BBC unveils redesigned Sport site

BBC Sport has unveiled a new-look, and very yellow, website which aims to put video content to the fore and align the Sport department with the BBC’s overall visual language

BBC Sport has unveiled a new-look, and very yellow, website which aims to put video content to the fore and align the Sport department with the BBC’s overall visual language (read our original post on the development of that visual language by Research Studios here)

First, a little background. The original incarnation of BBC Sport online, launched in 2000, looked like this:

That site was revamped in 2003

With another update in 2008 (sorry aout the tiny pic)

The most obvious (apart from the yellow) and immediate change with the new site is a switch from a left-hand vertical main navigation to a horizontal bar.

In his detailed post on the new site, the BBC’s Ben Gallop explains that “This is in line with the rest of BBC Online – and indeed with virtually all other major sports websites.” He goes on to say that “The previous site had a long list of sports on the left-hand side of the Sport homepage. But crucially that was the only page that did so. With more and more people bypassing that front page and coming straight to specific pages deep within the site (via search engines, links from social networks and other recommendations from friends) we needed a way to guide them around the rest of what we have to offer.”

It’s not a full list of sports – users can find that by accessing an expanded menu through the More Sports tab top right. Using both the main nav bar and the expanded menu, the site is able to provide a full list of every sport covered on every page of the site.

There is also, as Gallop explains, expanded coverage of live sport as people increasingly turn to the web in order to follow games. So, more video, live data and commentary.

It’s important to remember that this is the first iteration of the site and, as such, will surely be subject to much tweaking in the coming weeks. Judging by the user comments on Gallop’s post, the use of yellow is so far proving the biggest bugbear.

As can be seen from the images of previous versions of the site shown above, yellow is BBC Sport’s colour so its use is appropriate. The new version just uses it more extensively – too extensively for many. Colour is a very useful device for reminding users instantly of where they are on a complex site – the BBC uses red for news, for example – but what looks good in pre-launch mock-ups doesn’t always translate well to everyday use. The first version of the CR site used bright orange as an accent colour on a lot of the menu items. We all liked it in development but as soon as the site went live we realised it was a mistake. But this is something that is relatively easy to fix.

The biggest complaint I have with the site, however, is a lack of finesse.

At the time of writing, the main story was on Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini’s reaction to his team’s defeat at Everton. Click through to the story and the first part, above the ‘fold’, appears like this:

Note the awkward space created by the left-hand column for social media links, which is exacerbated as you scroll down further

where the awkward placement of the box-out story adds to the visual confusion

go down further and things are made worse by the video insert, complete with ugly widow in the caption

Although the site is designed to integrate with the rest of the BBC’s services, it’s not seamless. Click on the John Terry lead story on the Sport site

and you go through to the main story page which is situated on the News site and so has a totally different treatment to a Sport story like the Mancini one

The much trumpeted video content is also displayed awkwardly in some cases. Here’s a story on Welsh rugby star Shane Williams’ top tries

In this case, the Most Watched list appears to float and the Share buttons, while important, are given undue weight. Other video content appears better resolved when the video box itself is wider and the story has longer text

Why the two different video sizes? Perhaps the discrepancy is just a first day glitch.

Elsewhere, problems stem from the inevitable compromises needed to make a site of this scale work. One of the issues with editorial websites is the need to, on the one hand, keep production work to a minimum while, on the other, maintain basic standards. The ideal is to have as few elements as possible for each story – you don’t want to have to write three different headlines or standfirsts, for example, or to have to upload six different sizes of your lead image because of the number of different places throughout the site that the image must appear in. But it’s very hard to make this work in practice. So you get things like this

or take this story on Man City’s recent travails. On the home page the problem lies with the headline, which is too short for the two decks it has been given

But when it’s displayed as an additional content link on the Mancini story, it’s the standfirst that is the issue

When you are trying to manage a website, this kind of thing can drive you mad and I have every sympathy with those involved at the BBC. Doubtless, readers can find plenty of issues with the CR site and many others.

Taken in isolation, the points highlighted here are relatively minor in the context of such a huge undertaking but they, along with some problems of type size and spacing the site shares with the rest of the BBC online family, add up to create an overall impression of a distinct lack of finesse.

There’s something just a little crude about this site that will need some close attention to detail and rigour from production staff over the coming weeks to put right.




