Design Radio & Music

The new Radio 3 site launches!

Ladies and Gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to direct your attention towards the new Radio 3 website, which I (along with a great number of other people from every discipline and from all across the BBC) have been working on for the last few months. The teams that created the site have been among the best I’ve ever worked with and if started naming names I’d be here all week.

But what’s so special about it, I hear you ask? Quite apart from the sterling design work from Paul Finn, we’ve been working with Radio 3’s team to make the site one of the most genuinely web-native sites I’ve ever seen – designed to effectively reflect the station’s programming online in a way that’ll be better for the site’s current users, for search engines and for anyone who would want to link to the site – including (but certainly not limited to) webloggers. Specifically the new site includes:

  • A web page with a stable long-term URL for each and every episode of each and every programme that is broadcast on Radio 3 – a page that will always have basic information upon it, but can also be supplemented with more content by the production teams that actually make the programmes. (, World Routes’ “Cairo Nights” etc.)
  • New schedule pages that are persistent and will remain on the site in perpetuity, each item upon which linking through to the specific episode page for that programme – allowing you to navigate to any episode of any show by the date and time it was broadcast upon (particularly useful for helping you to find out what was playing yesterday when you were listening to the radio in the car).
  • Better navigational aids, including the ability to easily see when the next (and last) episodes of your favourite programmes are on, the ability to navigate between episodes of a programme by date, and a full daily schedule on the front page of the site, linking through to every episode.
  • Improved URL structures, easily spiderable pages and nice content-related title tags that should make each page easier to bookmark and find through the BBC’s search engines and search engines across the web.

I could go on – I’m terribly proud of the work that everyone has done on the site and it’s only going to get better over the next few weeks. But good work be damned! The most important thing is that I think it’s going to serve the site’s users better – both existing, and (perhaps) people who’ve never listened to Radio 3 before and can now be exposed to its wealth of programming over the web more effectively than ever before.

PS. Hello to Leigh, Justin, Andrew, Gregory from Radio 3, Paul and Sarah from the Technology and Design team and everyone else who worked on the project: Zillah, Rija, Tim, Mike, Matt B, Paul C, Manjit, Ian, Jason, Tony, Clare, Dan, Webb, Chris K, Simon N and anyone else I might have forgotten about. And a special personal wave to Margaret Hanley and Gavin Bell for being the best creative partners and co-conspirators a boy could wish for. You all rock!

17 replies on “The new Radio 3 site launches!”

Good work all round. Along with the recent BBC homepage redesign, there’s an obvious move to simplifying navigation across the megalith recently that’s most welcome. One of the problems with the BBC website is that it has such depth and complexity that navigating it has been more complex as a result — which has proven counter-productive, I’ve always felt.
Some of the factors you mention about the R3 site, such as the ability to find out what you were listening to a few days previously, other radio stations needn’t replicate — with so many being playlisted to repeat the same tracks over and over. Three does have this unique situation, requiring a unique solution — and it’s done so well that you don’t even notice that it’s doing what it’s doin. That’s truly the sign of a great design. Well done again to everybody involved.

Sorry, it’s not good enough. To accurately reflect Radio 3’s programming, you need long gaps in between every paragraph. Few thousand pixels should do it. And then, it shall be perfect.

new radio 3 website
The new Radio 3 site launched yesterday and it represents the culmination of about 6 months work, which has been some of the more exciting and challenging I’ve had the opportunity to take part in. The main benefits from the work are

It looks great: although there was a moment’s panic when I couldn’t find any playlists! Perhaps it’s a little restrictive right now to have just a few days previous listed in the right-hand menu (I’m just familiar with having the whole caboodle of Late Junction playlists on one page) but the new layout seems more intuitive…

Yet another reason to bow at the feet of the BBC
So, having spent this morning looking for, and not finding, a torrent of a zero-day screener rip of Fahrenheit 9/11 (and if that sentence isn’t a sign of Life In The Future, I don’t know what is), I’d almost given…

Could you explain a little further about the decision making process behind those permanent URLs?
I see URLs like /radio3/showname/pip/randomcode which, as I understand it, would require a user to locate a particular show through the site’s navigational system. It looks like there’s no way of guessing a URL. Is that right? What’s ‘pip’? That makes no sense to me.
My preference for date-based material is a path with the date in it – like /radio3/showname/2004/06/27/. Is there a reason why a URL format similar to this wasn’t chosen?

URL design: It’s obvious. This emulation of tinyURL had to have a short phoneme in its handle, and The Pips are the shortest things on radio. Protecting the IP and brand through cloaks of randomness may or may not be a good thing, depending on which stakeholder you wish to be.

Drew, That random number will probably be the unique id assigned to the specific programme when it was recorded.
An excellent job. Well done, Tom and colleagues!
All the best,


I’m a big fan of Radio 3, and of your site in general, but by coincidence (unaware of the changes) I was using the Radio 3 site a few days ago and found it rather frustrating.
I rarely listen to things when they are broadcast, and rely extensively on Listen Again. Radio 4 in this respect is excellent. (Although I have mused in the past about their inconsistent URL schemes.)
Anyway, one Radio 3 show that I like is Late Junction. So what I want to do is turn on the computer, browse for a Late Junction show with interesting content, and stream it.
So I go to Listen Again
The page isn’t very useful. I scroll far down to find Late Junction, and I care not a jot about the day of the week they were broadcast, I want to browse their content. I click on a random show, say Monday, which pops up the BBC Radio Player. Then to get info on that show, do I click ‘Latest playlist’, or ‘More info about this show’? Doesn’t really matter, they both do the same. Which is not what I want.
So they put me on this page
Firstly, why couldn’t I get here from the Listen Again page? Secondly, what do I do now to get Monday’s playlist? The links (Monday, Tuesday, etc. — no dates) just launch the player again. Weirdly, you access the playlists using the dated links at top right, but of course I have to consult a calendar to check that Monday is 28 June. (The links in the centre of the page should be “Monday 28 June – Listen | Playlist”)
Now I finally get to the page I want:
Bizzarely, this page does not have a link to listen to the show! I can only listen to it if I consult a calendar to see 28 June is Monday, then go back to the Late Junction page, and click on Monday.
I guess this also means that you can’t listen to shows older than a week. Is this so? (I have to make this deduction; it’s nowhere explicit.) If so, that’s very sad! (And much worse than Radio 4.)
A final strange thing is the method of navigating dates at the top right of the page. It always shows 7 dates, with the currently selected one in the middle. That means that you only ever have a pin-hole view of the year’s shows, and going more than a month back in time, requires numerous clicks to move this pin-hole view. Why on earth isn’t there a better way of navigating the dates?
Tom, I enjoyed reading your post about the Radio 3 URL structure, and like much of your work, but I can’t see the logic in any of the above. My apologies if it deals with stuff outside of your remit.

Radio ripples: the life cycle of a broadcast
Dan Hill has written an informative piece about some of the architecture decisions behind the new BBC Radio 3 website, which enables deep linking to pages that specifically relate not just to a particular series of show or presenter, but down to the in…

Thank you thank you for this Bach feast. I wish you wouldn’t read negative comments about him. He is the greatest composer that ever lived. I’m sorry,though that you started things off with the Ton Koopman Christmas oratoria. I thought it was too jaunty and lacking in tenderness. The mezzo had a soupy voice. I know it’s a matter of opinion but … The violinist —meyer was brilliant. Couldn’t catch the first part of his name. I just wish I weren’t so busy.

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