I’m currently working on re-designing quite a large web site. The site owners want to “bring it up to date”, improve on lessons learned and give some areas currently buried a bit more punch or prominence.
So what is up to date when it’s at home?
There is an emerging fashion (or cliche depending how you look at it ) with up to date web sites. There is a list of must have visual items for any wannabe up to data web site
- wider screen layout (but still not fluid)
- tertiary colours (orange, lime green etc)
- obligatory gradients
- big fonts (especially in forms)
- round corners
- and of course lickable shiny table reflections
The new BBC – Homepage Beta has all of the above (almost) and I love it, but not for any of the design nonsense above. The real reasons I think the BBC re-design is up to date are to do with…
Deciding “what’s at the top” of page often wastes hours of web site owners time. I was once in a meeting where the client wanted everything to be at the top (that’s how hard it is deciding!)… And yet what ever you plump for, it will always be the wrong choice for most of your visitors. I put Science and Sport at the top of my Home Page… at last. I’ve been miffed for years that I had to scroll down to “S” to click Sport on the BBC site. Now I can have it my way.
The BBC have also made this customisation very easy to do. It is significantly better than umpteen (that figure is based on lots of research and is very accurate) attempts by other sites to offer easy to configure configuration.
I also love the “more or less” pluses and minuses. Nice touch. I always want more.
Being able to set my location is interesting too. That setting changes my weather, some news and automatically selects Radio York (why anyone would want to hear “Saturday Night Fever” again is beyond me).
I really like the list of stories (Science & Nature in the image) because it crams information into a small space AND still manages to look nice. Very clean.
The little blogging widget is nice too. I have a heap of suggestions for this but I think it’s a move in the right direction. I hope to see more innovation from the BBC on what this widget does in the future.
What’s bad about the BBC re-design?
- The What’s On TV listing only shows one channel at once. I suspect there’s a licensing issue there. Still feels sub-standard though. And when I click “Full Schedule” I’m taken to a new page (remember the mantra, all surprises are bad…).
- The big branding image…. I don’t want it! Don’t make me have it… I even tried to have it. Sure it looks lovely… at first… but don’t give me option of customisation and then not offer me the option of a “skinny” version of this screen real estage hog.
- The BBC iPlayer could have a category preference…I’d choose “Comedy” (but not Entertainment)
So, although I think the design looks lovely, I don’t think that any re-design should focus on the site’s outward appearance.
Instead, it should look to improve Simple Customisation (with recent advances in interface technology, customisation’s time has come)…and Information Design (with recent innovations in design technologies, again, there’s no real excuse for your site to look like crummy ole HTML is there?) … and Blogging (or cutting out the middle-men when talking with/to your audiences).
The real biggy here for me is the Information Design part. To explain. Lots of large sites have content management systems (CMSs) with which people “enter the information” on a site. And typically, these tools have no (or hopeless) tools with which to format, arrange and present your information. The end result is beautifully designed frames surrounding slightly tackily presented textual content (in terms of visual presentation). The current BBC site is slightly guilty of this, although most stories have an image and a key takeaway quote to “liven” up the page visually.
I wonder if we’ll see signs of a similar level of innovation in the BBCs back-end tools used by writers and reporters to the innovations we’ve already seen on the Home Page.