The BBC has been changing its homepage again, and the new beta version “demonstrates a new ‘visual-first’ approach to showcasing the breadth of our content on the web.”

The new page looks good, and represents a significant change from the current version, which was introduced in February 2008

Why a new homepage? 

The aim is to promote the breadth of the BBC’s content to the 9m weekly unique visitors. Currently, the homepage sends the majority of its traffic to the news, sport and weather sections. 

According to the BBC’s Head of Homepage product James Thornett:

Showcasing the breadth of BBC Online content within a single page has been our constant challenge. To date we’ve made tweaks to a relatively static page to better fulfil this purpose; with the move to a new technical platform, we’ve the opportunity to rebuild the page from the first principles to provide a more effective solution.

The BBC believes that the current homepage is too narrow in focus, with 43% of traffic in July going from this page to the news sections, and 35% to sport. 

Its research also found that some users were confused between the main homepage and the news homepage. Also, as 70% of news front page visitors arrive without going via the homepage, there is less of a need to heavily promote news here. 

What’s changed? 

The most obvious change is the increase in the number of images on the page, and the carousel showing content from news, sport, and plenty from the iPlayer. 

The navigation to the various sections of the site is less obvious than before, though there are some more options under ‘explore’ further down the page, as well as TV listings and most popular articles, videos and audio content.

The BBC has used sliding ‘drawers’ here to allow people to see more or less content: 

The new page is customisable, to a certain extent. You can select ‘more from’ news and sport, entertainment, knowledge or lifestyle. 

So here I’m served up more sport. It isn’t quite as customisable as the previous version of the page though. If I’m not interested in cycling, and would prefer more football news, then there’s nothing I can do about it:

The new homepage looks like it was designed for tablets, though having tried it on iPad, it would work better if I could swipe between the three pages. Perhaps future changes will cater for tablet users. 

BBC homepage on iPad

Overall, I like the new version of the site, though I’d like to see more options to customise and show local content. As a regular user of iPlayer, I’d also like the homepage recommendations to reflect my viewing habits. 

Opinion on the new homepage

Opinion will always be divided when such a popular site makes changes, but it seems to be more positive than negative in general. 

George Nimeh was one person who wasn’t impressed though, and left some feedback on the site. I think he makes a good point about the lack of social integration:

I was hoping to be surprised by new innovation and/or a fresh take on the news, entertainment, lifestyle and other info that the BBC provides. Instead, it looks like someone likes Flipboard and tried (and failed) to import it into the www. Your new beta lacks curation. The date/weather area is static and way too big. The experience feels impersonal. It is plain.

It lacks social integration and fails to offer you (the BBC) the opportunity to capitalize on any benefits that you might receive by integrating social media and sharing into the user experience. This is terribly unimpressive. 

Opinion on Twitter for #bbchomepage was broadly positive. For example, @jamesseddon is impressed by the new page: