The BBC has been on a beta kick of late, giving the great British public a chance to have a look around a new look site before launching it.
This is normally accompanied by at least one blog post, or in the case of the new homepage – two. One in the form of a technical post on the BBC Internet Blog and another in the form of a management post on the About the BBC Blog.
The new BBC homepage has come under a lot of criticism and at first glance it is easy to see why. The page looks cluttered and it is VERY different to anything else on the bbc.co.uk domain. In fact the most recent update has even seen a big change to the top menu.
The BBC has a consistent top menu policy, the same seven menu items (Mobile, News, Sport, Weather, iPlayer, TV, Radio and More) appear at the top of every page on the BBC site (except childrens) alongside a search box and the BBC logo).
For the record CBBC includes the logo, the search box and the words Newsround, CBBC iPlayer, CBBC on TV, Radio and More. Cbeebies includes News, Sport, Weather (I’m guessing this is for parents, whereas CBBC is used by children alone), CBebies iPlayer, TV, Radio and More.
The new BBC top menu, as seen so far only on the Beta version of the BBC Homepage includes the BBC logo and search box, it also includes News, Sport, Weather, iPlayer, TV, Radio and More.
What’s different though is that instead of just being a line of text in a black bar it is a series of white blocks with the bottom of the block changing colour as you move over the item. Also instead of the more link opening an ugly grey box it beautifully slides open the more menu under the top menu, shifting the rest of the site down.
Back to the beta version of the homepage. When you first look at it your eyes glaze over, there is a LOT to take in, but gradually you, or at least I, came to realise how simple it really is. The mass of content is cleverly broken down into sections and underneath you have a squeeze box style menu.
It feels a lot like FlipBoard on the iPad without actually being FlipBoard or ripping it off directly and in fact it works really well on the iPad and I’m told swiping will eventually be enabled.
Another change the BBC seem to have introduced, and this is also evident on the weather beta, is the ability to get ‘ultra local’. In the past I (living in Jersey) had the choice of Jersey or Jersey as my location. I can now drill down to a more exact point in Jersey – Gorey is a few minutes away so I can select Gorey.
Which brings me on the beautiful weather beta. This is quite possibly one of the most beautiful websites I’ve seen in years – the background subtly moves and changes depending on the weather, the iconic um… icons … are back and there are some nice touches like top temp and bottom temp.
Other beta include a Programme Pages one which has already started rolling out on new shows, a /radio one which looks a little sparse but will be more closely integrated with /programmes and /music – which can only benefit everybody and a site now out of beta – the BBC Media Centre – which replaces the press office.