The BBC iPlayer is one of the organisation’s biggest success stories of recent years. But just two and half years since its launch, a redesign is making it more in-tune with the way people engage with broadcast media…
“We had to work out how to incorporate new elements without alienating the users. When we started the project, I think the BBC imagined the social media features as a new ‘area’ on the site. But we thought it should be more subtle than that – and, in a way, more radical – by being suffused everywhere.
“A big impetus for the redesign is that people are going straight to the iPlayer now, not just going there to catch up on viewing. In the past, TV told you where the good shows were, it was the editorial voice of the BBC. The iPlayer has been a place to catch-up on programmes, but in the last two years there’s been a shift with people going to it directly as an entertainment device.
“So we needed to move it on subtly – to let people be introduced to things through their own behaviour or through their friends. The ‘on-air’ voice of the BBC is not as significant now. A new generation of people are not even buying a TV, but watching on laptops.
“The homepage is now personalised and will change with your level of engagement with it. The first time you visit you’ll see two panels – featured content and the most popular content – but once you’ve used it it will know more about what you’ve watched and reveal another two panels with recommendations and a ‘friends tab’ so you can connect to social media networks.
“Rather than putting more stuff on the page, it simply gets ‘revealed’ as as people use it. There are hidden depths – everything can be personalised to some extent. Of course, some people won’t want to engage with these features, so you don’t want to alienate them.
“You can customise the the category sections, for example, and turn off the radio stations that you know you don’t listen to. The data is stored locally in cookies – but if you have a BBC ID you can take your setting with you onto other machines.
“The ‘favourites’ tray is a bit like a shopping cart. As you move around the site you can rollover things and ‘star’ them and they get added. So new episodes of those programmes get pushed to you through alerts.
“Also the new version puts more emphasis on watching live TV on the site. There’s a panel of channels – click On Now – and that takes you to a live feed; you can even flick between channels.”