Wednesday, 14 July 2010

New BBC News site vs Telegraph Online

Well well, here it is at last.

After countless public information blogs and even some pre-launch screenshots, the new BBC News website confronted users this morning as they browsed for their morning fill of news alongside their Weetabix.

And what do we think? Well, I was surrounded by an array of reactions, from "cack" to many, much warmer-sounding "ooooh"s and even one "why have they done this to me?"...

For me, I don't mind it at all. It seems to be pretty reactionary (and what, in the world of news website design isn't?), which is more of a good thing when it comes to BBC sites in the UK, as they don't have to factor in advertising - the number 1 complaint of any web user when asked.

So it's clean and reasonably appealing, which in fairness, the BBC site has always been.

The first thing that gleans any kind of derision from this viewer is the sheer size of the main headline, in this case 'UK employment declines to 2.47m'*.

And it feels, even though comparing new to old is not the case, like there are fewer stories on the front.

This is because of the top story - two sub-stories - list of others approach being centre-stage.

Previously, the list of other stories was segregated, to the right-hand side of the page.

Now, it is right there in front of me, and a lack of images makes me feel like it is an after-thought. But that is just me. If a list of stories is to be a focal point, give it something to appeal to the reader.

I also don't like 'Also in the news' being so prominent (did you see what I did there, did you?). Again, this, to me, means a section full of stupid stories that no one knew what to do with, and I perceive them to not really belong in the news, but instead in some God-awful 'Funny news' or 'Weird news' section.

I wish the BBC would lose a touch of superiority complex and call it what it is; the 'Stuff that isn't really news but you might laugh at and send to your mates boosting our numbers and justifying why we put this crap up', but I understand that may contain a few too many characters.

Another thing I find slightly patronising, and a classic reaction to reports of clicks and reader response, is the sheer size of the 'Most Popular' panel. Does it really need to be so large?

I realise click reports will show this to be THE panel on the homepage - although again, the Beeb retains an intellectual standpoint by putting the doubtless under-used 'Features & Analysis' panel above it - but honestly, if we are struggling to see it, we'll have our eyes tested.

The mid-page barrier, a customizable insert for weather and news from various regional and local BBC sites, is actually quite nice, also retaining some of the 'elsewhere' links from the old site.
Below here though, is where it starts to lose the plot for me.

The homepage descends into some sort of half-impression of the Daily Mail site - see here for what I mean - with overblown story summaries (yet none on the main headlines? A compromise would have been nice) in a bid to gain Google hits, and just simple over-population of this area.

It smacks of the developer saying "well, this is where you've lost most visitors, as our research shows most readers will scroll for 1.7534 turns of the little wheel thing on their mouse, so we thought we might as well cram as many keywords as possible into this section".

For me, it looks silly and too slap-dash.

And it also looks like the Telegraph, as the entire site does, far too much.

And the Telegraph constantly freezes my browser, so let's hope this isn't the case with the new BBC News site...

Overall though, there isn't a drastic change here, just a few minor alterations in a bid to catch up to other news sites in terms of volume of content and keywords.

BBC News has long been a reliable and technically-sound site - let's hope it stays that way.

* For the record, a font this big, with the SEO headline is just annoying to me. Get over the SEO thing people, or wait three months, then someone will come up a tag that hides the bit Google searches from us poor readers who have to look at it.

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