Audience research and BBC iPlayer
Hello, I'm Alison Button, I'm the audience research manager for BBC iPlayer.
My job is to make sure we are in touch with what audiences want for the service, by analysing user statistics about what is being used the most or the least, and by asking people directly what they'd choose to change in BBC iPlayer if they could. I also compile the monthly performance packs for iPlayer that we release each month.
We use various methods to gain insight into how audiences feel about BBC iPlayer, including commissioning surveys to see what the majority think, by discussing things in depth, face-to-face, with different types of audiences. We also road-test major changes before we nail the final versions - like the new beta version of BBC iPlayer that you're hopefully playing with right now.
When the service first launched, it only played TV programmes, and the homepage looked nice and simple. We integrated radio content in July 2008, which we were aware made the homepage a lot busier. This did give us some concerns around the fact that a first-time visitor might have more trouble finding what they wanted with so many choices offered to them - we were definitely not obeying the rule of "less is more".
Of course some people just think "more is more", and in fact we didn't see a big change in people's overall opinions of BBC iPlayer after we added radio to TV. We were still getting fantastic scores from people when they rated the site, which was great, but we did notice a small dip in the tracking score for the "how easy is BBC iPlayer to use", which is what we wanted to avoid. And when we directly asked people if they liked the two media all being mixed together, some people didn't.
When designing the new version of BBC iPlayer, we decided to add even more things to the homepage, like favourites, and we knew we would have to find a way to go back to a simpler, less cluttered design. From the monthly performance packs, we had learned a lot about how people used the iPlayer for TV and radio - for example, radio listening is mainly in the morning, and TV viewing is mainly in the evening, just like in the real world.
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Also, in a typical week, there is only a small cross-over of people who are using the service for both TV and radio - more than 9 out of 10 users are choosing only one or the other.
Plus it was becoming obvious that other analogue habits are also persisting in the new on-demand world. People tend to hunt for a TV programme to watch by browsing across lists of titles, while radio-listeners are drawn much more strongly to a few favourite stations, and look only for their programmes, rather than wanting to see all the offerings from all radio stations mixed up together.
Therefore it seemed like we would be making a sensible decision to offer TV and radio right next to each other, but on separate pages. This would make it easier and quicker for people to find what they want, which ultimately would keep the new homepage simple, something that's been an internal mantra of the new design.
We will be keeping a close key on what people think to check we've made the right decision.
Alison Button is Audience Research Manager, BBC Marketing, Communications & Audiences.