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BBC iPlayer Beta: What we did with your feedback

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David Blackall | 16:13 UK time, Friday, 3 September 2010


I'm David Blackall and I look after all new website feature offerings for BBC iPlayer on PC, Mac and Linux.

We've been running the latest version of BBC iPlayer in beta since May this year. About 8% of our existing user base has opted to use the beta version which is a good result.

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to give us feedback on our message boards and blogs. Although the product was extensively user-tested prior to going live there is nothing like a beta to give you feedback in the real world. From the feedback, we're happy that 75% of our beta users preferred the new site to the existing version. This is a great result because the existing version is one of the most popular sites on bbc.co.uk.

In terms of feedback the majority of our users have told us that they like the new design and find it easier to discover and play programmes.

For the first time you can now watch and listen to live TV and Radio directly from BBC iPlayer Desktop, without needing to go back to the BBC iPlayer website. In addition you can now download your favourite TV programmes before they are available to watch on TV, so that they are ready to watch once the programme ends on TV.

We have listened to and acted upon your feedback including reinstating:

• The ability to play radio content in the BBC iPlayer site, as opposed to having to use a pop-out console. This allows radio listeners to recommend and comment on their favourite shows
• The TV pop-out player
• The ability to choose your local region selector for BBC One and Two

• The process of linking to Facebook and Twitter accounts to BBC ID has been streamlined with more improvements coming in the weeks ahead
• International visitors to the site now default to the radio homepage, as opposed to the TV version so that they can start playing programmes immediately

We have experienced some issues during the beta including:

• Some users experiencing additional buffering upon playout. This is a result of issues regarding our new adaptive bitrate streaming solution when the stream switches from one Content Delivery Network (CDN) to another. The team is working hard to improve this
• The latest version of BBC iPlayer Desktop has also had some teething problems with occasional content going missing after it has been downloaded. This should be resolved by launch day and we will continue to monitor and put right any issues

• As yet we have not been able to deliver the ability to download future episodes of your favourite programmes. This will be coming shortly.

Our users have also suggested new features which we're happy to hear, so please keep them rolling in. These include:

• Being able to remove a favourite episode from your list once you have played it
• Stopping programme recommendations
• Enhancements to favourites to alert you when your favourite programmes are due to return
• Remember the last page layout when you next return to the site

We will look to include as many of these suggestions into the site in the coming months.

Now is the perfect time for coming out of beta as it is the end of a busy summer for the BBC, and now the autumn schedule is about to kick in with fantastic new programmes.


David Blackall is Lead Business Analyst, BBC iPlayer.


  • Comment number 1.

    The reason that such a large percentage of users went to the Beta is that it was advertised as if it was the latest version, there was no explanation that a Beta is a test version and unfinished.

    It is underhand of the BBC to have presented the Beta in that way with no explanation of what a Beta is.

    Your percentages make it look like lots of people favour the Beta this is poor maths on your part.

    Almost every statement in favour of something that you atribute to users is refuted by comments in the iPlayer message boards. On which subject the lack of interaction from the BBC staff is an afront to the people who pay the BBC tax.

  • Comment number 2.

    I have a problem with iPlayer Desktop on ubuntu.

    Had a lot of problems installing failures after downloading Adobe AIR. Why the BBC does not supply a deb like everybody else is a mystery.

    Anyway when I got it working I got the annoying message about key-ring. Tried to mess with Keyring and now iplayer just starts and goes away. Starting from command line also gives no message. Is there any trace/message/debug options that I can try to fix the system. I tried uninstall by deleting from /opt and reinstalling but no change

  • Comment number 3.

    Beta is terrible. Please can someone explain how to change back to the old version??

  • Comment number 4.

    You say "The latest version of BBC iPlayer Desktop has also had some teething problems with occasional content going missing after it has been downloaded."

    The version I'm running is 1.5.15695.18135 which according to the copyright notice is a 2009 version, and it often just junks everything more than 5 days old, making a mockery of the "begin watching before" date. I wasn't using the beta of the new site, either. From the message boards I gather no-one really knows why this happens (after all, actually understanding what your code does is so last-century).

    The one feature of the new site that looks useful is downloading stuff I'll want to watch (e.g. next episode of a series) as soon as it's available, but if that just means it'll get junked even earlier it seems pointless.

  • Comment number 5.

    I respectfully disagree. I did not choose to use Beta, I was automatically directed there despite the fact that I prefer the old one, and I don't feel my comments have been listened to at all.

    I'm on Talk Talk broadband (need I say more?) so the lower bandwidth option was very useful for me. I even said that a few times on the discussion boards, but the new iPlayer no longer has that option. So I tried to download programmes, and let's say that yes, I have discovered that content sometimes goes missing when I've downloaded it.

