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More improvements to the homepage

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Leigh Aspin Leigh Aspin 18:04, Wednesday, 13 May 2009


We've made a couple of tweaks to the homepage today.

We've slightly enlarged the top right 'Find a Programme' panel, in order to present the link to all current Radio 4 programmes more clearly. The top picture promotion area has therefore been slightly reduced and, in order to preserve the image shape, we've moved the text to the bottom.

Here are some other changes which should go live shortly, in response to audience feedback:

  • Clearer links from programme homepages to the pages about their recent editions.
  • A new weekly schedule grid view, which horizontally aligns programmes by time.
  • On the daily schedule page, the greyed-out calendar links from previous/next months will become clickable.

And looking a little further ahead:

  • We'll start to move archive audio to the new site and will review the ways users get to this content. (In the meantime, remember that you can still access these archives via the links on the right hand side or in the navigation bar on programme pages.)
  • Work has started to redevelop some of our programme microsites (eg The Archers, In Our Time) and add some new features.

Thanks again for your constructive feedback so far.

Leigh's previous posts on this topic:


  • Comment number 1.

    Leigh, it is good to know you are continuing to work on this. Thanks for your efforts and those of your colleagues. Now for some more feedback!

    - Although the promotions box is slightly smaller, I still think it needs to be smaller still. Or at least EVERYTHING IN IT SHOULD BE SMALLER AND LESS SHOUTY! More textual information and a smaller typeface would be good - the main BBC homepage advert box is a bit better than the R4 one. How about putting an extra tab of highlights? (For a time I think the R1 page had eight). It is also good when there are more links from the tab (i.e. not just a link to the featured programme, but include links to other related BBC pages/blogs etc). But, just to repeat, most of all - please make the whole thing LESS SHOUTY! I can't help feeling this was a recurring theme in the previous feedback which hasn't been addressed by the slight shrinking.

    - Weekly schedule grid. Love it! It doesn't quite maintain alignment across my screen for the same time on different days of the week, but I can see how schedule differences could make that hard. How about two common break-points (and a faint horizontal line perhaps?) where everything gets realigned again (e.g. noon and 6pm) - as well as helping keep things in line, this would have the advantage of breaking up the display a little.

    - I think I've read this elsewhere before, but it would be good if there was a link to the newest post on the R4 blog as well as the featured story. Actually, I think I agree with Steve Browbrick's idea that it should get a top level menu item. And whilst I'm writing about the blog - please can you reduce the huge banner? With the detailed 'now and next' switched on, more than 50% of the my browser window is full of 'furniture' before I get to the scintillating text.

    - Finally, please don't forget all the other very good feedback that came from many comments on the blog. Still lots to do and I'm really hoping it gets better and better.

    Thanks again.

  • Comment number 2.

    "Work has started to redevelop some of our programme microsites (eg The Archers, In Our Time) and add some new features."

    Can I make a plea to the designers/coders of Microsites, especially sites such as plays or dramas: no synopsis or other clues as to episode content (such as user polling that can also give plots away) on the sites home page, some people either have to wait for the repeat, omnibus or even make use of the 'catch-up' service - website visitors should not have programme content forced onto them as soon as they visit the site, access to such content should be users selection.

  • Comment number 3.

    The new page is better, but the still-dominant picture needs reducing further. It's still pretty awful. Most people's faces are not very attractive close-up, even attractive personalities like Clement Freud are often much better heard rather than seen. If you must use a picture, let it not be of people. Your pictures are something most of us would rather not see.

  • Comment number 4.

    Hi. Yesterday I tried to find the schedule for the Rumpole of the Bailey Story : "Penge Bungalow Murders" -which is being trailed on air at present. Not knowing when it will be aired I tried both the schedule and programmes (genre - drama) tabs on the site, plus the search box but none gave me a useful pointer to the air date for the drama which I needed. Eventually a general Google search found the best information and revealed an air date starting next tuesday for the programme- which seems to have a different subtitle to "Penge Bungalow Murders" featured in the trail and the title of the novella.
    I am surprised that the Radio 4 web site could not provide better information (indeed any useful info) compared to a general Google web search,and so my research took a lot longer than it should; I feel that this aspect of the site needs some work
    Thanks for a generally good looking and useful site which does aim and largely succeed in serving as an appetising menu for the channel

  • Comment number 5.

    I am glad that you are listening to some of the feedback and will particularly look forward to the week's schedule being aligned - and please pick up on the suggestion of horizontal line at, say 12 noon and 1800h.
    You say that you have reduced the top picture promotion area but the reduction must be so slight - I certainly cannot see much difference. The question that has not been answered in any way, however, is why you are persisting with that substantial picture area when it seems universally loathed. Please, Leigh Aspin, WHY are you keeping it?

