Posted by: Affiniti Digital Media | September 27, 2011

BBC refreshes its website homepage – what do you think?

You may have seen that last week the BBC launched a beta (i.e. test) version of its refreshed website homepage. They’re now looking for feedback from their website users which includes us and probably includes you.  You might ask yourself why they would want to do this when the current homepage doesn’t really need fixing. Surely changing this is to expose themselves to a massive downside? What is there to gain? To put the scale of this risk/opportunity into perspective conside the fact that the BBC website has a global rank of number 40 – and it’s number 5 in the UK. They could alienate a considerable number of people if they get it wrong.

Of course the process of making a beta version available is to get feedback so that they can refine the design before the change becomes permanent. When the current design (launched 2008) was in beta testing there was a hullabaloo generated because the design did not incorporate the iconic BBC clock – it was later reinstated! It shows that people generally hate change. This new homepage makes you realise that previous designs were relatively incremental. This new design is a significant departure and so it is likely to drum up a lot of controversy. So what’s it look like?

BBC's Beta Homepage

BBC's proposed refreshed website homepage

The change to the design is driven by a stategic imperitive that recognises that the BBC online budget is being cut (from £135m to £100m p.a.), that people are accessing BBC content from multiple platforms (PC, mobile, tablet and connected TV), and that they need to provide a way of making it easier to find and access the massive amount of content that is available on their website. The BBC call this homepage strategy “one service, ten products, four screens”.

So in practical terms how has the BBC gone about redesigning their homepage? They’ve used web analytics data to understand how the homepage is used by visitors – for instance where they navigate to. It’s also given them insights into the demographics of users versus the site as a whole. The use of research groups has indicated that the current page is not sufficiently distinctive (but does it need to be?). And apparently users want filters rather than the ability to customise the look and functionality of the page. As a consequence they have gone for ” showing less of more”.

The current homepage is, apparently, more “male, ABC1” orientated. There’s no doubt that the new homepage moves towards a broader demographic. And as this seems to be the BBC’s aim then it could well be considered a success. There will be many who will dislike this transition enormously and the comments are coming thick and fast. You can add your weight by tweeting with the hashtag #bbchomepage, by commenting on the BBC website or filling in their online survey.



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