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Some changes to the Radio 4 web site

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Leigh Aspin Leigh Aspin 15:06, Wednesday, 25 August 2010

The new BBC Radio 4 home page

Editor's note. In this blog post, Radio 4's Interactive Editor explains how important the views of web site users have been to the redesign of the site. Please take a minute to leave a comment here and tell us what you think of the changes to the Radio 4 site - SB.

It's now over a year since we relaunched the Radio 4 website. During that time we've received lots of audience feedback. We've also relaunched some of our programme web sites (Woman's Hour, In Our Time, You & Yours, for instance) and become part of a wider range of conversations about Radio 4 on the web. So it's time to refresh our top-level pages to reflect all of this.

Home page

We've made some 'tweaks', rather than a wholesale redesign.

The top promotion area has divided opinion to some extent. Some correspondents (including contributors to this blog) felt strongly that the top image was too big; others liked it and told us it encouraged them to explore further. So we hope that an effective compromise is to reduce the visible image size slightly, in favour of text content, whilst retaining the impact that it makes.

On the top-right of the page, we've retained the navigation by title and subject and have added links to our biggest programme websites, some of which we've relaunched in the last few months. Take a look if you haven't done so already.

BBC Radio 4's biggest programmes

Returning to the left-hand side of the page, the 'Choice of the Day' area (the designers call this a 'carousel') didn't go down particularly well with users. Some people didn't understand how the carousel functioned, others simply chose not to use it. But the visible content was popular. So we've opted for a simpler presentation.

Underneath that, we've retained the popular iPlayer programmes list (updated daily) but have replaced the rather static list of podcasts in favour of highlighting some gems from the archive, which your feedback tells us you'd like to see more of.

We've also removed the 'topical tags' list. Technical constraints meant that these tags weren't always as topical as we wanted them to be. And research with users (we did a 'click-tracking' study) told us that hardly anyone clicked on them. We've used the space instead to promote some of the ever-growing conversation on the web about Radio 4.

Comment and Programmes pages

The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice that we've added a fifth term to our top navigation - a page we've called "Comment", which aggregates a lot of the comment and conversations around Radio 4 - on our messageboards and blogs, and on social networks.

BBC Radio 4 home page Comment link

And we've improved our 'Programmes' page by only listing genres relevant to Radio 4 (no more 'animation'!), and by presenting the most recently broadcast programmes in each genre.

I hope that these design changes will make it easier to find programmes that inspire and entertain you, and introduce you to more content and conversation around your favourite programmes. I look forward to reading your comments.

My thanks to the BBC teams, to David Jones from the Radio 4 Interactive team and to our colleagues at Clearleft, who have helped with these changes.

Leigh Aspin is Interactive Editor at BBC Radio 4


  • Comment number 1.

    Looks lovely...

    I get to the the Radio 4 homepage in Windows Media Player when opening the stream from https://bbc.co.uk/radio/listen/live/r4.asx - but now I get an error message

    Line 18, Char 45616, 'this._content.0.offsetHeight' is null or not an object in https://node1.bbcimg.co.uk/glow/glow/1.7.3/widgets/widgets.js

    Just a little annoying as this pops up everytime I start up Radio 4.


  • Comment number 2.

    Thanks for the detail of the error. We've just released a couple of bug fixes which I hope might resolve the issue.

    If you are still seeing that error it would be a great help to get a bit more detail to pass on to the developers to get it fixed.

    Can you email radio4.webteam@bbc.co.uk to help us investigate this a bit futher.

    Many thanks.

  • Comment number 3.

    When are Nick Robinson, Stephanie Flanders and Robert Peston coming back from their summer holidays? I know that, at times, they have to work extensive and often unsociable hours but six weeks holiday (in Nick's case) is pretty impressive leave by anyone's standards.

  • Comment number 4.

    I use Safari as my browser and am finding that the formatting of the new R4 homepage is coming out wrongly.

