Change to BBC News’ left-hand nav.

Today saw a change to the left-hand navigation on the BBC News website. The Sport, Weather and On This Day elements used to be differentiated from the rest of the navigation, as they were graphics with a background colour: Sport was yellow, Weather was blue and On This Day was turquoise.

They now appear in a regular font, albeit in capitals. I don’t like this.

First of all, there are too many different facets of the website being amassed in the left-hand navigation. Geographical areas (including a clickable map), high-level news topics, features (e.g. In Pictures and Week at a Glance), the RSS feed, other BBC offerings (e.g. Sport, Weather) and versions in other languages. These appear in three different styles: bold, regular and capitals.

The module separators are not consistent with one another: an inexplicable dotted line below Entertainment; a small space before the RSS icon; slightly larger spaces before the related sites and language sections, each of which has a capitalised, grey heading.

And finally, there doesn’t seem to be any correlation between what I would describe as the primary navigation (up top) and the left-hand navigation.

While I adore the BBC’s website, its navigation strategy needs some serious work. There are a lot of places to point people to, and it strikes me that they are not doing this well. Maybe it’s time to expand the real estate to accommodate more navigation (the left-hand navigation is very narrow), although browser stats suggest that 20% of people still use the 800×600 screens for which the BBC caters, down from 30% a year prior. Or maybe it’s time to introduce personalisation, something that was promised when Pete Clifton was editor – I will never use the language module, for example.

(As an aside, in IE, links on the BBC site do not scale with the rest of the text. On 1 July, 2005, Pete Clifton confirmed that this would be addressed within four weeks. Still not done.)

Even if they don’t choose either of these routes, they need to do better than turning off background colours to address their navigational issues.

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