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New year, new look for BBC 2012 online

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Roger Mosey | 08:00 UK time, Tuesday, 17 January 2012

For the latest in our occasional series of guest blogs, here's the man without whom the BBC 2012 site wouldn't be what it is. Mark Coyle, who runs our 2012 online operation, explains what's changing about it as we get closer to the year's big events.

Out with the old and in with the new - welcome to the new-look BBC 2012 site.

Our site launched in July 2010 with the purpose of showcasing the BBC's online, television and radio content arising from the London Olympic and Paralympic Games.

We've tweaked a few things since then but now, with the arrival of 2012 and the pace increasing by the day, we're going for the line with a bold new design.

The main section is made up of three rotating panels in which we'll highlight a wide range of items drawn from right across the BBC.

That means news, sport, drama, arts, culture, comedy, will all find its way onto the site. You might come looking for a story about the Olympic torch relay and be hooked by one of the plays being produced as part of the BBC's Shakespeare season.

It doesn't stop there. Our colleagues in Children's, in the World Service, on the Proms, on Radio 1's big Hackney weekend and a whole lot more, are all working on content and programmes that will be highlighted on BBC 2012.

We had a lively discussion about how to summarise 2012 in just a few words. After a while, we settled on "One extraordinary year" because that's what it is, regardless of whether or not you think it's "extraordinary" for positive or negative reasons.

Those words will appear on the site as our strapline in a couple of weeks' time, along with one or two other small changes. We think they catch the spirit of 2012 - if you agree or see it differently, feel free to comment below.

Screen grab of new BBC 2012 portal

The main content area uses three rotating panels and has different layouts

Sticking with the rotating area of the site, this is where the big moments will be played out. We have the option to change the layout of the first panel you see when you arrive on the site, in order to give greater prominence to a significant news story or another major piece of content.

Our special feature about the Olympic Route Network and the human stories behind it is a good example of what we mean by the Olympics being about a whole lot more than sport and we've presented it in a layout which is one rung above the standard one.

We have one more layout on top of that which we'll keep for the really big occasions such as the ceremonies, the blue riband sporting finals, a major music festival or a really important news item.

Below this area you'll find a variety of content. It's worth flagging up the area to the bottom right in which we'll put links to other websites' 2012-related coverage.

We want our site to be a place where we can tell as much of the 2012 story as possible. The BBC has a growing breadth of output but it can't - and shouldn't - be doing everything.

Other broadcasters and newspapers are producing some really great material and this area allows us to select solid and significant items with each of the links clearly attributed to the source.

We have some more changes in store as we head towards the Games themselves.

Between now and then, we'll have a section dedicated to the BBC's London 2012 Festival offering. It'll draw together the swathe of activity across our television, radio and online output in the form of live coverage, video and audio clips, background stories, some great still pictures and cast interviews.

We're working with our colleagues on the BBC's Things to Do website to help assemble activities related to our broadcasts that are local to you and in which you can participate.

And that word, "participate" is very much something we think millions will want to do when the Olympic Torch Relay gets under way at Land's End on 19 May.

Our site will show you the way to our innovative live and on demand coverage right across the 70 days of the relay as it winds its way around the UK, to Ireland and the Channel Islands, before ending in the Olympic Stadium on 27 July.

Alongside our London 2012 Festival and torch relay coverage, we'll be providing you with tailored information from the BBC Weather Centre and our travel experts.

"Do I need sun screen or an umbrella today?" We hope our site will help you to answer that question, as well as giving you a snapshot of travel conditions around the Olympic venues.

And of course, you'll want information about the torch relay while you're on the move so we're working on mobile optimised versions of those pages.

A version of BBC 2012 for mobiles will be also available.

It really is "One extraordinary year". As always, let us know what you think.


  • Comment number 1.

    Roger/Mark - as I commented on Twitter last night, whilst I think that the panels are innovative, I think it actually makes things harder to find. On the old "2012" site, I knew exactly where I needed to, to find news content, video content or comment from external sources. Now, with the rotating panels, it's all merged together in one 'big heap'.

    I'm sure that is so that readers (like me) stumble across something that we weren't looking for, but in the traditional "if it ain't broke, why fix it", why make a change which takes the BBC away from the clean lines that we are used to?

    That said, I can't imagine that any of the comments on here will lead to real change on the revamped site, so is it a case of "learn to love the bomb"?

  • Comment number 2.

    Tend to agree with 1 this is glitzy but rather messy and not intuitive to use.

  • Comment number 3.

    As I commented when the main BBC home page was changed to this stupid "rotating panel", it's a triumph of fashion over usability.
    It might work fine (and I bet it does) on an iPad - so use this sort of thing for the BBC Mobile site.
    For people using a PC and a mouse, it's irritating and counter-intuitive.
    Grow up.

  • Comment number 4.

    If that link at the top is what it's going to be like, I'm going to find a new home page. It's messy above all. As the first commenter said "if it ain't broke don't fix it".
    (Additionally I don't care if the Olympics submerge without trace.)

  • Comment number 5.

    Have to say its horrible. Why try and be clever? It doesn't work. A website should be simple and easy to navigate, this isn't.

  • Comment number 6.

    Would agree with post 1.

    Even for those of us who are genuinely interested in the sport that will be going on, I won't be wasting my time faffing - trying to scroll through rotating panels in order to find the top stories. I'll be ignoring this page just as I ignore the new homepage by clicking on the tabs at the top.

  • Comment number 7.

    Tragic roundabout strikes again. It's totally unsuitable for Desktops.

    Have the BBC thrown away every scroll mouse in the building?

  • Comment number 8.

    I am only 60 but this is too confusing for me. I have moved my home page away from the BBC home page

  • Comment number 9.

    Well, BBC it looks like you have loads of people that love this page doesn't it? Although you are never going to change what you have done to the page, so why bother even asking, I will add my comment.

    It's awful, I want clean lines from the BBC. Not one big mess of content so I can't find the things I am interested in. So, bloody annoying. Why can't we stick to something that is both functional and easier to use? I'm not bothered about most of the stories that you are trying to get me to read and therefore I won't be reading them. You better no make any of your other sites like this. Especially the sport.

  • Comment number 10.

    Took a look at this becuase I thought the comments on here must be from a load of grumpy old whatsits, but do you know what? They are right! It's awful.

  • Comment number 11.

    That went well then didn't it........ :-)

    Agree with all the above looked at it for about twenty seconds and then gave up (more than twice the time most people will of course) not only that but it does not even look like the picture above on the mainstream browser I am using. .

    Very few marks out of ten for this poor effort.


  • Comment number 12.

    Over all I like the new layout, although I have one major gripe and thats the best bit on the old front page was the wier and wonderful section of news that used to lighten up my lunch break now thats gone it takes twice as long to find weird and wonderful news items by trawling the news page.
    The advantage of the old homepage you could see the areas you wanted and not others, make it customisable and the above complaints would disappear.

  • Comment number 13.

    this isn't going to be a popular post but...I Like it!
    Ok it takes a little longer to find something I am actually looking for but before that I have found 1 or 2, articles that have caught my eye. It's young and fresh and to be fair the BBC site on the whole needed a good shake was far too outdated, now it's catching up with other main news/general interest sites!

    Good Move BBC...for once a comment on a blog..that won;t complain because you have done a good job!

  • Comment number 14.

    Do you plan to use this solely as a portal page to content held elsewhere in bbc websites, eg. News.

    Or do you plan to have a second level template for specific '2012 only' content?

    It works pretty well as a portal page but the only way back to it is to use the 'back' button and I think that goes against web design best practice.

  • Comment number 15.

    Well I haven't been back to the homepage since it changed and it looks like I won't be going to the Olympic page either.
    A fussy mess, style over substance or a whole host of other well-worn phrases that would fit.

  • Comment number 16.

    The sliding thing on the top is OK for a highlights idea. However, if the bottom half was clearer. On the old site, I knew where to find blogs, I knew how to find news. Now I just don't, it's all over the place. The amount of links to video has decreased which is odd. So keep the sliding thing, but restructure the area below it to how it used to be.

  • Comment number 17.

    Whatever you do, don’t forget those of us who are either blind or partially sighted.

    Increasing the video content may suit more people but we are just as interested as everyone else and want easy access to the news stories.
    I can not see your intentions but if it requires sight to find your way about it may not be possible for me and others like me to use the service.
    Please take note.

  • Comment number 18.

    Looking at the site today it does appear to have been improved since yesterday in terms of the layout of some of the content on the carousel, or maybe it's just the removal of that hideous blue graphic. I can't help thinking that the 'Around the' section would look better if in that section there were three columns instead of two very wide ones. The new site feels as if it's lacking in content compared to the old one though.

  • Comment number 19.

    Well that's just done it for me....I'll now use another site for my Olympic news, not

  • Comment number 20.

    Hi. I am trying a comment here as all previous emails to Auntie have had no response. I have for years used the Gardener's desktop calendar.Not any more, as the "NEW LOOK" website has frozen in time at December 2011. Apart from my irritation it is a poor image for the BBC to invite users to download the latest calendar, only to find it is for last year. With less than half of January left I am just beginning to despair. Anyone there?

  • Comment number 21.

    Thanks for the feedback. Mark and the team will look at some of the specific points raised; and whether you like or hate the new design - we hope the content is what will bring people in during 2012.

  • Comment number 22.

    Here we go again. As if the Hollyoaks Homepage were not enough this nonsensical design format is devouring the BBC online presence like a digital cancer. I'm sure you don't really want critical comments so I will only say what so many have said before - the design is a triumph of dubious style over proven content; the 'rotating panel' simply does not work very well on a desktop and it is often difficult to actually get to the content one wants. Customisation is also not part of the BBC agenda. All of these things make the pages designed this way not at all user friendly. Already moved my homepage and will look for Olympic content elsewhere as well. I am not alone in this and the BBC online presence is rapidly becoming an irrelevance.

