BBC Homepage Redesign – It’s Night and Day!

One of the things I love about my job, both as a marketer and designer, is that I get sent little sneak previews of websites being made. One which I’ve kept my eye on recently has been the BBC homepage makeover, they are moving from what can only be described as dull and boring to a bright, lively and interactive website. The new homepage is now in Public Beta (almost ready for the masses) so I thought it was time to give my views on the website redesign.
You can view the Beta homepage by visiting

Here’s what the new page looks like, compare it to the current (if you wish)

BBC website redesign 2011

So lets take a look at what is in this redesigned BBC website.

Making the BBC Local to You

The first thing to note of change is below the global navigation (at the top of all bbc pages) you will see the clock and your location (as always this is still manually set), along with the date. Look to the right of this and you’ll see the weather for this location. Thumbs up so far, its nice and local. But wait that isn’t all. Local to You means that local news stories will be fed into this page, weather forecasts (as already said), local TV listings where separate from national listings and a whole lot more is promised yet. According to one insider Local to You will be an idea rolled out across much of the BBC real estate.

BBC are getting Interactive

Something the bbc have done over the years is slowly integrate more and more interactivity. We see it in the old homepage with just the one short shift slider, on the news website there are a few horizontal scroller’s, some nice graphics and lots of use of video – indeed it is fair to say the BBC in the uk pioneered online video for TV. Looking below the local bar you will see a nice big section with news boxes and it scrolls from left to right with lots more news, videos, iplayer links – it is being touted as BBC online today, but its more of a mash up of the BBC. It seems a little clunky and confusing at first but after a moment it’s easy to navigate. I’ve not seen it on a wide screen as yet so how it looks there I am not sure, but on this 1024 today it looks smashing. I have noted a few oddities when loaded in IE, but these will be ironed out before the official release I am assured. And the dark bar below is your quick slide guide for this section.

Lets do the Slide

The BBC have gone all out with this love of interaction. In the bottom half of the page by default are 3 distinct sections, but click the arrow and they slide across to give a fuller view of their content, and then a little more. This means more content for your buck and there are filters around to make life easier. This really is a charming little addition and bit of loveliness, but it does have some sticking points – this isn’t as intuitive to use as you may think. At first its confusing and then remains so until you fumble to find what you are looking for. The bbc iPlayer page is a little nicer in doing this kind of job, its where the homepage has taken lead from but unfortunately hasn’t attained the glory.

Anything else?

Well being a geek, I took a look at the code. It’s not pretty and certainly not short hand, but it works. This said the page loads pretty damn quick, especially when you consider how many DNS calls are being made as all the images are loaded, all the css files (yes there are a fair few) and all the javascript files too (even more of these). All in all the code isn’t the best. But this is the BBC and this is innovation. I actually would have cringed if it was really tidy, simply it doesn’t need to be. But whether it needs all these calls to files for css and js I am unsure, I would aim to consolidate them on launch (as I am sure will be done).

In Conclusion, the new bbc website is fantastic and I suspect if they added a little more to the search functionality (i.e use google or bing to allow external searches) then this site could easily become my new homepage. Yes, I like the Google doodles, but I’d much prefer this (sorry Google), and I don’t think I am alone in saying that. So finally, well done to the BBC, when launched this will be the redesign of the year (almost unquestionably), really well done.

31 Comments on “BBC Homepage Redesign – It’s Night and Day!”

  1. “In Conclusion, the new bbc website is fantastic”…??? You’re having a laugh aren’t you. The old homepage was one of the best pages on the Web. This new thing is awful.  Look at the comments here 
    It wasn’t broken it didn’t need fixing.

    1. Hi Mark, thanks for your comment.
      I stick by my view of it is great and it is the redesign of the year.

      The comments on that blog are nothing compared to the wrath facebook recieves for changes, just because it looks different apparently its creepy and bad.

      If you can Mark can you tell me what you specifically dislike about the new site and why? What specific part of the homepage do you think is badly designed or doesn’t work as it should?

      Look forward to your reply.

      1. What do I not like?  I liked what you dismissed as ‘boring and cluttered’.  It was possible to choose which elements appeared and stories were presented clearly and concisely.  It was not necessary to wobble a carousel and wonder which pane it would be on.
        I liked being able to get rid of football – which now dominates the sport related parts of the top half of the new homepage.  I dislike 7 of the 8/9 sport slots regularly showing football.

        I liked customising location for weather and then being able to choose stories from a different part of the UK.  Because I live in one location does not mean that this is the location of most interest.  My sports team of interest is not local to where I live.

        I dislike the animation – which I think is a better term than interactivity.  I do not call various panes/popups appearing on a mouse click as interactive use.

        I dislike the way I cannot use my horizontal scroll mouse wheel to move to a different pane of the carousel.

        I dislike the non standard popup windows on the page that do not allow the keyboard to be used to select items.  (Actually – you can use the keyboard, just about, but it is very long winded.  btw: using a keyboard only is a BBC accessibility requirement.)

        I HATE being told what is MOST POPULAR if for no other reason than I might want to watch 1 in 20 of the suggestions.

        I dislike the fact that I would prefer to see LISTENED but it keeps reverting to WATCHED.

        I dislike the fact that I choose NEWS&SPORT but if you select a story and return it always comes back to ‘BBC ONLINE TODAY’.

        Having EXPLORE is fine – but on the HOMEPAGE?  Where you want to use the real estate to show things of daily, immediate, value?

        1. SD some good points you make, but let me address just a few of them… as ive answered a few in other comments.
          If you read the BBC blog on this you will note (as ive said a few times) customisation is coming back. As is localisation and also “recognition” – aka if you select sport on the carousel or listened on the page then go off somewhere and comeback to the page it will still be on those and not the default.

          You say you dislike the “animation”of the panes / popups … what popups, there are no popups… :S — in terms of the pane slider they are fairly common across the web and whilst the small internal panes need tidying and organising a little better it does seem to work well as a “window into the bbc”.

          Finally you imply throughout “what was the aim of the redesign” and you say it should be to make the most of the real estate. I agree and I feel they have done well at this. The aim (which was set out from consumer feedback in january) was to create a window into the bbc, showcasing more of the bbc’s production and media than ever before, whilst balancing this with news and localisation.

          If you want to find out more about why they made the changes they have in the new design, check out this page – it also tells you what counts as most popular.

          1. POPUPS: the list of BBC tv channels (and NOW/EVENING) the list of Radio channels (ditto).  Looks like a list to me… therefore use the cursor keys to select, but no: the whole page moves.
            I have read all the blog entries since the homepage entered beta.

            You are right “The aim… to create a window into the bbc, showcasing more of the bbc’s production and media than ever before, whilst balancing this with news and localisation. ” IF you drop the last clause.  Balanced it is not.

          2. a popup is something that comes out of the page, such as images on facebook or adverts that appear in new windows, not content which slides to allow more space. by that thought you are also saying that when you say click sport below the top slider that you are met with a pop up …. you are not… this is not a pop up.

  2. The new site has prompted nearly 1000 complaints on the blog site in just a couple of days. The main points of contention are the lack of customisation options, inability to filter out stuff which is of no interest, stuff you are interested buried deep in the site, or removed altogether, and poor touchscreen style interface. The site has certainly been dumbed down with an emphasis on iplayer and televisual content. It seems quite telling that the only positive comments I have seen appear to be from those involved in the project, and those who barely used the old site.

    1. I’d like to make clear, I have nothing to do with the project at all.
      1000 complaints, but how many have used it an not complained?

      The new design is just that, new. It will I am sure go through numerous iterations just as the old homepage did, it changed a lot in the time it was live. The new interface is interesting, it does bury some stuff and doesn’t allow much filtering, currently, that we agree. But the BBC work on feedback so I’ve no doubt the page will expand downwards to cater for many of the complains making things accessible again in an easier fashion.

      I suspect the point of the design is that you don’t need to scroll down, everything is there in the one interface – which I like the idea of.

      The reason for iPlayer loving is that it costs a lot to run, programmes are the main reason the BBC get funding and the more eyes on this content and news content the less likely they are to get even more cuts. If figures fall through the floor there will be even bigger cuts, and eventually we’d see the end of the BBC as we know it. There other content is still there on the site and not as buried as you would claim. use the top navigation or explore in the bottom right – or if you are looking for something specific hit search. The site is very user friendly.

      I still don’t know what this distaste for the new design is about.

      1. “I suspect the point of the design is that you don’t need to scroll down, everything is there in the one interface – which I like the idea of.” Are you serious? Ever done any usability testing or the like? Scrolling is native to your browser, your mouse (-wheel) and keyboard (arrow-keys and Page up/down) make perfect use of it, now you’ve got to physically move your mouse pointer to a relatively small predefined area and click on it to see more content => more effort to get what you want = bad design.

        1. Accessibility is an issue with the new design at least from the testing I have done (most of which was when it was in beta). Unfortunately I think the BBC have fallen into a trap of being to “device” centric. They have gone down the tablet + 1 screen rule, which works fine for other sites but seems to let the bbc down somewhat. I do like the idea of never having to scroll and having everything within an easy to use and accessible interface – and as I just said I think this isn’t accessible enough. I am told (though haven’t yet tested) there are some common command keys which allow those with disabilities to scroll left and right also (fairly common need on the web) and I have also been informed that there is separate styling for accessible (and older) browsers such that the site is accessible. Though I think they need to do a little more for those using normal browsers who may use the keys as you do….. No design is perfect, but that doesnt make it a bad design

          1. not really addressing my point, my point isn’t just about accessibility, I’m using computers for almost 20 years now, have seen many significant changes in these 20 years, most but not all for the better. I’m proficient in using computers very efficiently and effectively and even have built complex websites myself.
            My point is, I’m used to using my mousewheel, the arrow keys and page up/down for scrolling down/up but now this doesn’t work any more. It takes me now more time to get where and what I want.

            Here are some other points I disagree with you:

            “but the point of this page is to take the user to where they want to go.”

            the page’s intention is the exact opposite, they want you to find out about content that you never knew even existed.

            “When you customised it, did you stay on that page for long? probably
            not, you clicked a headline and then moved to a different “property”.
            This page has been designed to make that easier”

            Not really. While previously I saw the headlines from all the sections I was interested in one screen (UK news, local news, business news, science), I now need to click multiple times to get an overview of what’s happened in these sections.

            Even more, I now have to open the stories in tabs so that I don’t lose the current view. Previously I could open them in the same tab/window and return to the bbc homepage using the back-button/-key, if I do this now the view is set to the beginning and I have to click through it again.

            These are some major usability issues, not just accessibility, and should’ve been ironed out before launching it full scale.

          2. How websites are used changes, as does the technology they are viewed on. As Connaire says in another comment this design is highly tablet focused, and “above the fold” focused. This kind of design has its place and I do like it, but I also agree there may have been better choices for the BBC to use.
            In terms of customisation, I wish that the bbc would carry customisation through all properties, put in your location on the hompage at any point in time in the last few years and go to the weather page and it isn’t there. One thing that has been good to hear in the rumour mill and I believe to be true is that they are finally sorting a real login system across the website (not just for comments or storing iplayer programs) which would be of great help. In addition to this I have heard they are fianlly going to IP sniff location data (something many sites already do) such that the customisation is not so necessary and also such that would open the door to the kind of thing you have refered to about localising certain properties within the homepage… I dare say this will come more with the sign-in and allowing total custom settings to be saved in a database and not on a cookie… but we will wait and see.

  3. Come on, get real.  The new bbc homepage is rubbish and you are being seduced by the look, I sure don’t know why.  The so called showpiece carousel is chaotic, random and looks the mess it is. There is no order, just disorder. The symbols, images and text, everything about it is poor.  The carousel header is below rather than above. There is too much white. You are being taken in by the look and not checking on the detail and obviously don’t use the bbc that much.  As a regular daily user for years now I can vouch for the fact that I am most certainly not against change – this wasn’t change, it was a complete make-over. And in the process they wiped out around a million users homepage customisation overnight. Dumbing down this most certainly was in a drive to push users to try and increase viewing of many second rate shows.  Horrible.

    1. Thanks for your comment.
      I would like to firstly say that I use 3 BBC properties each day (homepage, news and iplayer). I find the news clumsy and cluttered at the best of times, the iplayer is quite boring and if it were a person it would be a man crying. The homepage used to be the same, it offered too much in such little space, it was cluttered and boring. The new homepage is really nice, its not cluttered and its quite easy to use for the most part. Parts need fine tuning but as with any big name website update that would be the case. When Facebook updates everyone screams , it makes tweaks and all are happy – and the same with Google. The BBC will iterate the design process making what appear better and better. This is a change for the good and you say you are all for change. It will take a few weeks but your customisations will come back… I suspect the reason they removed them is because half of them would not be used in the new version and also the fact they can now store that data in much better and easier ways. Another issue they are looking to circumvent is “cookie tracking” which the EU now say needs permission, so they are being very careful about that.

      A push to make people view second rate programs… not everyone has the same viewpoint as you… I like dr who you may not, I like bbc 4 music sessions you may not. What the BBC are doing is making iPlayer and the content they produce more easily available for longer, this means that us the taxpayer who fund the BBC get more for our money. This is not about dumbing down it is about making the website easier to use and more accessible – whilst also making it easier to use on tablet computers and mobiles.

      1. Andy, You seem to have an answer for everything, even more than the beeb, who really haven’t addressed any of the issues, so credit to you for that. But, FYI I completely disagree with you and do not accept other than a very few of your responses, in particular it being a minority issue – unless of course we are all to believe that the majority of site users are dumb and possibly even stupid.  But, hey we all have our own opinions!

        1. Change is always going to adversely effect groups of people online, particularly on a large website such as the BBC. I am not saying whether this group is large or small, the majority or minority. What I am saying is that 2000 comments is a tiny sample of the homepage audience of the BBC.
          If you take those comments there are maybe 5 to 10 problems to be addressed, the main ones being accessibility, finding content and customisation. These are all things which we are told will be addressed in the near future along with other points that have been made.

          No design is perfect on launch it is only through iteration it will improve. This design is huge improvement on many fronts from the last design in my eyes, it makes production content more easily accessible in terms of finding things… however it does suffer from other problems such as localisation and “stickyness” of tabs being none existent.

          Everything can be improved by feedback and iteration, if the bbc were not going to listen they wouldnt have a) allowed comments on the blog or b) have a page asking for your feedback (and I advise everyone who has commented here to give the feedback here also )

  4. “The homepage used to be the same, it offered too much in such little space, it was cluttered and boring. The new homepage is really nice, its not cluttered and its quite easy to use for the most part. “You have to be joking! One of the main advantages of the old BBC homepage was the ability to remove items that were of no interest to the the user. It was possible to set it up to get truly local content in the news, weather, sport  and TV listings sections. Having removed unwanted elements it was far from cluttered, everything that users wanted was there and nothing unwanted was seen.  With the new page that is not possible. I found that on my notebook I have to do much more scrolling than before and frankly the whole thing is a mess. The fact that almost 2000 people have posted to blogs and the overwhelming majority think the new homepage is a disaster says it all. Oh it’s night and day alright and hopefully before long morning will come.

    1. Taking these points in order…
      Ok it is less customisable than previously, but the point of this page is to take the user to where they want to go. When you customised it, did you stay on that page for long? probably not, you clicked a headline and then moved to a different “property”. This page has been designed to make that easier.

      You want to localise your page, click the name of the city next to the clock punch in your city name or postcode and it will become local. local weather, local news etc and once other parts of the site get updated (eg travel) this too will appear here.

      If you read the comments in the blog from the “admin’s” you will note that they are working to fix the localised issues and also selection issues. I suspect within a few weeks it will be sticky to what you say, so if you live in manchester and click entertainment go to another site and come back it will be the same (and not reset). This is a bug they’ve said they will fix.

      You say 2000 people cannot be wrong, and that they are the overwhelming majority, but hang on do you think the bbc homepage only get 3000 visitors ? really? 2000 people can have a valid point, and the admins have said they will fix various issues, but 2000 people are not the majority of visitors. They are likely the edge cases.

      Things will improve as more iterations roll out for you, and everyone. The first time any new design rolls out on a huge site (bbc, facebook, twitter etc) there is always problems, not least because other parts of the site need to catch up and also because if its a heavily used website you can’t roll out full functionality to everyone, that comes over time. Check facebooks history of roll-outs and you will see what i mean

      1. No… this new home page is designed to take you to where the BBC want you to go.  That is clear from their objectives for the home page.  There are hints of customisation “at some [undetermined, not promised] future time.  There has never in the blog been any hint that major elements can be removed so ENTERTAINMENT, SPORT, etc are always likely to be present whether the user wants them or not.
        Local… NO.  Each element that can be localised might need separate localisation.  My football team is nowhere near where I live.  I might be accessing from a work location but want information from elsewhere.

