low Graphics version is really not good at all. Figuring that the low graphics version could be automatically parsed based on the graphics version - why do it? The BBC Low Graphics version was unique, it was the only true virtual "news paper" like website in the world! The last thing we need is another MSNBC or Yahoo with blinking graphics and all the irrelevant non-sense pushed in front of readers. Bring back the BBC "virtual news paper" as it was very well done. It also worked great in that people could set their browsers to cache the site for off-line reading when in travel and such. I am really sad to see the low graphics switched off!

  • Comment number 59.

    The low graphics version provided so much more info on one page than the mobile version, pls bring it back. On a mobile the low graphics version provides a better solution even if the mobile version "looks" nicer

  • Comment number 60.

    As a British expat living in the US the BBC low graphics has been my main source of international news for the past 10 years. To be honest I find the graphics and animation of the main website very distracting, and there's a fraction of the news content that there was on the low graphics site.

    Unless the low graphics site is resurrected I think I'll go look elsewhere for news from now on. It's really disappointing .. the best news website on the web now gone, replaced with a CNN/MSNBC/Fox clone.

  • Comment number 61.

    The 'low' version was quick, easy to scan and search through, and didn't have lots of unwanted stuff all over the page. I read about the proposed change, and thought there would still be a version I could use. Wrong. After years of loyalty to BBC news, both tv and web, I'm now having to find another source of information. The high-graphics version is a bit quicker than it was, but it's still very irritating trying to find things. The mobile version is no substitute, and doesn't even work with my browser.


  • Comment number 62.

    On complaining to a group of friends about the loss of 'low', I've just discovered something which makes me feel even more frustrated. None of them knew it existed and would have preferred it, if they had known. I wonder how widespread this ignorance was and whether it would have made an appreciable difference to the 2%?

  • Comment number 63.

    I have Broadband and can confirm that the Low Graphics was best for information access and speed...

    If I wanted the fancy version with pictures etc., I could always switch to the Graphics version of BBC News..which I have done once or twice, but for the vast majority of time, I used the Low Graphics version...
    Pity the BBC let the nerds get their hands on this...
    I'll now go to New York Times...and others for News updates.

    Plenty of choice now, thank God.

    Lesson to the Nerds....Access + Access + Access.

  • Comment number 64.

    I've just seen this, having been directed to the hi graphics site a couple of times.

    PLEASE bring back the low graphics version! I'm a serviceman a long way from home, and the low graphics site was a way of keeping up with the news on a low bandwidth connection.

    Very disappointed that that the decision (indeed the proposal) to remove this was not published properly - how much would it have taken to put a note on the low bandwidth main page?

  • Comment number 65.

    I used the low graphics version of the site simply because the news was SO much more accessible. For English natives, it is natural to read from left to right, top to bottom, and the low graphics site took full advantage of that, making the news easy and quick to access.

    The standard version is too busy. The visitor must hunt for the articles over a page with too many images, and too much colour.

    Is anyone aware of an alternative site?

  • Comment number 66.

    For those looking for an alternative, I'm finding that the mobile version of Google News is not a bad place to scan the day's headlines:-


  • Comment number 67.

    OK, my fears that I raised in the 2nd comment on this entry have now come to pass.

    When I checked back then the Low Graphics page had 39 stories. Looking at the mobile site to which I am redirected now I get 9 top stories, plus 3 links to VIdeo and more 'colour' pieces as Special Reports or from the Magazine. In order to check Business stories, Politics stories, Scotland stories, it's click, click, click.

    Clearly a lot of people are disappointed in this judging by the comments posted since the Low Graphics site went away. The Mobile site just does not compare in range of stories, accessibility and ease of use. I recognise that you are changing an underlying infrastructure, would it not be possible to recreate the Low Graphics site that gives a larger range of stories on one page, to save us all having to click around in and out of sections?

  • Comment number 68.

    What a massive disappointment. Is it really that significant a resource drain?

    I use the low graphics site, as I find it easier to use, softer on the eye and for me it's absolutely to-the-point.

    The mobile site is horrid. Is it in Arial? It's just plain ugly.


  • Comment number 69.

    This is a case of fixing something that wasn't broken.

    It is now.

