Shiny Review: BBC's "tenth anniversary" home page

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To mark the BBC’s tenth anniversary online, they’ve revamped their online presence with the introduction of a new beta version of their home page.

Labelled “BBC Beta”, which is a little concerning as it sounds as if the whole of the Corporation is now in test mode, the new front page offers an iGoogle-style interface which is customisable with various content widgets.

It’s possible to choose to display a range of excerpts of the BBC’s content, including local, national, and world news, TV and radio listings, sport, weather, blogs, entertainment, and history.

It’s also possible to change the basic layout, fonts, colours, and such like, which are then saved along with widget positions for future visits.

It’s possible to set your location, after which relevant geo-sensitive information, such as weather and news, is updated.

The layout can’t be completely tailored to the user’s choice. For example, a large highlights box spans the top of the two rightmost columns, much as is present on the existing BBC home page. Though this is a little annoying — I’d like to be able to have pertinent information from TV, news, and sport at the top of each column, whereas I now have to scroll down to see widgets in the right-hand columns — I can understand the BBC’s reasoning. After all, they still have an obligation to promote other programmes and services which could otherwise be missed through complete customisation of the home page.

One nice touch is the analogue clock which sits at the top right of the page, styled as one of the BBC’s on-screen timepieces from the late ’60s and early ’70s. It’s a minor touch but one that somehow subtly links the BBC of old with “BBC 2.0”.

Customisation options are fairly basic, but with a decent choice of alternative colourings, fonts, and font sizes. I managed to turn my beta page an interesting shade of black, cyan, purple, and yellow — readable, but very reminiscent of some early Windows colour schemes.

At least on the Mac, some of the text on widget headings doesn’t display correctly in some configurations. Perhaps that’s just a teething problem, or a Mac issue, but it sees the top half of all the letters being cut off. A niggle, and probably easy to fix for official launch.

Interestingly, customising the beta page also changes the current home page, which is a bit weird, but of course the beta page will soon replace that anyway.

Clicking on most links takes you to the relevant page, as you’d expect, so the concept of the new home page is very much as an overview tool which draws you further into BBC content. It would be nice if some of the widgets had more display options. For example, I’d like to be able to see what’s on now and next on the main TV channels, whereas currently I can only see what’s on during “prime time”.

Overall, though, it’s a good first attempt and sets a foundation for further development.

BBC Home Page Beta

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Andy Merrett

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