beta.bbc.co.uk now live

Posted on March 16, 2010

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After yesterday’s blog post about Weekend Wogan, I’m feeling a little sheepish in this blog post. Sometimes coiincidence can be a deeply unnerving thing.

Less than 24 hours after I waxed lyrical about how important the main promo panel on the BBC homepage is, there’s an announcement about the newly designed Beta BBC Homepage.

Launched in a “ssssh, don’t let anyone know and we’ll make sure all is well” kind of way last week, but announced today on the BBC Internet Blog, the new beta version of the homepage represents the front end user experience of the massive behind the scenes development of a new platform.

Scary bears

That platform is big and it’s scary. I know this only because a number of people have suggested that the project I’m working on should be on that same platform. Five minutes in the company of one of the many highly-skilled drones who are developing on it led me to one conclusion. It is – at this present time – way too complicated for my brain to consider. It’s also inappropriate for us to move on to that platform. The development resource needed (not to mention the shift in production mindset) would bring on a number of serious heart conditions and I’ve got first dabs on the ambulance.

How websites have changed

One of the key reasons for this is that it demands a completely different way of looking at content. If you’re a non-webby type of person (or indeed a non-media kind of person), content is the rather dry term we give to the output.

Content used to mean the entire webpage. That’s when websites were simple. That’s when websites were built in an old school kind of way. Similar to crafting a boat with a hammer and chisel.

Now websites are striving to be feed driven. We think of content as snippets of information which are fed into a massive machine and spat out the other end. The Beta BBC Homepage represents the information spat out at the other end, only presented in a pretty way as opposed to a nasty heap of mess way.

I’m not a huge fan of the modular experience myself. When the option to move stuff around the BBC Homepage was introduced I liked it for its gimmicky value. But over the past few years I’ve taken to leaving the news and the iplayer modules in their default positions. Bizarrely I hardly ever look any further below the news and main promo area on the homepage.

Rounded corners

I have a personal problem with rounded corners and white and grey. But that is largely because I’m a snob. I want straight lines, sharp fonts. Rounded corners just make me feel as though you’re being overly friendly, as though you’re trying to compensate for something. I want class. I want aspiration. I want to feel like I’m coming to people who have a certain regard for themselves. That is, of course, a personal view.

On the Beta homepage I miss the top panel as it was presented in the standard homepage. I’m not entirely sure whether the stretchy promo area works yet. Perhaps needs a bit of work. It is a beta page, after all. But it feels as though whilst there might be more room given over across the whole width of the page to a main promo, the drop in height of that area makes promoing stuff less important. It’s one view …

It’s not all doom and gloom and grounds for a firing

What’s impressive however (see? it’s not all bad news), is the topic tracker. Here the thinking is sound and the service executed well. The thinking is, the BBC website is so massive that you’re going to want to be alerted to what’s been updated on your favourite subjects. The image to the left outlines the predictable topics I’ve already entered in to the topic tracker box.

I’ll confess one other thing however. In terms of user paths, I ended up going back to the BBC Internet Blog post to understand how the page had changed and what new features there were. This might mean that the potentially brilliant convergence illustrated in the Topic Tracker is lost because of a busy page.

Of course, all of this may be a rotten thing to read given the title of the blog and the relative newness of the announcement on the BBC Internet Blog.

Anyone who doesn’t quite get the idea behind this blog might want to read this and bear in mind that I strive to be lovely at all times.

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Posted in: Internet