news.bbc.co.uk layout changed — atrocious

(A newer blog post, with a helpful temporary workaround to coding issues at the BBC, is now up.)

I’m sure I’m not the only one who hates the new layout of news.bbc.co.uk. But, to start, if anyone from the BBC — Steve Herrmann, are you reading? — sees this, take heart in the fact that I don’t think the change is all bad.

Let’s start from the very front: BBCNews.com.

Old BBC News front page The old BBC News front page, from early 2007 (from archive.org, therefore some images are missing) is on left. On right, the current version of the BBC News front page. New BBC News front page

I don’t have too many complaints about the main page, as it’s not radically different from the old one. One grouse I have is about the new BBC-wide header (the black one you see on the image in the right), which replaces the old navigation bar header (Home/News/Sport/Radio/TV/Weather/Languages on the left image). I was a big user of that navigation bar to easily jump to BBC Sport [which has, as you’ll see later, not been spared in the update], and I’m unhappy.

Another subtle change is that video and audio has been moved above features and analysis. Not a major concern, that. Front page: Well done. Keeps the feel of the old front page to an extent, which is good.

Let’s move on to what we find inside. For example, let’s take the “Americas” section of the site.

Old “Americas” section on BBC News website The old BBC News Americas page, from July 2007 (from archive.org, therefore some images are missing) is on left. On right, the current version of the same page. New “Americas” section on BBC News website

Obviously the BBC is still in the process of updating the Americas index to suit the new style, but there are already obvious changes. For one, there is a far shorter list of recent stories on the updated site (right), compared to the July 2007 version of the site (left). I expect that when the updating is complete the Americas index will not look dissimilar from the front page. Again, not many grouses here (at least not until I get to see the finished product of the index).

You might be wondering why I said I “hate” this new layout, then. Well, let’s get to that: the articles themselves. I’m using two different articles here, both from the “Europe” section of the site, one from last month before the update and one from today.

Old “Europe” article on BBC News website What an article in “Europe” used to look like before the switch in early March 2008 (left). A different “Europe” article after the switch (right) seems to make things far more difficult to negotiate. You can’t actually tell from these images, however. New “Europe” article on BBC News website

To see what I mean about the navigation differences between the two, have a look at them yourself. Here’s the article from today and here’s the one from Mar 10.

One big gripe I have is that the font size seems fixed. If you notice in the image on the left (the story about Sarkozy’s poll losses), the font size is small (and how I like it). However, on the same settings with the new articles, you get what you see on the right. If you’re reading this, Mr Herrmann, please get your technical people to fix it? (Another thing you need to fix: the UK/international versions seem slightly mixed up at the moment, especially on UK articles [this one for example, where despite being the international edition you get a link to watch BBC News 24 live at the top of the page].)

The whitespace on the right in the old articles are no longer present, though, which is a welcome change. (This is not as obvious on monitors running larger resolutions, in which the centralisation of the page means that there’s still whitespace, only evenly split between the left and right and a shade of grey instead, which is nice.)

And, as I mentioned earlier, BBC Sport has not been spared. This is my biggest complaint of it all. Compared to the BBC News change, the BBC Sport main page has changed totally, bearing minimal resemblance to the old page. Horrible, horrible, horrible. See for yourself:

Old BBC Sport homepage On left: the old BBC Sport website, taken from archive.org, as seen after last year’s Cricket World Cup. On right: The current, ‘refreshed’ version of the site bears very little, if any, resemblance to the old site. New BBC Sport homepage

Again, here, same issues about font size apply. And the new layout is very confusing for me. The old layout had the top stories separated by their sport, which made it easy to see all the top stories for a certain sport right off the front page. The new layout lists all the top stories in random order, with the sport involved listed left of the link headline. Very messy. The old layout was better organised in all aspects.

Please, BBC, I’m a big fan, but you need to get your act together.

I think you need to listen to a majority of the 600 1300-odd comments you’ve already got on your editors’ blog: the old layout was nicer.

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6 Responses

  1. Indeed it was. However if you’re on Firefox or Opera you can use userstyles fix many of the worst problems (can’t restore the missing content, of course).

    I’m in the process of writing a blog post about how to do this; should be ready soon!

  2. The BBC will not allow me to send my comment in to them, so after two days of trying, I am trying to post it here.

    Okay.

    THAT AWFUL NEW DESIGN.

    I haven’t watched any TV for four years and three months, but I pay my licence fee and the only thing I DO ever ask of the BBC is that they stop doodling with their/my news website. All that white space is a waste of our electricity! It’s so irresponsible. The new font looks like gyrating ants and the page doesn’t fit my damned picture.

    It’s much harder to find the Complaints (aka Contact Us) page from the new design. That isn’t to discourage people from proferring corrections, is it?

    I intensely dislike the AWFUL new layout. Please tell me, as a matter of
    some urgency, when it will go back to Normal.

    I’ve threatened to destroy myself over these sort of changes before and I mean it.

  3. Dear BBC

    Your new world wide web site design is a damned disgrace, a blasted nuisance and an outrage.

    I want it stopped. NOW.

    Please stop it immediately.

    It really is quite literally PC gone mad.

    Yours

    Harrumph J Carruthers
    Compton Dando

  4. It wasn’t broke-but it is now!

  5. How Shit Happens

    In the beginning, there was the plan (to re-design the BBC News website).
    And then came the assumptions.
    And the assumptions were without form.
    And the plan was completely without substance.

    The first dumstruck users to see the new design told BBC Feedback team:
    “It’s a crock of shit and it stinks!”

    The BBC Feedback team then told the BBC News Interactive Editor:
    “It’s a pail of dung, and none may abide by the odour.”

    The BBC News Interactive Editor then told the Head of News Interactive:
    “It’s a container of excrement, and it is very strong such that none may smell it.”

    The Head of News Interactive then told the Director of BBC Global News:
    “It is a vessel of fertiliser, and none may abide by its strength.”

    The Director of BBC Global News then told the BBC Director General:
    “It contains that which aids plant growth, and it is very strong.”

    The BBC Director General told the BBC Executive Board:
    “It promotes growth, and it is very powerful.”

    The BBC Executive Board told the BBC Trust:
    “It is very strong and will promote growth and efficiency of the system.”

    And the BBC Trust reviewed the plan, and declared:
    “This web site re-design is good.”

    And the proposed web site re-design became policy.
    And this is how shit (a.k.a. the redesigned BBC News website) happens.

  6. Nice one TbP! Biggest shame is that the BBC always seemed way ahead in terms of usability.

    Most importantly unlike most other news sites it was highly SCANABLE just like traditional print newspapers. This let you get the broad picture in one screen and then jump into what took your fancy. Simplicity and tightness of design.

    Now I do like others who already had this new style as the basis of their site (eg. http://www.elpais.com ). However BBC seems to have crowbared the style on top of their content.

    I just wanted to cry…

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