The relaunch of the Doctor Who website
The recent relaunch of the BBC Doctor Who website is an interesting one for many reasons. Having worked on the Doctor Who site for a number of years now, our team in Wales were very aware that the entire franchise was going through something of a regeneration. The new Doctor, companion and creative team on the show meant that changes to the tone of the brand were coming and we were all keen to ensure that we reflected these in the site.
The brief was a simple, if daunting one, 'make the site the no.1 destination to experience the world of Doctor Who, past, present and future'. In web design terms, this is something of a dream ticket. Having a chance to extend the reality of a show with such rich subject matter as Doctor Who is an amazing opportunity and we were keen to ensure that we could take the impossible world of Doctor Who and make it feel possible in an online context.
We were also eager to ensure that the website could be built in such a manner that it became a platform to distribute originated content associated with Doctor Who - creating an appointment to view - not just a means to reflect and promote the linear TV experience. This in turn meant that the goal was to ensure Doctor Who becomes more than the Saturday night TV programme and becomes a 24/7 experience of which the online element is a key component.
This is where working for a large media organisation came in handy, as several work streams were instigated to allow this to happen.
From a technology point of view we were able to utilise the new BBC Platform. The use of the new Platform has opened up a new suite of development tools to us. You should see this reflected positively in the speed of the site and it will allow us, over time, to produce more dynamic and customisable content. We have also worked with colleagues within the /programmes team to ensure that we keep a single, unique reference to each episode, but supplement this with additional, originated content.
The new Global Visual Language afforded us the ability to (literally) think big with our designs. Bronwyn explains this better than I ever could but we have looked to consistently use these new design principles across the Doctor Who site. Additionally, we will be using the metaphors of time and depth more and more within the site and this is something that you will be seeing over the coming months
We also started to work with R&D to realise what may become a powerful way of engaging with narratives online. This is a very interesting area, as it helps us explore how to tell stories that don't fit in to single Doctor Who episodes.
Obviously, none of the above will make any difference if we don't have amazing content. Over the past few years, we've accrued much feedback from our audiences from our 'red site' - this has been key in our redesign:
Monsters We know our audiences love monsters - so we've introduced a brand new section in the site for viewers to explore and learn more about them. Iconic foes like Daleks and Cybermen have had repeated encounters with the Doctor and we wanted to reflect this importance within the sites designs. Most obviously, this has come across via the high impact designs seen within this section.
News & Features: We are seeking to position the Doctor Who site as the destination for Doctor Who fans and the news section is important to us for two reasons here. Firstly, the greater level of production news (which is a key request from our users) and also the ability to break important Doctor Who news stories on the site. We are also working to ensure we have better links with the main BBC news site.
Fun & Games: This section of the site is a major priority; it's also extremely popular with our younger audience. We've introduced a brand new look and feel to this section to keep it visually engaging and entertaining. We are also working on the development of our very exciting Adventure Games that you will be hearing a lot more about via the site in the near future.
Past Series: There's a significant piece of work underway to unlock the archive and migrate content from the old into our new site. It's a major undertaking, however as there is so much rich content currently available (albeit in old templates) - we didn't want to hide it away, and will be highlighting classic content.
So the very first phase of the new site is available online now. We will be adding a lot more to it over the next year and trying to ensure we meet our goal of being the 'no.1 destination to experience the world of Doctor Who'. We hope you like it.
Andy Dudfield is Delivery Manager, FM&T Wales.