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  • was only just thinking it’s a bit of dogs dinner before clicking on here. The type seems ill considered with line heights too tight making headline text clash when over more than one line. Quite hard on the eye all round really.

  • I’m quite sure there’ll be lots of points about the yellowness and whatnot but one thing which I wonder about looking at the new layout is something which I increasingly find in ‘new media’ – the split of ‘Visual Designer’ and ‘UX’ and where this should be, if anywhere.

    From personal experience I find that there’s a lot of emphasis on creating very detailed wireframes and the visual delicacies are overlooked. The split of ‘Visual Design’ and ‘UX’ seems to be UX create the magic and make sense of all the jumble and everything else is superfluous. It puzzles me what Visual Design means – is it just some one who can use Photoshop to tart something up, but has no valid opinion of interactions?

    I do feel the new BBC Sport site looks like a coloured in wireframe at the moment.

    I’m quite sure as time passes the rough corners will be refined and the site fill out nicely and there’s some nice ideas and touches in there.

  • A tip for avoiding widows put a ( & n b s p ; ) between the last two words in a paragraph.

  • The part that bugs me most about the home page is the “Headlines” column that awkwardly runs in one narrow line through the middle, and the “more from BBC Sport” box near the bottom. Is it me or are these simply impossible to “skim read”?? Surely colour differentiation for different major sports would be more sensible? I just find the amount of information overwhelming and very little ease of navigation.

  • Paul

    “Colour is a very useful device for reminding users instantly of where they are on a complex site”

    I actually had to double take this morning and check I hadn’t gone to ITV’s website by mistake. It never occurred to me that the BBC sport colour was “yellow” seeing as red was more prominent in the previous version.

    It doesn’t really make sense to me to seemingly have a different brand identity across the same company. Fair enough they may be a separate division to BBC news, but the user experience would be far less jarring if all the BBC sites were aligned in terms of layout/design/colour scheme.

  • All on transfer deadline day too! Must’ve been fun.

    As for the new design, as organised as Arsenal’s defence – i.e. not…

    I like the yellow – very bright and fresh – but I’m not sure about the design, even ignoring the obvious layout failings mentioned.

    The last iteration was very clear, well structured and easy to use. Maybe that was just familiarity. Only time will tell if this will be as user friendly.

  • It looks like it was designed by the daily star..

    BBC in dumbing down shocker..

  • Jef

    You should see what we see outside the UK when the ads are dropped in. Unlike the News site, which integrates the ads as well as one could I guess, it looks like the Sport site designers remembered at the last minute that they needed ad space internationally and just jammed it in where they could.

  • Marc Jones

    Amazed it got released in such a state – worked on it in 2001, the style guide was like the phone book. We went through loads of hoops. The white space, and the content spilling into it is insane.

    Good try to look contemporary but they forgot to look for functionality and user experience. I can only assume no testing was undertaken?

  • james

    It’s probably just me but i cannot understand the need for all this video! If i wanted to watch the news i’d switch on the telly. There are countless 24 hour news channels.

    I use the BBC news site in quick 5-10 minute bursts throughout the day, to see what’s going on in the world. i want news in bite sized articles or longer piece if i have time.

    i do not want to sit there ploughing through video after video of footballers saying “at the end of the day” every 10 seconds. I really don’t get the internets obsession with video. It works where appropriate but it’s really not needed half the time.

  • craig goslan

    The BBC News website seems to cater for HTML5 allowing video to be streamed across several platforms (e.g. PCs and the iPad), I would have thought that a redesign of the BBC sports website would have incorporated such a feature.
    Instead the BBC have spent licence payer’s money coming up with a vomit-inducing front page for the sports website that is more confusing than intuitive.

  • Simon J Lee

    I think sometimes aesthetics plays a big part on how well a site works. I do think there could have been a little more focus on placement as there seems to be too much information scattered across the page. The old one was far easier to pick out the information I needed. Although I can see the direction they want to take it, for me it looks like the designer wasn’t present at the meeting.

  • Paul Gill

    Wish they’d stop f*cking around with it to be honest… Waste of licence payer’s money….

  • Agree DangerousClive above. There is certainly a sense that we’re behind our Californian cousins in understanding the links between interaction design and visual design (I would say they both come under UX). A general feeling persists among those of us who cross disciplines that there’s some catching up to do from both ends. Graphic designers rarely have a profound comprehension of interaction patterns, how to turn wireframes into compelling experiences or how to deal with developers. While at the other end, the engineering and human factors paradigm that dominates UX design thinking looks to developers to smooth out interaction journeys but shows little understanding of emotional texture, cultural values in visual design or visual rhythm.

