19
Jul
10

BBC site redesign prioritises ‘social sharing’

What’s a web user to do?

There you are, logging on to your favourite news website for your daily intake of current affairs, when suddenly, you find yourself in an unfamiliar land, desperately searching for the security of your familiar tabs.

Am I being overly dramatic? Maybe – but you wouldn’t think it reading the reactions to the BBC’s long publicised homepage redesign.

At the time of writing, almost eight hundred comments had been left in response to the move, with a further hundred awaiting moderation. The vast majority of these comments are predictably negative, highlighting an abiding truth of the online world – users hate change. At least initially.

For proof of this we need look no further than the proverbial hell that was raised when Facebook launched their new layout in February 2010. Hundreds of groups, pages and status updates rebuked the social network’s attempt to improve usability, leaving a lasting stain on the digital landscape. But, really – can you really remember the way Facebook used to look?

The BBC’s changes have provoked a similar reaction. Amidst the criticisms and the ensuing debate about the necessity of the changes, it’s important to remember why the BBC decided to implement them. It’s simple – because they believe the changes are an improvement

Of course, improvement is a matter of personal opinion.

It’s easy enough to find things to like about the redesign. The BBC is pushing the increased emphasis on video and picture quality the redesign allows, and the increased prominence the site allows sharing on social network buttons. The new layout arguably allows for more videos – and not just within article. The site has opted for a watch/listen subsection to the site, as well as adding ‘Most watched’ to its ‘Most read/shared’ feature.

The BBC is quick to highlight that videos now appear in bigger players, with improved streaming and quality (lessons no doubt learnt from the roll-out of iPlayer).

The site’s bread-and-butter, text-based news, has also seen a navigation update. “New”appears next to recently added stories, and news subsections are now part of the header, mimicking successful online newspaper sites, like the Guardian the Daily Mail.

What’s our verdict on these changes? Although some alterations appear to have been needless or purely aesthetic decisions, the majority of the changes demonstrate the growing importance online actors are attributing to social media. Sharing stories and pictures with your friends has become so ubiquitous that even ‘serious’ sites like BBC News are adapting to facilitate the practice. Credit to the Corporation is due; for recognising modern requirements and taking the risk of updating what was a strong and well-liked website.

To those still mourning the passing of the old site, Vivid London would like to pass on our condolences. Change is inevitable – and on an evolving platform like the internet, change is essential to development; a necessary element of online success.


Michael Haywood is a Junior PR Staffer with Vivid London

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