    I also (for example) favour BBC1 and BBC3 programmes over other channels but often don't know what I've missed or can't remember a programme's name from an advert so I used the 'choose a channel' feature to browse through all available programmes for each channel. But now that option is gone.

    I don't prefer Beta. It looks flashier but is a shambles when it comes to helping me watch the programmes I've missed. Is there no way we can go back to the old iPlayer?

  • Comment number 6.

    We've been running the latest version of BBC iPlayer in beta since May this year. About 8% of our existing user base has opted to use the beta version which is a good result. that's not a good result especially as most people thought there was no choice so just because 75% of 8% of current users said its OK we shouldn't 1 boast about it being a good result 2 even post a comment like that and 3 believe it your self hahaha so basically 75% of 8% is like 6% of users in my opinion that works out 94 % that doesn't like the new site i think these figures are more correct than your own

  • Comment number 7.

    I concur with the poster of @2... BBC, please could you liaise with both Adobe and Canonical regarding Adobe getting AIR into the Ubuntu Partner repository, and supply the iPlayer download client as a .deb... to Canonical, so it can also be put into the repositories.

    same with other Linux distros... or run your own repos. That way, we can use our package managers to maintain our instances.



  • Comment number 8.

    Didn't do anything with my feedback, and it still does my head in:

    "I really with they would alter this. It's my one major qualm with the new iPlayer beta.

    I really don't know how to explain it better than this:

    Is it only me that thinks this is blindingly obvious way to ruin the great feature you add, by allowing users to select their favourite shows and be notified of new episodes?"

    Any comments?

  • Comment number 9.

    BBC iPlayer Beta: What we did with your feedback - was totally ignore it.

    The new design is patronising, dumbed down, incomplete and amateur. It is dammed near unusable for anyone who wants to find intelligent programmes to listen to rather than scan pictures.

    I'm a Radio Four listener, I want WORDS! Get rid of all the oversized thumbnails and give me some description back. Above all give me the full page listing of recent programmes. I don't want to scan a short list which contains more items that I can't listen to than ones I can.

    Read Alan Cooper!

  • Comment number 10.

    Going live with the abomination that is the new site with no clear and unmissable prior warning is a demonstration of the BBC arrogance and Auntie knows best attitude that beggars belief.

    People who were tricked into using the Beta have lost downloads that cost them precious bandwidth quota with no prospect of downloading again since programmes have now expired.

    Previous functions that worked well and were of use have been removed, I cite the A-Z listings.

    A perfectly good service ruined in the name of change for the sake of change.

  • Comment number 11.

    It is quite frankly appaling.

    Why make navigation more difficult - to reduce the number of people listening to programmes?

    The design is truly awful. Does anyone who worked on the "new" iPlayer possess any design qualifications?


    The BBC will always fix things that aren't broken. People will complain, the BBC will "take on board" what people are saying and then...

    ..they will do nothing about it.

    Yes, it is awful. Navigation is harder, more difficult to see content menus and badly though out. No surprise. BBC News website anyone?

    It is a shame the BBC rarely sacks anyone for making such a bad decision....

  • Comment number 12.

    Hi, I am wondering why it is now (is this a beta thing?) so hard to find the programmes i listen to regularly on BBC London. When I click on Nations and Local I get a list of National stations and get asked to put in my postcode to bring up my local station. Two things: when I lived in the UK I never listened to my local station so this would be pointless (I listened to BBC London though I was in Herts) and secondly, even now when I put my postcode in it fails to bring up any results (although I live in Switzerland now I tried putting my Watford postcode in, to no avail). Actually, one more point: any non-UK residents would need to think up a UK postcode to get to the right station, which seems crazy to me...

  • Comment number 13.

    Is there any point in giving feedback since nothing was done about the new BBC news website design.

    As the design layout was foisted upon the team by another section of the BBC which has decided that this layout is to be the standard design of all BBC websites we are stuck with it.

    Aad once again, more scrolling..BIIIGGGGGG useless photos, less information on one screen, more button clicking to get to places, less useful functionality. Annoying to use...worse 'user experience'...

    But those brainwashed in what us public are supposed to want ill tell us how wonderful and fresh and open and progressive it all is...and not a word about usable functionality.

  • Comment number 14.

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

  • Comment number 15.

    Here's what we did with your feedback... ignored it!

    You miss one very important statistic - how many people tried the beta and then opted to go back to the original?

    I'm not one who is complaining for the sake of it and at the time I went to the effort of registering to give feedback - including counts of clicks to and time to locate certain programmes. I even commented on the one improvement you did make.

    I'm now moved to create a second ID just because I am so disappointed in the outcome (don't worry, I'll forget this ID within 30 secs of hitting submit just like last time).