  • Comment number 6.

    Well done. The site has improved enormously since the re-launch.

    A few niggles and thoughts. Like, it would seem, most other posters, I continue to object to the over-sized photograph that greets visitors when one first lands on the site. I fail to see its purpose. It doesn't sell or engage me in your content; on the contrary, it gets in the way. Were it a frame which was fundamental to the re-design I wouldn't join the countless others who have already objected. But I really don't see that it is.

    Online versions of newspapers almost all now have rankings of their most popular stories, ranked for example by numbers of times emailed, or number of times viewed. Could you do the same? It would enable "sleeper" content i.e. superb radio programmes that were missed by the masses to find a wider audience, just in the same way that you see the best stories on the New York Times online creep up the rankings sometimes days after the story first appeared. Perhaps overall rankings, rankings by genre etc. Or does this exist already? "Recommend this programme to a friend" links perhaps too?

    At a more micro level, Gardeners Question Time. I can't "listen again" and haven't been able to for about four weeks. "This content doesn't seem to be working. Please try again later." Every time. I am in the US and listening on a Mac, if that makes any difference.

  • Comment number 7.

    Ref my earlier post, I (am delighted to) find I am behind the curve: I see you do indeed have a most popular section (I'd love to see it expanded), and that there is the option to "share" programmes. Great.

  • Comment number 8.

    Hello again. Have I missed something? Is the homepage design no longer no the agenda? It has clearly become a question of pride for the design boffins that the wretched photo policy should not be changed (to the point where they make a small adjustment in order to pacify us, but pretending it is done for other reasons!). So now we all shut up and they do whatg they always wanted? Shame on them.

  • Comment number 9.

    @stevioa The designers have moved on (they're not for Radio 4's exclusive use anyway) but Leigh Aspin's interactive team work on the Radio 4 site continually. They just won a silver medal in the Sony Awards for their brilliant World on the Move site, for instance.

    Comments here on the blog have directly influenced dozens of changes and improvements made to the site since the redesign (read Leigh's blog posts about the redesign here). As far as I can tell, in fact, the only substantive issue that hasn't been directly addressed or remedied is the size of the pictures. That's not bad for a three month-old blog is it?

    Steve Bowbrick, editor, Radio 4 blog

  • Comment number 10.

    This is the first time I have visited the Radio 4 website and the blog for at least a fortnight. Terrible pictures and dumbing down still there. After comment 9 from Steve Bowbrick I give up. You have won Steve. I am not coming back.

  • Comment number 11.

    i don't think that the "only substantive issue" remaining is the size of the pictures. I think you have done little to address the problems of navigation.

    Just as an example, try finding the web page that lists the dates of the future broadcasts in the Smiley series. Search the alphabetical links under either Smiley or George Smiley and you get nothing. Try Drama and then guess which category it might be in - crime / historical/ wartime? Not that I could find. Use the main BBC search facility and then narrow to programmes: you get 2 plays that have already been broadcast and a Front Row interview on i-player. The same circular links that go nowhere. I just want to know what the next drama is and when it will be broadcast.

    Mr. Bowbrick, you state that the web designers have moved on. I suggest you call them back. That's what I would do with a plumber who had failed to join up the pipes and so caused the whole system to break down.

  • Comment number 12.

    @ooergosh I think your specific problem with the Smiley season is less to do with navigation or design than with the BBC schedule. I've experienced exactly this problem myself - after I'd listened to A Murder of Quality a couple of weeks ago I wanted to find out when the next programme would go out but couldn't find it in the schedule.

    I just had a quick chat about this with Tony Pilgrim, Radio 4's head of scheduling and planning, and he told me that the schedule is only confirmed publicly for the next two weeks. The next programme in the Smiley season is not until 5 July, which is outside the range of the schedule you'll see in Radio Times and on the web site so the programme won't yet have an entry in the schedule or in the BBC-wide programmes catalogue. For Smiley, because it's an important season, there's a special page which does contain transmission dates and times, though. Probably worth bookmarking the page.

    Steve Bowbrick, editor, Radio 4 blog

  • Comment number 13.

    Thank you for tracking that page down - I have bookmarked it. Perhaps when R4 is trailing a "season" of something where some of the dates will obviously be more than a couple of weeks ahead, the website could display an easily accessible page listing the proposed items and simply put "transmission date to be confirmed" or "estimated transmission date" where appropriate. That way we can learn what is coming up and what to watch out for.

  • Comment number 14.