        ‘edge’ cases: what does that make the handful who have posted in support… it is common for there to be more negative comments than positive but this scale is not just an isolated bunch.  If a complaints department received this number of negative letters they would scale up not imply that the silent majority were of a different point of view.

        1. Ok … you say live in london and support man city, you are likely to want to know the weather and news around you rather than in manchester. The bbc as with most websites will prefer to tell you about where you are because thats what most users will want. … that is why location driven websites and applications are such big business.
          Ok so by that rule of edge case you give that means most people don’t give a damn and are happy to just use it. Which actually means they are fine with it and dont have issues… which means the design is a success…

          1. for a person getting so high on his horse I have to say SD that your email shouts spam and “I am out to be a pain in the backside…” your email includes general-bbc … are you pretending to be someone you are not ? oh dear

          2. Pretending… no… using a disposable email address so that I know it is linked to use of the BBC.  IF spam ever arrives through this email address then I know it came from my use of a bbc related site.
            “high on his horse” – should I respond?  Probably not.  “pain in the backside” – do you always take that line when someone disagrees with you?  “oh dear” – implies you have jumped to a conclusion on incomplete evidence and ended up in a wrong place.  Never mind, everyone can continue to learn.

          3. disposable emails are normally used by spammers and spambots, not my the average user. by creating such an account you are setting yourself up to appear like a spammer or someone out to make trouble around a givn subject and therefore your comments (at least to me) loose a fair ammount of credibility. Just as i dont accept comments where it is clear the email is fake or they are just writing a comment for a link I wont accept them because they to me are spam.
            I take no attitude with anyone over their views, we are each entitled to them and have them. And the “OH Dear” actually refers to your attitude because you just seem so much of the attitude “I am correct and no one else is” … if you think I have an issue with you having your view and not letting you have your sy please do explain why I have accepted your comments and others on here if not for discussion.

            I must also at this point ask how many bbc “related” websites you use, and what exactly you mean related? Forums on other sites, other blogs? I certainly don’t think this website is bbc related, ok the blog post maybe but the site isn’t… can I ask why you feel the need to have a disposable email and not simply use your own “real” email … if you are that scared of spam maybe you should try GMail which has a great spam filter.

  5. The design may well have been fine on another site but it does not do what the userbase wanted it to the vast majority of the userbase wanted it to.
    So whilst the design is fine for people who are self confessed tech geeks and looks fresher than the last site, it’s harder to use for non-web-savvy types, doesn’t display as much information and is no longer customiseable.

    So before dismissing the massive amount of negative feedback, please read some of it. It was dismissing people’s feedback as just “not liking change” that got the BBC into this mess in the first place.

    1. I addressed the point you mention about the design being fine for other sites in a previous comment. Though I must ask how do you know what the vast majority want/ed? the negative feedback as I have said a few times is just a tiny proportion of the number of daily visitors to the BBC homepage. Negative feedback is being taken back into the system to fix things and change things for the better (hence the admin’s replying on there to address yours and others needs).
      Contrary to your point there is arguably more content on the new design when you take into account the scrolling. I admit it needs tidying up and what not but there is more there. As I mentioned in another comment customisation is coming back, particularly in localisation terms, when this will be is anyone’s guess, but an admin reply on their blog says these features will be added.

  6. Problem with the site is that looks more touch/tablet focused than desktop, which is fine but not sure it has the balance right quite yet. Also looks a tad out of sync with the rest of the site

    1. The rest of the site is to be updated inline with the homepage, the news has been done previously, but other local pages and iplayer are still too come. I agree it is focused too much on tablet interface design, but I also think it looks quite good on most desktops. It needs a little work to tidy things up, make it more customisable and accessible – but these are all things that the BBC have said it will adress shortly.

  7. No-one likes it, read the BBC blogs if you don’t believe me. It is not intuitive at all and the colour-scheme is vomit-inducing. You have replaced an exeplary website with a piece of rubbish that has no recognisable structure and people do not visit the webste anymore. Sorry to be so blunt, but I do not understand why you would even admit to being the creator of this monstrosity.

    1. I am not the designer of the BBC website let me make that clear, as i have previously. also we’ve been through the “read the blog post” – as you will know from all the comments above. you as all of them are welcome to your opinion but my remains I like the new design.

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