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.

Say it like it is

Mum on Underground platform: stand back.
Four year-old daughter: why?
Mum: because the train’s coming and if you go over there, you’ll get killed.

Snodland and Darnley

I saw a private coach in Vauxhall on Friday advertising that it was headed for "Snodland and Darnley", including the quotes, via its orange, digital display.

I noted it because of the ludicrous destination names, both of them. But on looking them up later, I noticed two things:

Assuming it was visiting the two locations in display order, which makes sense (given that it was travelling east along the south bank of the Thames), it would be heading 32 miles east to Snodland, Kent, before turning back towards London, rounding the M25 and heading 451 miles north west to Darnley in Glasgow, Scotland.

Rather bizarre.

Baristas: drug dealers

Their t-shirts should read "Drug dealer". For that’s what they are, at the end of the day.

Many wrongs make a right

Let’s assume you have some analogue clocks, all of which are set at a random time. Assuming they’re all wrong by the minimum amount (i.e. if the clock is set at eleven o’clock and the actual time is 4am, it’s five hours slow rather than being seven hours fast), the average of all the clocks’ times will tend to the correct time as the number of clocks tends to infinity.


Excel help

In February, 21 people happened upon my site by searching for the string SUMPRODUCTIF. They would have got to this post, which is surfaced as the top result in Google. Hopefully I’m helping some people, which satisfies me hugely.


I have two grammatical questions to which I need answers:

My style of choice (is this a matter of style?) is to double up on the period in the first conundrum, while refraining from adding a fourth dot in the second. My argument for the former is that I wouldn’t omit a question mark, so why should I omit a period, an argument that should also apply to the latter, but somehow doesn’t.

Thought? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone

Keep ’em coming

This morning’s random ordering of my five-starred tunes on my iPod started as follows:

Not a pup among them. 😉 On which note, I’ve now responded to my previous post about embarrassing iPod tunes.

Introducing the beard quotient

Throughout a project, the PMO should record the project’s beard quotient, calculated as the total number of unshaven faces divided by the number of males on the project. Actually, to avoid any possible mis-interpretation, the total number of male unshaven faces divided by the number of males on the project. (This qualifier saves the possibility of a quotient over 100%.)

I’m not sure what the quotient means yet, but I’m convinced it is correlated to the RAG (red/amber/gren) status (it may even be a predictor of future RAG). Any suggestions?

God bless America

Tonight I sat in a rib bar in Clapham, drinking a Sam Adams and watching March Madness on ESPN. It’s moments like these that bring it home how much I miss America sometimes.

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