    I've been using the low graphics site for years, because it was much easier to navigate and I could find the news faster.

    Its removal is definitely not an improvement. The mobile site is no substitute.

    Please bring back the low graphics option.

  • Comment number 70.

    I just want to add my voice to the many who are asking for the old low graphics (or something with similar layout) back for the news front page. I very strongly agree that the one-line summary of each story (and indeed the wider range of stories presented on the front page) was extremely useful. Scrolling through the day's headlines of a morning on the bus was a pleasant activity, but is now a painful exercise in clicking (or attempting to click - with my chubby fingers and small text on a touch screen phone this is not so easy) through story by story....

    The text on the new front page also seems harder to read somehow, and looks much less clean and attractive. If this stays the same I suspect I will switch to an alternative news source as soon as i find a good one.

    Would it really be so hard to produce a CSS style sheet that emulates the old style? Or are you doing away with the editor who produced those nice one-line precis?

  • Comment number 71.

    PS - thanks natterjack (comment #66)! The google news page for mobile is very good. It is close to the multi-summary format of the old low graphics bbc one, and allows section-by-section customisation.

    I very much regret turning my back on first-hand news with high editorial standards, but i think the bbc's loss may be google's gain. 2% of the bbc's audience must be a dream come true for them.

  • Comment number 72.

    The 'low graphic' version of the site was the epitome of simplicity, efficiency and usability. The 'high graphic' version for my needs, is not.

    I've been using the 'low graphic' version since the start. Now that it is gone I'm looking for a replacement.

    Like others I want a solution which is owned and delivered by a trusted source (i.e. the BBC), but it doesn't look like that is going to be possible.

    I'm so disappointed.

  • Comment number 73.

    Very disappointed with the ending of the Low Graphic Version.

    It provided a much better service than the new (or old) Mobile Version on my T-mobile Vario 3 - more stories on the front page, easy navigation, excellent single sentence summaries, better font size.*

    Please reconsider your decision or develop the new Mobile Version along similar lines.

    *(the new Mobile Version appears to have a very small native font size. Increasing the zoom on Opera Mobile so that I can read it leads to over-large fonts on other sites).

  • Comment number 74.

    As a long-term user of the low-graphics website, I was most dismayed to find that this has been discontinued. I cannot abide the "normal" site, finding it impossibly cluttered and poorly organised. Hence I shall be sourcing my news elsewhere. In fact, as I do not watch TV, I will no longer use the BBC for anything. I shall not be renewing my licence fee.

  • Comment number 75.

    I've been using the low-graphics version for some time; it means I can catch up on full news stories during the 'dead time' of my commute (on a smartphone with a fairly high-resolution screen). The mobile version of the website falls far short of this as they're really just very short summaries - a few one-sentence paragraphs rather than the full published story - even for the limited number of stories that are made available on it. Frankly it's like trying to read the news via Twitter. The full site is not a joyful experience on a smartphone due to page loading times and the relatively high use of potentially chargeable mobile data.

    As for the proposed iPhone app, that's fine and dandy but not for those of us with non-iPhone smartphones. Believe it or not there are some of us around, and I understand over the recent past it's an increasing rather than decreasing trend. This smacks somewhat of the special treatment iPhone users have in iPlayer streams too. Many Macs at the BBC?

    Surely a standards-compliant simple web page, so text can easily be reflowed by the host browser, is easier to develop and maintain than an OS-specific app? Will there be an Android version? Symbian? Would there ever be one for Windows Mobile in its various guises (given that 7 is announced but not yet available)?

    Please reconsider the low-graphics version; it really was an excellent example of something that "just worked", till it was withdrawn.

  • Comment number 76.

    I feel oddly to qualified to comment on this silly decision. 18 months ago, I would certainly have said "Oh just let it go... I wish all these people would stop complaining".

    In November 2008 I left the high bandwidth world of Zone 1 London to travel for 14 months, during which time the low bandwidth BBC was truly fantastic. When you are logging on from internet-shacks in the dark corners of the Asian subcontinent where the owner is determined to charge you as much as he can for 15 minutes use, the (ridiculously) high bandwidth main site is both wasteful and frustrating. Internet time really is money.

