BBC News redesigns…

The newly redesigned BBC news launched last night – the redesign being an attempt to keep the basic UI and architecture of the site intact while bringing its design in line with the rest of the BBC. The most substantial change is the shift from a 640px to an 800px wide layout, which has some clearly positive consequences. The available space for the articles themselves is now substantial, but not so wide that your eyes have trouble finding the beginning of the following line. However, the redesign isn’t perfect, and if I was forced to pick holes with the way it has been restructured they would be:

  • I miss the news being in one column. The single column format – much like the weblog format – highlights chronology, promotes the idea that the material is novel, cutting-edge, breaking news. Having three news stories grouped at the top is an interesting shift with one obvious advantage – it allows them to decide what story demands the most emphasis rather than which story is simply the most timely. Unfortunately it now feels more like feature-content than news content.
  • The internal home-pages (cf. Scotland) don’t seem different enough from section to section. It’s quite easy to get disoriented within the structure of the site – as if you were in a huge building where all the rooms looked the same. I think this problem could be very simply resolved by sizing-up the signage (increasing the size of the page-heading alone would probably help considerably).
  • The “good recent features” bar that spreads horizontally across the front page and sectional home-pages (three pictures with taster-copy on a beige background) produces some HTML layout issues. Primarily, it restricts what you can place in the top section of the third content column. The Education section has a prime example of the problems it can cause. There’s too much copy inside it, which is pushing the horizontal bar down the page, leaving a block of white space in the middle of the central content columns. And if you limit the length of the text on that side, you can end up with nasty gaps of white space there as well. It might not sound like much of an issue, but I wonder what it looks like with text-zooming on or unorthodox font-sizes.
  • Fundamentally, my main issue is that there’s clearly more screen real-estate available but there doesn’t appear to be the same amount of actual news on the page. I suppose the only way to do that would be to measure the area of all the illustrative images, the number of stories linked to and the number of characters spent on the page on the stories involved. Has anyone got the time to do this?

What are your thoughts on the BBC News redesign? Leave a comment here and then head over to the discussion taking place over at Metafilter.