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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 http://beta.bbc.co.uk

Here's what the new page looks like, compare it to the current bbc.co.uk (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.

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