  • Comment number 23.

    @Roger in #21: yes, the content brings us here, but we've got to be able to find the content on the page to read it. Currently, that's quite hard with the "new look".

  • Comment number 24.

    Given the horrendous reaction to the main BBC site redesign, what on Earth possessed you to use that same design on the 2012 site? This is the same confused mess as the main site.

  • Comment number 25.

    @21 Roger

    I think you have missed the point completely.

    If the design is liked or not is irrelevant if the site is not functionally clear and easy to use. Will "Mark and the Team" actually be using their creation on a daily basis?

    I doubt it...

    Take care


  • Comment number 26.

    These responses from Mark Coyle:

    @brownjar We never had a "weird and wonderful news" section on

    @Andrew Yes, this is a portal only. Content is created across and manually placed on the portal. Without it, there wouldn't be one single place where you'd see everything we're doing about the Olympics and all things 2012. I agree with your comment about the back button and we continue to look at this. Where possible, we're inserting text or graphical links back to the portal in every relevant item of content. Providing the user sees the link, they can navigate back in this way.

    @gdodds You're right, the number of video clips in our "Watch and listen" strip was limited to six for launch. This will be increased in our next release before the end of January which contains a couple of other changes to the site.

    @Exposurecontrol A good point well made. We're subject to the same accessibility rules as every other part of the BBC's online output and will continue to bear blind and partially sighted users in mind to help them get the best out of the Olympics and all of our 2012 content.

    @Keith I agree that the blue road sign dominated the first screen for part of Tuesday. We're constantly updating the site, which is why it's no longer there. My team and I are learning new and more effective ways of positioning and grouping content, assisted of course by people's feedback. Have you had a sneak peek at our future designs? We do indeed plan to add a third column, which will contain weather and travel for the Olympic torch relay and later, the Games themselves.

  • Comment number 27.

    OK, I'm confused, i this already launched? I don't see any difference, the website id the same as it was. Somethin like the picture I see here I don't have when I click on the link.
    Have you taken the new site offline again or is it only being released in the UK at the moment? I am in Germany...
    Personally I still miss the old site where I could tailor it to my preferences...

  • Comment number 28.

    Personally, I don't like the new look as much. As has been pointed out here and on the posts concerning the main Homepage launch, the new design is difficult to use for computer users and frequently hides content that is too difficult to scroll through.

    However, on a different point, the heading at the top of the page. Firstly, will the 2012 portal be added to the 'More' section throughout the site once the games gets closer (eradicating the constant need of a back button) and secondly, is this new white taskbar going to be rolled out throughout the site?

  • Comment number 29.

    One nice improvement on this carousel is that you can use the keyboard arrow keys to scroll, compared to on the main home page. I'm not sure if I prefer the page numbers to square blocks though.

    @28: It would appear the new master head is planned to be rolled out, looks like it's version 3.5. Interestingly it can also be black and (semi) transparent, with variations changing to a white background on mouseover.

  • Comment number 30.

    @Adam in Dresden If you're outside the UK you won't see the site. You'll be taken to the BBC Sport site, where some of the content on our site will appear from mid-February.

    @rafmarham We're going to add a "London 2012" link to the global toolbar which appears along the top of every page on This should happen next month.

    @Keith Our release before the end of January will add the blocks to the pagination.

  • Comment number 31.

    Oh dear, when will the BBC learn that we don't like the 'tragic roundabout' [carousel].

  • Comment number 32.

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

  • Comment number 33.

    I really find this new template absolutely unusable. I will find elsewhere for 2012 content. It is very sad. The style makes finding content unappealing. Content is presented as large pictures in a messy structure making a quick look overview impossible. The page moves constantly, either due to the carousel twitch, or drop down appearance/disappearance and colour changes, making reading almost impossible. It is like trying to read a book on a North Sea ferry. And strangest of all, the new style reduces the amount of content visible at first land. Click throughs are required even to find the main stories. As with the Homepage, the designers have apparently forgotten that reading requires the text to be static. Also there needs to be content visible to make visiting a site worthwhile. This design template reduces the amount of visible content on a the page. I do not get why you are spreading such poor design, low functionality and lack of content across the BBC websites.

  • Comment number 34.

    Got to say I don't like this either. The central rotating Panel is awkward, oversized and messily overpopulated, and it means that you don't see all the top stories at once on the main portal, but have to rotate through to see them.

    I trust that this is experimentatl and isn;t intended to be a preview of the format of BBC Sport (or the BBC Website more widely) in future, as it is definitely a real off-putter.

    Like many traditional users I like to be able to see my page laid out in order of priority from the top down, rather than from side to side (something that is also annoying about the BBC Sport homepage, in that the audio-visual and feature stuff takes up far too much room top right for my liking), and with distictive lines between items.


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