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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