  • Al

    The live football timeline incident icons have gone from colour to black and white. It was much easier to identify an ‘event’ in colour. It’s like going back in time, “OK we’ve invented the colour television but we’ll keep the black and white graphics”. Oh yes, a myriad of people can’t be wrong, the yellow has to be tweaked.

  • Stephen Allenby

    Whilst the aesthetics might be a matter of taste (even if – judging by the reactions of the user base on the BBC blog – the overwhelming majority are repelled by the appearance) people do eventually reconcile themselves to even the most garish and ugly designs if the content is worth the effort.

    Unfortunately a lot of valued content seems to have gone missing in the new design. In football alone people have already found that many of the features from the lower leagues, the European leagues and the real-time vidiprinter have been lost, whilst some of the information is now presented in a willfully unhelpful way – forthcoming fixtures are split by league with no overview of which games are being played on a specific day, for instance.

    Too many designer who think they know what’s best and too few sports fans who know what people want have been involved in the design methinks.

  • Murray

    The comments on here are so depressing.

    No-one has mentioned the idea that the BBC has to scale up with limited budget ahead of the Olympics. Not one person. No-one has even touched on the idea that a site as popular as this could legitimately need to serve something in the region of 200 million people worldwide, moreso when a big event is on (is the Olympic elephant in the room yet?).

    You should all go back to your New Order album covers and (after the cheeky wank) have a long hard think about what things do, rather than how yellow they are or whether it has ruined your lives by changing.

  • Paul Humphris

    Sorry everyone involved in updating this but i am really finding the new design hard to look at and use.
    Why change something that is working?

    Very sad as i loved using the site for my morning sport fix in oz!
    I guess i’ll have to start using the ABC for now on :-(

  • Chris

    It’s all a bit too contrasty. Needs some subtlety, some greys, some tints. Smaller text here and there. Too many different sizes of regular (not bold) text on white or yellow all competing with each other. The blue could be a tad greyer. Why is that blue there anyway? Yellow boxes around ‘play’ icons too big. Indents on the ‘Other Sports’ sub-heads are out. Otherwise it’s ok.

  • Tom Brodie

    I know the journalists on the site aren’t happy with the redesign. Forced on them by others in the Beeb.

    For me, the design gets in the way of conveying the information. My training told me that was one of the biggest sins.

  • Peter

    I feel sorry for the poor woman who’s lost her husband.

    “go down further and things are made worse by the video insert, complete with ugly widow in the caption”

  • Brian Redikin

    Was hoping that they would reconsider the launch of the new format. It seems too much in your face, so much so I gave up using my PC for the F1 news and used my phone as the mobile site is better to navigate.
    It kind of says it all when I would rather use a 4″ phone screen instead on my 24″ wide screen PC !!!!.
    Can we have the old format back or even an option to use old layout and lets see which one the people choose. Rather than this is it, get used to it !!!!

  • David

    It’s a mess.
    The layout is far too complicated. Everything is indented – creating a lot of jagged lines and awkward spaces. Uses an excessive number of type sizes – lots of neighboring headers set at oddly different sizes, looks clumsy. Don’t mind the yellow though its a bit garish for the quick morning browse.

    Overall its like they tried to cram every idea into one. Requires major refinement.
    Or preferably just change it back – the old site worked extremely well.

  • Ben

    Widows LOL

  • Christom

    I shall confine myself to just one comment out of the many
    I could make about this new and improved site, that
    many of us have known and used asour
    “go to” site for sports news for many years and
    even had the BBC sport site as our homepage. I shall not make any
    comment about the way in which the football league tables and
    fixture lists have been redesigned so that the do not appear in
    the format in which all sports fans like to see them, but it is so
    confusing and difficult to read when a comment
    such as this is not left aligned because somebody
    decides that it would be more interesting to see
    comments in a box to the left of what I am writing
    and not what I have just

  • Craig


  • This re-design has had a lot of bad comments, I would like to see if you all have the same opinion today sometimes a website can take a little getting use to, and it’s not the easiest to make a website with so much content as user friendly and easy to navigate round as this site. One thing to point out tho it still hasn’t changed much in the last 2 years, I would have thought they might have made it responsive by now, it is the BBC after all.