    Change for the sake of it I'm afraid - you've lost the majority of the simple navigation options (or shoved them "below the fold") and opted to occupy half the page with drivel of "things we think you should watch".
    I'm particularly amused at the "for you" suggestion of Eastenders - a show I haven't watched in over 20 years and only then because my old mum insisted! Please put it back as it was, pat those websigners on the head and let them loose with their crayons on ITV.com - a site that is so bad they couldn't make it worse.

  • Comment number 16.

    It is awful. Just downloaded the new version yesterday evening. 2 MAJOR problems
    1. All my previous downloads disappeared. However, they still are on my computer, but for some reason, the new I Player is not finding them despite setting the directory to that location. This really ticks me off, as I spent ages downloading series which are no longer available.
    2. When trying to download new programs, the download starts, but then there is no sign of them downloading on the I Player.

    Help Anyone?

  • Comment number 17.

    Another question. Can we download the old version which worked just perfectly!

  • Comment number 18.

    When releasing software it is usual to ensure new versions have more rather than less functionality. The removal of ability to see the which original stations programs were broadcast on within category view is clearly a massive backward step. Usually this occurs when a company is planning on releasing a second more expensive version. I hope this is not the case with the BBC but can anyone give any other rational for this downgrade?

  • Comment number 19.

    If as you say the downloaded programmes are still on your computer then read this from the iPlayer board where a user seems to have the answer you need.


    The iplayer site is still an abomination but the new Desktop is more functional than the old pre Beta version.

  • Comment number 20.

    The new version of iPlayer is a disaster. I suggest you read the complaints pages.
    What a waste of precious resources....maybe in "media land" you are too busy patting yourselves on the back to realise that the public, who pay for the service, hate the new i_player...

    You talk about "Accessability"....This is now the most complicated, confusing, time-consuming media player of all.
    Look at Channel 4OD, ITV player, Channel 5.......so much easier to navigate, much quicker...very clear...EASY!

    You have made the iPlayer difficult for everyone, so much for Accessibility.

    Please admit you have made a mistake and restore the previous iPlayer.

  • Comment number 21.

    I was invited to download the beta version a while back and then rejected its' use for the same reason as I don't like using it now: When I attempt to download a programme, I find that I am taking to a page that seeme to think I asked to downlaod the iPlayer latest version. After some delay, I receive an error message informing me that I am already using the latest version. Even if I try to download a programme again, I still experience this same procedure.
    Oh, and by the way, Eastenders is not one of my favourites - I have never ever watched it but iPlayer seems to think I ought! Please remove the top half of the front page for, as others have said, it is a total waste of space and wears out the scrolling finger!
    Mike McMillan

  • Comment number 22.

    I have been running the Beta version of iplayer on my mac just fine, however since the new version, released in Sept, I cannot see my iplayer Desktop. And I can't download anything.

    I notice from searching on the web that other mac users are having a similar problem.

    Can anyone help



  • Comment number 23.

    It really seems to be change for change's sake and not for functionlity.

    The new iplayer seems excessively complicated. The simple, pre beta version was good enough.

    Social networking is irritating in the way it is seeping into everything.

  • Comment number 24.

    The BC site on the whole was perfectly fine before. It was overly flashy or complicated, like websites from other broadcasters.

  • Comment number 25.

    Judging from the comments on this blog and on the iPlayer messageboard, there seems to be an overwhelming consensus about the changes that you've made to the iPlayer. So what are you going to do with this feedback?

    How about having a genuine consultation process? Or would it simply be too embarrassing to have to admit that almost nobody wanted these changes and the vast majority of your users want to revert to the previous version?

  • Comment number 26.

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

  • Comment number 27.

    I saw a post from one of the BBC people in the Design Blogs*, they say they've had a mixed response... it's funny, because I've only seen a handful of positive comments and I don't think I have enough time left in this world to read all the negative feedback.

    * https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2010/09/bbc_iplayer_gets_even_better.html

  • Comment number 28.

    I hate to add more negativity to the discussion, but the best thing you could do right now is revert the iplayer site to how it was.

    It is now infuriating to use.

  • Comment number 29.

    It's interesting to read these comments, overwhelmingly to the effect that the new version of the iPlayer is most definitely NOT an improvement... why does the BBC always waltz around viewer/listener feedback and never actually DO anything other than offer vague promises of some minor tinkering that might remedy one small part of what is being complained about? Presumably like good IT professionals the BBC technical people have kept the odd backup of the old iPlayer -- time to wheel it out I think.

  • Comment number 30.

    Dilbert, September 14, 2010 says it all...

  • Comment number 31.

    Hi - this thread is starting to drift off topic so I'm going to close it.

    There's an update which answers some of your questions in a comment on James Hewines blog post about iPlayer, so please leave any further comments there.



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