Friends, Bloggers,Geeks, lend me your eyes; for today I come to praise the BBC, not bury it. It may seem and sound like I come to complain, but the complaints all form the words and feelings of great praise.
Actually I’m going to write a blog post about the use of video clips on the new sites from the BBC Vision teams – but I wrote Friends, Romans, Countrymen and felt the burning desire to carry on.
The first website I built was a page full of text, it contained little more than a white background, Times New Roman text in black, the odd H1 and a couple of horizontal rules.
The second website I built went in completely the opposite direction and was fully of so many flashing images and colours – if anybody had of actually seen it I would have been arrested for crimes against the internet – or maybe credited for inventing MySpace (either way it wasn’t good).
Both sites did have one thing in common though – neither had any credible or sensible navigation system – it was pretty much everything on one page.
Fortunately since then I’ve learnt how to build useful and usable navigation systems as well as design sites that fall somewhere in the middle – plenty of content with a sensible design and reasonable use of images.
As have the BBC, not that their sites were ever too text heavy or image heavy of course – I just needed a way of getting into the next part of the blog post.
BBC websites are slowly moving from the 800×600 left aligned format to the new wide, centre aligned format – many have already gone and one of the most prolific new site launchers and re-launchers at the moment is BBC Vision.
There seems to be a consistent thread across all the new BBC Vision sites (which probably has something to do with the fact its … well visual) and that theme is video.
Pretty much the first thing you see on a new site is a video clip – this is either, in the case of an upcoming series, a trail for the show, a preview of an episode, the presenter speaking to camera or even something specially commissioned.
And more of these clips are being made embedable as well – which is good move in the right direction.
An example of that is the Eurovision Your Country (more on this later) site. It’s a re-design of the Eurovision site (one of the early wide sites) from earlier this year and as with most BBC Vision preview sites – it features navigation links across the top, a little bit of text and a big video that’s left aligned but feels like it takes the whole space.
Question here – do I include a screen shot, embed the video or do both? I think both (damn the page load time to hell I say – just get a broadband connection!).
OK so first the video – Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber appealing to the nation to sign up and send a video fo themselves or their group singing (write – make a prat of yourself in the comments if you want me to have a go) set to land of hope and glory.
Now lets move on and have a look at a screen shot – after you’ve stopped laughing at the brilliant pomposity and faux granduer (more on the show later) of the video clip.
As you can see – the video is the main feature – you have a few details on how to enter down the right hand side as well as (I’m sure) the obligatory Eurovision Logo (couldn’t you guys get one with a purple background and white text? And what is it with the Purple anyway?).
The whole thing is kept very simple as a preview site (I’m sure once the selection is made it will be full of extra boxes full of content and things to watch) and this isn’t the only one.
Spooks is coming back to our screens this coming Sunday and it all looks very Russian / Cold War / James Bondy and VERY VERY good – but its the site I’m interested in here.
The new Spooks site doesn’t even have top navigation (although I’m sure it will within the next few days).
Basically it has the TV trailer in the usual big spot on the left, a graphic across the top with the Spooks and BBC One logos and a photo/text telling us there is more to come on the right (navigation space).
But again its the video I’m really interested in here – it’s embedable, it’s in a dominant position on the page (in fact it really is the only thing on the page) and further cements the idea that web video is universally accepted and here to stay.
I’ve always thought that once broadband takup reached a certain point – the best approach for any TV show or TV channel website would be to show video – and as much of it as possible – on their index.
That’s what the BBC vision team are now doing. Here’s a screenshot of the Spooks page (before it gets replaced with a fully functioning site.
Anyway – I’ve now looked at two examples of video on a preview site, basically using it as the dominant feature to trail an upcoming show.
Lets have a look at a site already live for a show already started. I think, as it is a reasonably recent launch (about two weeks ago) Autumnwatch would be a good choice.
It’s basically designed to a similar principle as the ones above (after all they all share a wireframe parent). You’ve got navigation across the top, links on the right, content left middle and elsewhere at the bottom.
You’ve also got a Breathing Places (things to do in your patch) postcode finder, photos on flickr of Autumn, a ticker with new content and of course – the video.
Again you can embed it:
What’s different about the use of video on the Autumnwatch site is the playlist – there is more than one video available so the next one is shown as a thumbnail to the right of the main video clip.
As you can see from all the screenshots above – one thing consistent across all the new BBC sites is a really cool background image – either really cool or relevant (although I’m still not convinced by the purple behind Eurovision).
This is clearly an important big budget show with a very famous star at its heart – yet it doesn’t have a site of its own – it falls within the bounds of /programmes instead.
And actually I don’t see anything wrong with that – obviously when shows are no longer on the iPlayer (it looks like the series is stacked) it would be nice to see video clips from episodes (key interviews, sequences, scenes) added to the episode pages in their place – but as for needing a site of its own – I’m not sure what extra it would bring?
Ok so you could have a flickr feed showing photos of the places Stephen visited while in America, you could include longer interviews and unseen clips, you could have got Mr Fry to write a diary and include short snippets from it (you can’t include all of it – there’s a book to sell afterall).
But I wonder how often all of that is actually used – maybe it would be better to have /programmes at the heart (including clips from the show when the iPlayer videos expire) but also pull in related content from /topics from flickr and even from Stephen Fry’s website itself.
In fact having looked at Stephen Fry’s website – there does seem to be a fair amount about the In America show on there.
Maybe more on that another time.