With my HCI exam in under 2 weeks and little time during the week, I thought it would be best to start revising. However, like any good student, what started as a successful session ended up being an afternoon of procrastination with thanks to Facebook and surfing the BBC website.
Anyone who knows anything about the web knows that the BBC websites are generally very successful at producing excellent webpages and try to get absolutely everything right. This is particularly difficult given that they are a large corporation with lots of websites and a watchful eye is constantly being kept on them by the media. They are all about:
- Utilising the latest technology and staying ahead of the curve. Ensuring they stay relevant and first port of call from their competitors
- Providing good value to license fee payers
- Ensuring the content is accessible to all users ranging from users with visual impairment to users with slow internet connections.
I use the BBC News website often and is quite easily one of my favourite websites on the web. The design is excellent, content is categorised well and headlines are featured in a clean and consistent way. The BBC Weather site is also an excellently designed webpage utilising lots of imagery and takes a lot of inspiration from the daily weather pieces on BBC one by making the core part of the weather at the forefront of the page. Today’s weather. In the same branding as the weather show.
The BBC homepage is also not my favourite page in the world but that is more to do with the main interactive carousel. The hover effect is annoying, the transparency around the sides makes the page feel cluttered and nothing lines up. They borderline get away with it because it is the homepage and it is supposed to be different. I am not really even sure what it is that I am looking at but that could just be me so i shall hold off on judgement till I have gotten used to it.
Now, apart from the homepage, lets quickly evaluate. All sites have consistent styling, there is a clear colour palette. 1 main colour (red for news, blue for weather, white for home) and a second more vibrant colour to make smaller aspects of the site “pop” (orange for news, green for weather). This works really well in moderation. Also in general – items line up, they use grey boxes in moderation and it performs well in order to segregate content. There is a clear 2 column layout and they do not overuse images to seem modern (apart from the annoying carousel on the homepage of course!)
So far so good right… Now, we get to the abomination of the BBC Sport site which quite clearly destroys any good work that they had done. The first thing that I personally noticed was that it is yellow. A VERY bright yellow. As a consequence there is no highlight colour anywhere on the site that has the same sort of effect as Weather or News. The BBC even know that the yellow is too strong because the header does not stretch along the entire width of the page like the others.
Their main content area is an utter mess. They are using a 3 column layout where nothing lines up properly, they use an image with almost every single piece of text, and their headlines go directly down the centre of the webpage meaning not only does it not get read, but it also makes the page feel unorganised. They are trying to put too much information onto 1 page forgetting the users actually know how to use site navigation. That if they want all the football news they go to the football subsection (now i know I’m exaggerating slightly claiming that they are putting all football, cricket, rugby etc news on the sports homepage but you get my drift!)
Now I am not appossed to slightly different design techniques for the different subsites at the BBC. Individuality is a powerful thing and certainly necessary for major areas of such a large corporation however some form of consistency should be implemented, not to mention the amount of text, random colour, different font sizes, capitalisation, images, image sizes, interactive functionality, hover over effects and yellow as a branding colour is probably not a good idea.
Now this gets me to the final part. The top global navigation.
The chosen colour is linked to the branding of the subsite APART from with the Sport site, most likely because of the yellow. The Weather and News section looks fantastic and fits in with the brand. Sport feels like it has been forced on top rather than integrated. What’s more is that when you click on “more”, this happens:
The white kicks in which is clearly linked with the BBC homepage but it again feel odd and forced. Implementing something similar to the Google franchise sites would enable the BBC to keep their branding. The hover over global menu could have the same background as the primary colour which would not feel overpowering as it would take up a small section of the page.
I’m going to leave you with this advice because I hate the articles and posts that just bitch and criticise without actually giving general advice and solutions to problems:
- Consistency is paramount
- Darker primary colours are preferable over bright primary colours
- Don’t overuse imagery, dynamic elements or hover over effects for the sake of it or to appear modern and dynamic.
- And finally – whilst consistency is important, don’t let it be restrictive! A great example is BBC News and BBC Weather.
But don’t take my word for it. Check out the sites yourself and have a play. I’m fairly confident that I am not alone in this opinion though.