  • Comment number 5.

    Hi tburton - I'm sorry to hear that. Could you let us know

    1) Which operating system you're using
    2) Which version of Safari you're using
    3) What goes wrong with the formatting?


    David (Senior Producer, Radio 4 Interactive)

  • Comment number 6.

    Incremental change is often a good thing, and I love the "listen again" facility, but I wish you would fix some longstanding usability issues. For instance:

    * I have always found it confusing that "Science" is -- quite rightly -- a category listed on the right-hand side of the home page (alongside Drama, News, etc), yet it is not listed in the page listed by following the "see all categories" link on the home page, https://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/programmes . Even more confusingly now, the "programmes" link in the top menu bar now takes you to yet another page listing genres, an even more restricted subset this time, and once again Science is not one of the listed categories. It is immensely frustrating to have to remember not only the page one needs to find a programme but also the route one took to get there.

    * Many science programs are not actually listed on the "science" page at https://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/programmes/genres/factual/scienceandnature/current -- extremely frustrating when one is trying to track down a specific programme to listen to it again. A good example is the Reith lectures, which were presented this year by the president of the Royal Society and were all about science, yet were not listed in the set of science programs. I know the Reith lectures are not always science-related, but in the years that they are, please do list them among the science programmes available.

    * Why do some programmes in some places only appear to be available via podcast, not iPlayer? For example, the FOOC homepage at https://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/default.stm only has a podcast available, but if I navigate through the alphabetical program listings I can easily access the iPlayer version at https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00svbf9 . Another example: if I click on the Archers link on the home page, it takes me to https://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/archers/ , which has no obvious link to the omnibus edition available via iPlayer (this page, available from the alphabetical listing of programmes, https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qnkc ) only to the podcast version. Once again, one has to remember the route to get to a program, not just the program itself.

    * I can't tell you how many times I have clicked on the "home" link next to the BBC logo thinking that it will take me to the R4 home page. Of course, I should have clicked the "home" link in the next level of navigation, but I just didn't notice it. Please, is there any way you can make the distinction more obvious? Two "home" links in close proximity is confusing.

    I am a huge R4 fan -- have been listening for nearly 3 decades, since my early teens, on 3 continents -- and have been using the site ever since it went live in its first incarnation. I visit it every day. Even with all this experience under my belt, I still find it difficult and frustrating to find programmes at times, because of issues like those above.

    By the way, I too was having issues using Safari (v 5.0.1) on a Mac: the picture in the middle of the home page was overlapping the categories in the right-hand column. It may have been a CSS issue, I guess because it is now fixed.

  • Comment number 7.

    I'm confused by the tweaks. Yesterday I saw an ad on the homepage for a programme I really wanted to listen to, but now I can't find it. I'm sure before it would have been in that carousel thing...so where is it now ? How can it have been so important yesterday and invisible today ?

  • Comment number 8.

    I use safari blogger. I normally don;t use African stuff.

  • Comment number 9.

    A good looking site that I use every day.
    Just one niggle: why no "now on air" information? You have a listen live on iPlayer link, but all your other radio home pages I have visited (Radios 3, 5, 7) all have an indication of what's currently on.

  • Comment number 10.

    @catspaw, click the small plus sign in a green box, labelled 'More' at the top right of every Radio 4 page for 'now on-air' and 'coming up' info. Your browser will remember your choice so you won't have to click it each time you visit.

    Steve Bowbrick, editor, Radio 4 blog

  • Comment number 11.


    Firstly, I think the redesign is fantastic, so well done there. I do have one minor, quibble though.

    I know everything's digital these days, but good ole FM radios, in my opinion, have a better sound and the other day I was trying to tune in to Radio 4 and didn't know the frequency. 'I know' - I thought - 'I'll check out the website, it'll have the frequency there'. I couldn't find it anywhere.

