The BBC has finally switched off its old desktop site and is now redirecting mobile users away from its .m site to its brand new fully responsive news site.

BBC News’s previous iteration was four years old, and although it regularly broke records for attracting worldwide traffic (64m unique visitors in January 2013) the site has been need of a multi-screen compatible upgrade for some time. In fact since inviting users to trial a beta version of the new site in December, BBC News has seen 65% of its users now accessing the site from tablets and mobiles.

On Monday 23 March at 2pm, BBC News switched off the old site for good and also began redirecting mobile users from its two and a half year-old specific mobile site to this single solution design.

Let’s take a look at the new responsive site and see how it compares to the old one.

Homepage

Even though you probably don’t need reminding of what the old BBC News website looked like (it has only been a couple of days) let’s take a look at it anyway, being as I was savvy enough to take a screengrab of it before it disappeared into the Wayback Machine forever.

Here’s the homepage…

It was starting to look quite dated, with its blue links, grey boxes, multiple on-page navigation menus and sheer volume of text.

How’s how it looks now…

The first thing you’ll notice is the white space. Although it feels less cluttered, it still manages to fit the same number of news items in the main space as it did before, only in the new version its just the top three stories that have more detailed extracts under the headline.

In BBC News’s own story about the responsive redesign (trending at number one in the Most Popular section for a short time this morning), there’s a comment stating “some users said the design felt empty and too bright”

Well it’s certainly brighter, which is to its benefit, and the ‘sparseness’ is much more preferable to the tightly packed way the older version’s content was laid-out. This is certainly improvement.

There is a larger focus on video here, with the Watch/Listen section greatly expanded to show a fuller range of clips from current news stories.

There’s more of an emphasis on feedback with a prominent Twitter and Email link, which were absent from the previous incarnation.

At the top of the screen, the main navigation has been cleaned up and made more obvious, with the secondary menu now hidden in the ‘more’ link, which opens up when you click on it.

BBC News has also ditched the news ticker, which personally I always considered a distraction. Instead it brings up a banner whenever a new story breaks, which pins to the bottom of the window and you can dismiss it whenever you choose.

Mobile

Of course the BBC News website’s most fundamental improvement is in how it adapts to different devices, and it does so very fluidly.

What becomes apparent when looking at this new site on mobile, is how it’s identical to the previous mobile site…

New responsive site (after 2pm):

Old mobile site (before 2pm):

So it seems BBC really did take a mobile-first attitude in designing the new desktop website, it already knew it worked well after testing it as a mobile site first.

One of my favourite touches here is how BBC News has localised the experience for desktop and mobile users. 

It’s possible to set your location directly from this large button on the nav…

And then geolocation will pinpoint your exact position to serve you with your very local news.

Overall it’s a great experience, and unlike many other site overhauls, the difference in layout and navigation doesn’t require the user to relearn how to use it, probably because the changes have happened over a longer period of time, incrementally across devices. There is certainly a lot to be said for going for the ‘soft launch’ option.