    And then on returning to the UK earlier this year I moved to the Scottish Glens to write. With the only internet connection being 2G mobile, again the low bandwidth version was a godsend. It (literally) can take me up to a minute to get the home page of the main BBC site - compared with 5 seconds for the low bandwidth.

    And of course there's the artful simplicity of the low bandwidth version - which made it one of the best news websites in the world to read.

    So my own journey is from a dismisser of the edges to one who appreciates what the BBC can bring to them. I will now make a concerted search for other news sites (which I certainly don't want to do).

    I do not believe that this would be difficult to reinstate after you have made all the improvements to the main site. The mobile site is presumably *not* as light.

    Please look at the (remarkable) list of comments on this post, and at least look into how simple it would be to reinstate this service. Mobile is not a substitute.


  • Comment number 77.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 78.

    I know that you don't serve ads on the low graphics version, perhaps this is the real reason for switching it off with no notice to users? How hard would it have been to change the header on the low graphics page to warn users that you no longer want them to visit the BBC site as they don't make money?

    FWIW, I've been using that low graphics (aka "readable") version of the site for years, even from broadband. I've no wish to wait for, then hunt around, a multiple column page in tiny text to see if there is anything of interest when I could get a quick summary before.

    I didn't even know this blog existed until I started hunting around for ways to replace the R4 readaudio feed which you are also switching off without a working replacement.

    As others say, the "mobile" version does not do the same job, not a proper news summary. And don't bother doing anything iphone specific or proprietary to any machine really. The BBC should be focussed on making their content properly accessible with open standards, not pandering to those in the media who love anything Apple (or indeed anything specific to Windows, Symbian, etc).

    Strangely, I've actually kicked my habit of reading the BBC news web page several times a day since the low graphic version went, simply don't have the time to hang around for the full version. Will just end up reading the site less if at all. Still, I never saw the ads before, so never made you money, so it's no loss to the BBC.

  • Comment number 79.

    I'm sorry to say I don't find the news page an improvement on the old low graphics version. It is cluttered and much slower to navigate around than the barebones system, which was much more readable.

  • Comment number 80.

    I have been attempting to use the 'new' low page since my initial posts here and have discovered it to be unusable (that's after giving it a fair innings). I also believe this is merely an ignored venting page and the BBC is merely laughing at contributors here. What it fails to realise is that it should be acting like a public broadcaster supported via legally imposed public payments and actually then respect its customers!

  • Comment number 81.

    The revised news mobile site is an absolute disaster! If users wanted so-called flashy but messy pages of ads with bits of news, they'd use a PC, but millions of us just want to read a brief summary of all the various categories of news on one single page. As a daily tube-user, I always quickly clicked on the news/pda website and read the multitude of news items on my journey. Even approaching a tunnel, it took just 5 seconds or less for approx 30 stories to load, but now it's a severely limited service with only 5 news categories allowed which is crazy. I sincerley hope the Beeb come to their senses, listen to the licence fee payers and re-launch a single-page news overview containing all the main stories/categories. We don't want weather, TV, radio, large ads for Dr Who on that page (these are all available elsewhere) - just the news !!

  • Comment number 82.

    I loved using the old low graphics version as it meant I could see many more headlines (after scrolling down) especially after the standard page was plastered with Videos.

    The mobile version isn't a replacement for me. Obviously its targeted at users of mobile devices with smaller screens. I have a big screen - and to have the content fill it, not white space and red bars.

    Without having to scroll -
    On the standard front page I can see about 12 headlines only 3 have snippets
    15 on the mobile version - only 1 with a snippet before I have to start scrolling down.
    On the old text version 10 - ALL with snippets.

    I found the text version was much better for keeping up to date about what was going on - without having to click through to each individual story

    Looks like I'll have to find a browser addon to re-style the page how I like - at least the move to CSS should help with that - but its not going to help with the snippets.

    I hope those people who find using the standard version of the page are tech savy enough to find alternate means of accessing the content until the bbc have the other tools in place. Its like knocking down the ramp to build a lift - purposely creating a (temporary) barrier to access the content they want to make more accessible !

    Bring back the snippets!

  • Comment number 83.

    I applaud the BBC's desire to make a better service but I'm very surprised by the BBC's action here.

    I travel a lot, and the old PDA/low graphics versions of the site were the best way to view the BBC news pages on my WinMobile based phone.
    A simple interface of Story headline, thumbnail for top stories and then a short story synopsis, all on one page was perfect. low bandwidth requirement is a BIG issue when the only communications you have a poor GSM signal at best.
    Remember that not everyone lives in a big city and has broadband/wi-fi access.
    Please, please, please reinstate the old formats.

  • Comment number 84.

    PS - if the BBC is concerned about providing services to a small number of license payers why are you providing a iPhone based interface ? Do you honestly believe that more than 2% of your readers use an iPhone ? So why are you targeting a minority device ? this can't be a good use of your budget. Or is it just that in BBC towers, all the tech savy media types sit there using iPhones ?
    PPS - Not everyone has broadband ....

  • Comment number 85.

    I've been searching high and low for some good news on a U-turn over the switch off but reading this short article doesn't fill me with much hope ...

    BBC low-graphics versions scrapped

  • Comment number 86.

    Like many others, I was a user of the low-graphics version for many years.

    I just wanted to say a big thank you for offering and maintaining such a great site for so many years. Understand that things move on and legacy systems have to be replaced and upgraded, so sad it has to go but thank you for maintaining it for 10 years or so.

  • Comment number 87.

    What a shame. The low-graphics site showed all the top UK stories on a simple page split by country, the England page all the top stories split by region - all with minimal graphics. Great for quickly browsing the news for stories of interest.

    The mobile site, by comparison, is dire. It's just not got enough stories on it, and the regional news is hidden.

    It's a retrograde step, and I hope the change wasn't driven by a desire to up the click-rate - because it will certainly take a lot more clicking to view all the headlines.

  • Comment number 88.

    For what it's worth (and it seems that's very little, judging by the lack of response from the BBC to this long list of comments), I'd like to add my name to those who greatly miss the old low-graphics version.

    Maybe I'm just odd, but I considered it a design triumph, with a UI that worked remarkably well on smartphones with relatively small screens. The new mobile version was obviously designed by someone who rarely uses the mobile version (or uses it on one of the large-screen touchscreen phones).

    I just visited the new mobile site, and the entire (320x240) screen of my phone was taken up with an ad for Luther, a "customise your homepage" option (which won't go away even though I have customised the page), and a search button. That's it.

    And why turn off the low-graphics version in the first place? Surely it's just another template being fed by a news database? Why remove the option for those of us who use it? Who benefits from that?

  • Comment number 89.

    It's been a few weeks since you turned off low graphics, so I thought I'd let you what happened to me and where I ended up looking for news. The first week was pretty awful I kept going to the BBC link out of habit and finding that it wouldn't load on the train as I only get a GPRS connection. Eventually I switched to the mobile site but found it slow, very poorly designed, and limited in terms of content. So I finally switched to the Sky news App - which is great (though still a little limited), includes video when you want it, and has been properly designed.

    I've got to say I'm sad about this. The fact that the low graphics site worked so well on smart-phones, mobile phones and PDA's, platforms that didn't exist at the time it was conceived, is a testament to the strength of the news site's original design. It's pretty clear that this kind of clear thinking and planning has left the organisation.

    Over the last few years the BBC has driven downhill pretty badly in my eyes, Panorama, BBC News, Horizon and Timewatch are hyperbole laden, evidence light, travesties of their former selves. This year I'll ditch my TV and go streaming only as I am sick of paying so much in TV licence Tax for channels I no longer watch and services I no longer use.

    Thus far the petition only has 74 signatures, not enough to make an impact on this decision I'm sure but I would hope Mr. Sullivan reads these comments (even though he refuses to respond to them) before removing further beloved services without providing better functionality else where.

    I will miss the low graphics site throughout the remainder of the formula one season and the coming world cup and think fondly of those moments in the pub during the recent election when we got the latest news from the low graphics site.


  • Comment number 90.

    I used the low graphics site on my Nokia S60 mobile mainly because it showed the same high number of stories as found on the mobile site, but it loaded much quicker and was much more friendly to navigate on a mobile browser. Now, on the mobile site, there's only 6 stories for each section and that's it. It's not really a mobile version of the main site, it's a heavily cut down site. Mobile browsers can handle long pages like the Low Graphics site and cutting the sections and number of stories down so heavily feels like a step back.