    Sorry, Bowbrick old chap. If you were not so full of yourself and your Sony awards (what on earth is that?! when do we get a vote on that?), I might be more sympathetic. I wish you had never spent licence-payers money hiring the team that did this. There are actually many things about the website which you have not addressed - like the way the previous design was better? And indeed we see the results of the wretched team moving on, as the domestic/overseas division is made (no consultation on that, even more complaints than you got for the R4 mess, eh? eh?). But you still have not dealt with the photo issue which annoys most of all. So (sorry to shout) WHY NOT?? What is your problem?

  • Comment number 15.

    A Shambles.

    Using the BBC radio 4 website for my listen again edification
    is criminally painful. I would listen to drama and comedy
    on a daily basis. I haven't used the listen again feature
    in weeks the website is so painful to use.

    I am reduced to using the
    schedule page to find things to listen to. Thankfully
    the URL is easy enough to modify to jump to the correct day, otherwise
    that would entail half a dozen mouse clicks.

    How many more blogs are going to be started on the subject
    and why are the others all hidden away. Once you have driven
    everyone away.. the emperor really will have no clothes.

    The comments of these two blogs still seem to stand pretty

    The new web site: one week on 212 comments

    Your feedback on the redesign 281 comments

    Dare I say you have a blog top ten driven by number of comments !!

    The numbers on the poll aren't looking any prettier either.

    Poll- how much you like the new BBC radio4 website

    Poll Results

  • Comment number 16.

    It's now just after 7 pm, and when I try to listen to the 6 pm news on "listen again" it is still yesterday's episode. Is there a reason for this? Is there an intentional delay in posting the content? When is the latest program available?

    Why is the pointless picture on the home page so large? It takes up all kinds of room that could be used to deliver useful information. Make it smaller? Delete it altogether? Go back to the splendid site you had before the makeover?

  • Comment number 17.

    Despite making a (I thought) relatively objective comment at the time of this blog entry, I'd have to say that I'm now very disappointed. I'd assumed that developments were supposed to be ongoing, whereas it now feels you've decided that you've made enough changes to satisfy us.

    I don't agree. For example, Steve, you acknowledge that the size of the pictures hasn't been addressed. One of Leigh's earlier posts suggested that there was mixed feedback about these and you were waiting to see what the final balance of views was. From what I can tell, the overall consensus on that is pretty clear. Leigh has never mentioned that issue again and overall it feels like you've done the equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ear "not listening... not listening".

    I still think the overhaul was the right thing to do, but in my mind the whole thing still needs to be improved. Perhaps now the site has time to settle in, you might conduct another of those user research surveys that we got several times on the old site. That way you could get some representative opinions rather than from just those minded to comment on the blog?

    What are the comparative usage statistics for the new site and the old? They must be available to you - it would be interesting if you would share them. Obviously they don't tell you if people visiting are happy or not...

    I really can't be bothered to write out the additional things I think you should fix. I'm fed up of not being listened to.

  • Comment number 18.

    I am sure it was promised, probably by your good self Mr. Bowbrick, that the week's schedule would be re-aligned, preferably with a break at 1200 and 1800.

    Is there any news on whether/when this is going to happen as we still have 1000 Sunday lower than 1230 Saturday which is lower than 1500 on Friday.

    It's just impossible to get a sense of time (and a very good example of how the website design just was not thought through and tested adequately by end users)and I seem to remember you found it irritating too.

  • Comment number 19.

    OK. I think I get it now. Decisions were taken - by whom, one does not know and normal rules of transparency do not apply here - which were very costly. Everything else follows from that. So the geeky community, which has no real knowledge or understanding of what radio is, least of all radio 4, come up with a design, the essential element of which is that it is different from the previous design. These people don't know that radio is a aural and not a visual medium. They do not know that it actually diminshes one's understanding of what is being said to be distrscted by a (for heaven^s sake, close-up, warts and all)picture of the person talking. This the point of, say, John Mortimer is not the actual play which he wrote, but what his face looks like. This self-deception becomes vanity when Damazer, Bowbrick and the rest impose their faces on us every time we venture into the blog.
    I would not mind, except that listening to R4 online is the only option for me, and now I have to go through all these ugly hoops to get there.
    Nor am I really very satisfied still by the line that there are "rights issues" or whatever. The BBC has the right to its own programmes, so if it chooses to exercisse those rights in a certain way it cannot blame some supposedly external uncontrollable party - "Poor us, what can we do!?".
    So, Farewell,
    Good old Radio 4.
    You were
    Uniquely cool
    And intelligent
    And now you have dumbed down
    Plumbing and dumbing new frontiers.

    By the way, you can get an excellent hotel in New York for $240 easy.

  • Comment number 20.

