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BBC Overhauling Its Website For ‘Swipability’

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Expect to see more of this. The BBC is redesigning its website to take account of how users are now “swiping” using touchscreen devices.

The programme began under new future media director Ralph Rivera’s regime on Wednesday with a homepage redesign beta that includes scrolling carousels of featured content.

“The beta provides a first glimpse of core design principles that will underpin the reshaped BBC Online, which take into account changing user behaviours including the preference for ‘swiping’ through content – increasingly intuitive given the rise of touch-screen smart phones and tablets,” the BBC says.

“It is envisaged that these principles will be reflected across the evolving products of BBC Online, and pave the way for a graphically-rich London 2012 Olympics digital offer.”

The new decoupage effect is rather atypical for what has always been a rigid, and is a little jarring, giving a disorienting, bare-bones look and feel.

With drawers that slide out to reveal more content in situ, rather than at the end of a linked page, the new homepage borrows much from both “apps” and the appified HTML5/Dynamic HTML paradigms.

Though they can be pressed, none of these fixtures can actually be “swiped”, however, even on touchscreen devices.

“When we looked at the homepage and asked audiences what they thought about it, it became clear that we could make the page work harder to showcase more of the BBC’s output on air, on TV and online,” the BBC says.

The changes will affect the BBC homepage in the UK only; the BBC will need to work with BBC Worldwide on any redevelopment of got its last redesign in 2010.

The BBC spent £199.3 million on its BBC Online service in 2009/10, according to its annual report – 12 percent more than the previous year. That means BBC Online cost £0.67 per user per month, or 5.6 percent of the license fee.

In this redesign, out goes earlier promises of personalisation, which haven’t been well adopted. The site is now more slimline in line with a 25 percent BBC Online budget cut.

3 Responses to “BBC Overhauling Its Website For ‘Swipability’”

  1. From a technical standpoint, the site went live on 29 Nov 2011 without support for the Opera browser on the PC, iPhone or Android. Nor does the swipe feature work on iPad - you have to click on tabs on all platforms to scroll sideways which is next to impossible on an iPhone.

    It also doesn’t work on any of the readers for the blind, nor does the font scale, enabling use for poorly-sighted viewers. Nor does it, apparently, work on Firefox for Mac.

    Far from being a new wave of form and design for the BBC web site, it has attracted a stream of negative criticism for it’s limited content and poor technical proficiency. Comments to the (over 1200) complaints on BBC blogs have met the predictable response of “we’ll be upgrading again soon”.

    But for me the technical issue of going live with a unfinished home page, for the 5th largest web site in the UK no less, is an incredible mistake, which shouldn’t be glossed over lightly. 

    Outside the (protected job placement of the) BBC, anywhere else I suspect, it would have been a serious error…

  2. Magnus, dont assume this is wholesale. Smart designers/developers will always design for degradation so users without touch interfaces have the cues needed to navigate a website (mobile and otherwise) without said touch interfaces.

  3. Interesting! Soon you won’t be able to navigate websites without a touch screen… :) Following usability trends is always interesting but I wonder if enough user experience research have been done to conclude that this is the best UI or if it’s primarily based on iPad users thinking it’s cool. A lot more usability testing will be needed on touch screens during the next couple of years to truly understand what makes a great user experience.