  • Comment number 91.

    Bring back the low graphics site!!!

    In times of crisis/BBc Server slowdowns it's what I always used to turn to. e.g. Today when main site was taking forever to load I wanted to use low! To check up on grand prix/foot on the go...

    On the whole the new site looks and works much better, but....

    Low graphics was Perfect for news/sport on a blackberry - only 2% of users? That's because you direct mobile browsers to the mobile site instead of giving the choice...

    I've been using the android app/widget which seems to work well... Mainly because I can get it to put several versions of the widget each witha different area on my home page, I understand this isn't a BBC app, but it certainly makes reading easier than full graphics on a small screen - and knocks the socks off the mobile site.... But most of the sport stories are a little behind (live stories that is).

  • Comment number 92.

    Please bring back the low graphics news...............
    The low graphics news looked fantastic with LYNX (text based web browser). It was fast and worked over terminals and in xterms and shells.
    Unfortunately, the new CSS based news looks absolutely horrible in LYNX. I can not believe this has been turned off. Is it really so difficult to support a lynx text based view of the news data? It is only a simple view...
    Do you test your pages in LYNX? This sounds like progress for mainstream at the expense of a few marginal users. Not everyone is Firefox or mobile... Please do not forget us. You can have CSS and continue to support low graphics at the same time.
    Please please please bring the low graphics back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 93.

    The ubuntu forums are discussing this too.
    They rightly point out that low graphics has been replace by mobile. Low graphics and mobile are not the same thing. What about text based browsers? The mobile alternative is a rubbish view of the news. The text view had full page clear news index. Please bring back the full text based view that was provided by low graphics.
    It is typical of BBC to force uptake of new features by removing existing features. If the new feature (mobile) was better than the existing (low graphics) users would naturally discover it and move over. The feedback on this change reflects how little the BBC product managers cared about all users and maintaining the successful crafted and highly evolved services they have constructed up until this point.
    Please bring the low graphics back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 94.

    I like too have more choice. I never use it but someone may find the low-graphics useful

  • Comment number 95.

    Wow, two and a but months since Mr. Sullivan's last reply, 59 comments have gone without a response. Not very impressive at all.

  • Comment number 96.

    So the BBC is handling this the same way they're handling the switchover to digital pay TV - the high-information, low-noise service is cut off and replaced with a low-information, high-noise service, the change described as an improvement and all complaints directed to a page with a press release on it. 15 years ago I wouldn't have had a word said against the BBC, but the deterioration since then has changed all that.

  • Comment number 97.

    I've used the low graphics version for years from work (in London) as it's so much easier to read and quicker through our slow internet connection. I also used it on my iPhone as I find the BBC mobile version ugly and more limited.

    I'm disappointed the BBC have shut down this service before providing a suitable replacement. I'm now going elsewhere for my news because of this change.

  • Comment number 98.

    I reiterate what everyone above is saying - please bring back the low graphics version. I have a perfectly adequate internet connection for most websites and pages but have just tried to access a page in the Sports section that has two videos on it. One on a page my connection can about cope with (though still slows it down of course) but two - you can just forget. It simply takes too long to load so I don't bother and go elsewhere. Simple as that. If you want us to look at the BBC website, make it feasible for us to do so - or we'll go elsewhere.

  • Comment number 99.

    I totally agree with what most of the comments here; the mobile site is simply not as good as the old low graphics version and is slower to load on my phone (I only get 2G reception in my area). I've only just found this blog and the news that the switch off had been planned - back in May I sent the BBC feedback saying the Politics page was several days out of date (the main site then was using the Election2010 page); within a few hours the service was switched off. At the time I thought I was responsible for this by alerting the BBC to a version of the site that they'd forgotten about and no-one used! So I'm glad I didn't cause it, but it's a shame to see that so many people still relied on it yet the BBC still switched it off. As has been pointed out many times the mobile site just doesn't have many stories per page and takes far more clicks to find stories than the low graphics version did. Bring the low graphics version back BBC - please!

  • Comment number 100.

    Videos don't load until you play them.

    If I remember rightly then the low graphics was simply the standard page without any styling and tables - would disabling css on the new site have the same effect?


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