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Improvements to Wildlife Finder

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Tom Scott | 18:05 UK time, Thursday, 16 September 2010

On Wildlife Finder we have always strived to continuously improve the site - since the launch last September we have released improvements to the site every couple of weeks.

Because we deploy new code with new or improved features every two weeks each release has been relatively minor, meaning there are incremental improvements to the site rather than radical redesigns. Of course all those little steps have now built into significant changes to the site that launched last year.

Screenshot of Wildfife finder

The new Wildlife Finder

For example, the site now boasts 'character pages' such as Titus and Echo; pages about the wildlife in specific places, such as Africa, the Himalayas or the UK and for the technical minded the content is also available as RDF/XML.

And of course the content has continued to grow and we are rapidly approaching 2,000 clips covering around 742 animals, 48 plants and a few fungi. Plus there are 107 different animal and plant behaviour and adaptation pages covering everything from tool use in animals to pack hunting and courtship display and 59 marine, freshwater and terrestrial habitats and the worlds major ecozones.

We also try to introduce the natural world in different, less scientific ways through our themed video collections like the popular Timelapse: speeding up life collection; David Attenborough's favourite moments or Going, Going, Gone.

Screenshot of Going going gone

The Going, Going, Gone collection

And increasingly more and more of those clips are both embeddable on your site and available outside the UK where we can secure the rights to do so.

However, sometimes changes are difficult or at least inefficient to implement in small steps. Recently we've had a couple of those.

The BBC is in the process of rolling out a new Global Visual Language and the more wide-reaching Global Experience Language (GEL) that it's part of. A few weeks ago we finished the work of "gelling" Wildlife Finder. The development took us 4 weeks from start to finish and in that time we gelled almost all the existing pages and made a few other improvements to the site - highlighted to us during user testing and analysis of the site.

So what have we done?

The most obvious change is to the home page. Here we have taken the opportunity to bring in a few improvements.

We've moved a few things around - swapping over the Editor's picks (which previously sat in the middle of the page) and recent updates (which dominated the page through the top carousel) so that the editor's picks are now used to populate the top carousel. This gives us more room to highlight content from the archive or exclusive clips.

We've also added a feed of the day's most popular video clips and a guided search box. The search box is found across the site and we hope makes it quicker and easier to find the animal or plant you're looking for.

Across the rest of the site we've refreshed the visual design and improved the information hierarchy. For example, looking at the Giant Panda page it is now easier to understand where they live and their behaviours and adaptations. It's also easier to find programmes featuring Giant Pandas or news stories about them, or indeed listen to sound files from the archive (if you want to know what a Giant Panda call sounds like now you can. You can also listen to the sound of a giraffe feeding on acacia, a Peacock call or indeed what hello sounds like in several different languages).

But we haven't stopped there.

Big screen version

The big screen version of Wildlife Finder

Today we are launching a big screen version of the site. If you have PC connected to your TV you can now browse and view the Wildlife Finder from the comfort of your sofa. If you access Wildlife Finder on a PS3 you should be redirected to there automatically. Alternatively you can click on the link.

Tom Scott is Executive Product Manager, BBC.



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