It’s not often that I am compelled to fill out on an online survey, but having just experienced the new look BBC homepage I was immediately spurred into voicing my considerable concerns to the corporation.
Firstly I must impress that in general, I am a staunch fan of the BBC. I think that they provide an exceptional service and they constantly lead the way in innovation and quality of media broadcasting. The BBC homepage has been the home page of my work and personal computer for at least the last five years purely because it is the simplest, most attractive and most user friendly way to digest the major information of the day.
Unfortunately the new beta BBC homepage is not.
I can understand why the BBC feel that they constantly need to innovate. There is exceptional pressure on them to push the boundaries of media communication and constantly deliver a higher level of service to their users. They are also at the forefront of web technology with an incredible team of technicians and experts on hand to take advantage of the constant leaps foeward within the industry. All this offers the BBC teams an ever-expanding array of new techniques to try out and experiment with. However, just because all this technology is available does not mean that anyone should pursue a policy of innovation for the sake of innovation. Unfortunately, that is just what the BBC appear to have done with the latest beta homepage release.
The ‘success’ of the new home page can only be compared to the existing site and that is what we will use for our comparison. The new site, whilst undeniably an attractive static page, is a big step backwards in usability. The beauty of the current BBC homepage is that it allows you to digest a huge quantity of information easily and simply. The page hierarchy is excellent and the eye flows through the information on the screen in a logical and intelligent way. The new beta homepage is incredibly cluttered. The boundaries between all types of information blur into one, so instead of being able to quickly grasp the latest headlines or sports results, information is lost in a melee of images and ever-competing headlines.
Without doubt there far more advanced features on the new beta site compared with the current version… AJAX windows built upon AJAX windows, advanced rollovers, collapsible menus, in-page loaded content, silky smooth animations… all of this inevitably designed to make using the site a more pleasurable experience and offer the user more in-page choice. Whilst these are admirable goals, there is such a thing as overkill and the new design seems to have forgotten all the elements that make the current BBC homepage such a success – Namely user-led design, intelligent organisation of data, intuitive customisation and superb usability. No-one is saying that the job the BBC web team have is easy, but surely there must be someone else who realises that this beta version just doesn’t cut it?
In short, the new beta BBC homepage is a fail. It’s a disappointing example of evolution for the sake of it and certainly not the kind of homepage that will be held up by millions of users around the world as a bastion of good web design as the current one is. The only positive I can see is that the homepage is a beta version so there is still time to rethink. If this does get rolled out, then I will certainly be visiting the BBC a lot less often, because the first thing I will do is change the homepage on every computer I own to iGoogle – the same goes for the rest of the BML office. I can’t say any more than that…
Please add your comments below and let us know what you think…