    Not sure if this is an oversight or whether the BBC are pushing hard for everyone to go digital, but I would've expected to see it somewhere. After all, this is a 'Radio' station.


  • Comment number 12.

    MrGrady, Thanks for your question. There's a link at the bottom of every Radio 4 page labelled 'Radio 4 help'. On the help page you'll find a link labelled 'How to listen to Radio 4' where you'll find details of how to listen on all platforms, including trusty FM (still the number one way of listening, of course).

    Steve Bowbrick, editor, Radio 4 blog

  • Comment number 13.

    In response to comment 6 from ursusminor...
    Thanks very much for your constructive comments. To respond to them in turn...
    * Radio 4's programmes sit within a pan-BBC genre classification. Within this classification, Science is a sub-genre of Factual and therefore doesn't appear on the top-level list of genres provided by the BBC programmes platform (bbc.co.uk/radio4/programmes/). We've aimed to mitigate that by surfacing a link to Science on our homepage, and by linking to a new customised page from our top navigation (the page you now reach if you click on "Programmes"). This new page does list Science in the right-hand column but should also list Science in the main column of the page. That's an error that we'll get addressed shortly.
    Having reflected on your comments (and returning to this site after being away for the last ten days), I agree that the "See All Categories" link on the homepage is confusing for some user-journeys and we'll review that once the new Programme page is comprehensive.
    * This page lists all current Science programmes, "current" being defined as +/- 7 days from broadcast. So to find older programmes, you need to select "all" from the sub-navigation at the top of that page. We decided to link to the "current" selection rather than straight to "all" as the full list is very long indeed (and growing by the week!) and most users are seeking a recent programme. So I'd say that almost all R4 Science programmes from the last 2-3 years should be listed on that page.
    Lists of programmes by genre, such as this one, are automatically generated from the genre labels assigned to programmes. For the system as a whole to work, these genre labels need to apply to the whole of a series or programme strand. The Reith Lectures is a specific case where the one size doesn't fit all - as you pointed out, different sets of lectures relate to different genres. We'll keep talking to the team who are developing bbc.co.uk/programmes about how we might better represent these important programmes, that are exceptional cases within an overall domain model for BBC programmes.
    * The FOOC page you mention has a link to listen to the latest episode on iPlayer at the top right of the page. (Let me know if I've misunderstood your point here).
    The Archers omnibus can be found from clicking "listen to all the editions from the last 7 days". The Archers is the only Radio 4 programme site that has not yet integrated the BBC Programmes pages, to which you refer here. That work is underway and I hope the forthcoming new site for The Archers will be an improvement in that regard.
    * The issue with "Home" links is one we've also discussed. Some colleagues are taking a look at that across all the radio websites and I think we'll see a better solution arriving sometime soon.
    Thanks again for your valuable feedback.
    Leigh Aspin Interactive Editor, Radio 4

  • Comment number 14.

    funny,i happened to complain about/suggest most of the changes you've made on one of the discussion boards only a couple of weeks ago. great to see the new look. makes much more sense. some comments:

    - don't you think the whole of top image should be clickable ? one has to move the cursor all over to see where the link is. surely you know surfers are lazy when it comes to such things. we see an image, we click on it. if not the image, then at least all of the text on the left should be clickable.

    - miss the carousel. it gave the page an art deco look. my suggestion is to round off corners of the photos under highlights.

    - the Archive list is much much better and useful. good stuff.

    - the discussions on the web adds to the site.but the headlines here need to be clearly separated though. looks like one paragraph.


  • Comment number 15.

    HUGE improvement to the R4 front page - particularly the static links to popular progs and the highlights links. I literally have hardly glanced at anything except the schedule for months because it was so irritating but at last I can click though to a number of programmes with ease. I haven't yet explored in depth but I gather those silly context links have gone - hoorah.

    Has the weekly schedule also disappeared? I'd stopped looking at it because of the infuriating time misalignment but it would be useful to have it in acceptable form.


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