The new BBC News homepage: my take

BBC News launched their new look and feel last week.  I immediately loved the previous major re-branding, in March 2008, and here’s the glowing review I gave it.

On first impressions, I disliked last week’s re-branding.  So I allowed a week before passing comment, to allow it to grow on me.

It hasn’t.  And here’s my review.  The review focuses entirely on the News homepage.

First impressions were drawn to its overt redness.  It’s way redder than its predecessor, the header that houses the three main navigational tools lacking the subtlety of before.  (For reference, the “before” view can be seen in the link to its review above.)  And when news breaks, a further red strapline at the top only goes to accentuate this.  Maybe over time this will become white noise.  But for the time being, it distracts the eye and takes it away from the site’s content.  Embedding the navigation in the header is, however, successful in widening the real estate available for content though.

Now to the typography.  It comes across as amateurish.  The contrast in size between the clickable title of the headline news article and its summary is way too great.  And the very size of the title makes its on-hover underline plain ugly.  They appear to have moved from a Verdana-esque font to Arial, which may be more web-friendly but only serves to make the content less visible, to me at least.

The main news items are more difficult to absorb.  The pictures that previously accompanied the lead three articles gave context, allowing elements of the article’s subject to be inferred without the need to read the entire summary.  This sounds lazy—and maybe it is—but it is a symptom of how people absorb information nowadays.  I do like the tag showing which articles are “new”, as previously, a new story that was not deemed important enough to make the top three could easily be lost among the lesser stories.

The right-hand column interests me little. Maybe as video becomes yet more prevalent online, I will find myself clicking more over there, but for the time being, that column, above the fold at least, is almost redundant to me.  It’s very orange though.

Besides the Sport link in the top navigation, nothing sport-related makes its way above the fold unless a sports story makes mainstream news (e.g. yesterday’s Open result).  I think this is a crying shame, particularly given the BBC’s deserved reputation in this field.

Below the fold, I get lost in a heap of yet more confusion.  There isn’t sufficient visual distinction between the Also in the News section and Sport.  And the lack of any tags against any of the Sport headlines means you have to know your stuff and may result in confusion.  Surfaced articles such as Wigan sign Melbourne trio, without the Rugby League tag, will cause confusion.

The grey localisation box (after all, it’s location based rather than being based on anything any more specific about my person) is a half-arsed attempt at personalised news.  Down the right, again general confusion is the order of the day until you hit the familiar and loved Most Popular box, which straddles the second fold, on this laptop at least.

The lead stories from the site’s main sections (Business, Politics, Technology etc.) are stacked four abreast, lesser citizens in a homepage stripped of any sense of order.  And the iPlayer gets some airtime in the bottom right corner, almost an afterthought.

Look at the site on an iPhone, and as well as being unable to access any of the video content because of the Apple/Adobe stand-off, you’re confronted with a site that is difficult to navigate, with lots of vertical and horizontal scrolling and general difficulty getting close to any of the content.

Overall, the homepage is a mess.  It lacks structure, order and any meaningful visual differentiation.  And I miss its predecessor dearly.


2 Responses to “The new BBC News homepage: my take”

  1. BBC News: you win some, you lose some : Tangential Ramblings on July 28th, 2010 21:12

    […] Earlier this month, BBC News launched its new offering.  While the information architecture of the site didn’t undergo a change, the navigation into that information architecture was turned upside down.  Side menus were moved to the top, while the navigational elements within the body of the homepage were unrecognisable.  And the site sucks on an iPhone where the previous site was easily navigable.  My review of the changes can be found here. […]

  2. BBC News: six months on : Tangential Ramblings on January 19th, 2011 22:40

    […] still hate it. On 19 July (a birthday post, it seems), I wrote a considered yet damning post articulating my views. Nine days later, upon reflection, my opinions hadn’t […]

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