The new BBC’s Web Design
From the BBC this month, a lesson in web design, or rather a lesson in how to upset thousands of loyal users of your website.
After spending months as a beta design, the radical new design for the often-favourited BBC homepage went live at the start of December. And it seems that many of the BBC faithful were far from happy.
“Awful…absolutely dreadful… I will no longer have it set as my homepage,” read one of thousands of comments on the BBC Internet blog (http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2011/11/bbc_online_homepage_launch.html). “Complete and utter disgrace…brainless,” read another, while, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” was a popular sentiment. So what was it that upset the great British licence payer so much?
Looking at the new homepage, the first thing that strikes you is the predominance of relatively large clickable pictures ‘above the fold’, each leading to different multimedia elements. Another major change is that you can scroll sideways through several pages of homepage content. Both of these features appear better suited to tablet devices than desktops.
The ability to customise certain elements of the homepage to the user’s liking has also been curtailed it seems, and this change has been explained by the BBC as, “showing less of more… to make the page more relevant for a broader audience.”
Fear of change?
But perhaps the discontent runs deeper than the nature of the changes, and has its roots in the fact that there have been changes at all.
“Humans are typically creatures of habit,” points out Emma Barnet, the Telegraph’s Digital Media Editor. “We get into set patterns and quickly find ourselves attached to anything we regularly interact with – whether it is a favourite mug or indeed a website.” She says that, “people feel like they have an ownership stake over the sites they visit every day.”
For proof of this you need only look at the amount of sincerely-felt outrage every time Facebook makes a relatively minor change to its layout. A recent revamp of YouTube’s site design also demonstrates the vitriol that awaits any webmaster foolish enough to think they can redesign their website without consent from users.
Somewhat ironically, the BBC has reported that thousands of users have ‘disliked’ the new YouTube design, which puts more of an emphasis on channels.
Perhaps the truth is, whatever the changes you make to your site’s design, someone, somewhere is not going to like it. But a wise webmaster will take stock of the opinions of his or her faithful visitors, and think long and hard before making changes.