The beautiful BBC

Opening the BBC News site today brought nothing but pleasure. Here’s why.

First of all, a comparison of the old and the new. Here’s yesterday’s site:

BBC old

…and here’s today’s:

BBC new

Both of the above pictures are the same relative size. So the first obvious point of note is that the new site is wider. Both are fixed-width, not scaling with the browser, but the new one is designed for optimal use on a 1,024-pixel screen. Any less, and the left-hand side will be chopped off. So the new site is 995 pixels wide including margins, 973 without, leaving space for the browser’s left and right-side display, scrollbar included.

It’s quite a brave move for such a wide-reaching organisation. W3 Schools, whose work I only know because they always come top in Google’s rankings when you search for browser statistics, informs us that as of January 2007, 80% of people had browsers 1,024 pixels wide or greater, six percentage points of the remainder having an "unknown" screen size. That leaves 14% of people unable to view the BBC’s new offering. This number will have reduced in the ensuing 14 months, but is also probably low anyway because it’s informed by techies, who are generally ahead of the technology curve.

At a width of 800 pixels in Firefox, the user gets the words "Bodies recovered" in the first link in the right-hand column, but no more.

But fortunately, my screen is wider than 800 pixels—a mighty 1280—so I see everything. And it’s all centred on the page, much more pleasing to the eye than the old, left-aligned version.

And it’s much cleaner, with lovely attention to detail. The left-hand navigation has a much nicer feel to it. It doesn’t feel crammed in, instead extending further down the page with appealing levels of separation between the elements.

In the body of content itself, there is a better level of separation
between the content elements. Much of the additional width available is dedicated to the right-hand modules, almost at the detriment of the main body of content (the right-hand column is now 66% of the width of the main body, compared to 49% of its width in the old site), but this allows for bigger text and hopefully more meaningful headlines.

The graphic at the top of the page is a lot more professional, the solid red and orange highlight bars further down the page give a strong sense of location. And the unconventional footer, complete with the Roman year, caps off a wonderful page.

I’m not a user experience expert by any stretch, but I am a user, and I know what I like. And I like this new offering. It’s the third style of the BBC News site that I’ve known. The second one threw me for quite a while after its launch. This one is less of a step-change, but is a natural progression, in my head at least.


5 Responses to “The beautiful BBC”

  1. Ben on April 1st, 2008 04:22


  2. Jeb on April 1st, 2008 07:44

    Yes but where have they hidden the RADIO button I always used? Was I the only person clicking through?

  3. art vandelay on April 5th, 2008 01:42

    Good. I would like more posts about design.

    The BBC News site is not as good as the BBC homepage which is configurable and pleasing.

  4. Jeb on April 10th, 2008 18:17

    Ha! I am not the only one missing those links. The BBC news page sports a new orange button called ‘explore the bbc’ which gives me back the links taken away. Sanity returns.

  5. The new BBC News homepage: my take : Tangential Ramblings on July 19th, 2010 22:58

    […] look and feel last week.  I immediately loved the previous major re-branding, in March 2008, and here’s the glowing review I gave […]

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