    I'm so sorry to bash on about more problems but I have no idea where to post concerns other than this.
    Programme looks interesting - The Wreck of the Alba - highlighted as one of the week's choices. Click on the link with picture of presenter - do I see a copy of the painting? A photo of the shoreline concerned? A painting/photo of wreckers / smugglers / Newlyn fishwives / anything else associated with Cornwall, boats and wrecks?

    Nope. Just a picture of the presenter and too little information for me to decide whether or not I want to listen. So I didn't.

    PLEASE could we have more relevant information about programmes and less pictures.

  • Comment number 21.

    Hello, is anybody there? The week's schedule alignment - remember?

  • Comment number 22.

    Nope, nobody home. They hope we will shut up and go away.
    Mostly, we've just gone away. From the website. This is the first time I've tried to use R4 page for over a month (as opposed to the all-day, every day use before the makeover). Still unusable. Going away for another month. Bet nothing improves.

    (Just in case anyone who can do anything about it/cares is still reading, these are the main problems:

    The pictures are still unnecessary, still too big. You still have to scroll over it to get to any content.
    The content is still less informative than on the old site and harder to find.
    The links are still counter-intuitive and too many are required to actually get to the content. Too many of them still don't produce any content at all/work.)

  • Comment number 23.

    @ooergosh Good question. As you point out, the Radio 4 Interactive team did try out a better-aligned weekly schedule page a couple of months ago. It will now be implemented as a permanent feature and should be live on the site from about 12 August.

    Steve Bowbrick, editor, Radio 4 blog

  • Comment number 24.

    As this is my first return to the Radio 4 website since I posted on this blog on 24th July, I was delighted to read that at least one of the problems of the redesign was to be solved with the improvement implemented on 12th August.

    Oh hang on, isn't it the 12th today? Were they all too busy shooting grouse to get round to it? Maybe I'll pop back in a month or so.

    Maybe even by then someone will acknowledge the problem of not being able to access the web page for any programme without three or four clicks - and that we aren't all searching for i player all the time.

    See you in September - or maybe I can't be bothered.

  • Comment number 25.

    I reckon there is a way of counting hits on webpages - and this could easily be tracked over time.

    It would be interesting to know how many people/hits there have been on pages like the Smiley page Steve mentioned above:

    or even, to be honest, on the daily schedule page:

    If pages exist but are not clearly signposted, they are a complete waste - no one will ever find them; and if they are signposted, and people are using them less and less, then there is a problem.

    you have access to the inner workings of the Radio 4 blog. You can find out about webtraffic. Is there increasing use of these pages, in the first 3 months? Are there pages with very low hit-numbers: what is being done about this? Are the programme makers happy that all their hard work in getting content on the radio is being reflected in the best way on the Radio 4 website?

    If I were you, I would want to know numbers.

  • Comment number 26.

    @nikki noodle I'm looking into this. Such stats do, of course, exist. I believe that they're not normally published but I'd like to see if it's possible on this occasion. In the meantime, you can see some very high level site stats for all BBC radio sites (and for podcasts), here. You'll see from this table, for instance, that Radio 4 site usage has been climbing pretty steeply lately (although I don't have any analysis of the factors that influence this).

    Steve Bowbrick, editor, Radio 4 blog

  • Comment number 27.

    Thanks Steve!

    It seems, with a brief glance through the stats, that according to the BBC Press Office (8th March 2007):

    "Among the networks....BBC Radio 4 is next in line with 577,323 users – a 24% year–on–year increase."

    whereas in June 2008 the Site Usage stats were recording 594,469 per week an increase of only 3%,

    and June 2009 Radio 4 web users had jumped to 939,961 per week, an increase of 58%.

    as you say, "climbing pretty steeply lately". And also unique among the BBC Radio sites according to the table you link to. Whereas most of the BBC Radio sites are either static or falling in Average Weekly Unique users, it appears that June 2009 was a bumper month for Radio 4 (and to an extent, Radio 1).

    Excerpts from a "page level analysis" would be fascinating!!

  • Comment number 28.

    In order to listen live or listen again, we have to go to the radio 4 website. Although this is technically defined as "using" the website, it really is no more than the equivalent of switching the radio on.

    Number of pages viewed at each visit and length of time on each page would be far more useful information.

  • Comment number 29.

    At 12:02pm on 05 Aug 2009, steve_bowbrick wrote:

    @ooergosh Good question. As you point out, the Radio 4 Interactive team did try out a better-aligned weekly schedule page a couple of months ago. It will now be implemented as a permanent feature and should be live on the site from about 12 August.

    Steve Bowbrick, editor, Radio 4 blog



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