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The BBC’s Web Design

April 8, 2010

As could be expected of a well-established news organization with plenty of resources, the BBC’s Web site has a stellar design. The homepage achieves harmony through similar fonts and colors – all of the article headlines are the same font, and a color theme uses different shades of purple to highlight the banner and top stories.

Interestingly, the homepage has a different color scheme from day to day – on Thursday, April 8, it was purple, but the day before it was a shade of yellowish beige; on other days I’ve seen it pale green. Text and background colors are also used to provide contrast: on every day, the “Top News Story” tag and “More from BBC News” links are always outlined in vivid red, which immediately draws the eye.

The homepage also adheres to the rule of simplicity – unnecessary text and graphics don’t clutter up the page. Only the major stories under news, sports, and “Spotlight” feature an accompanying photo, and only the top three news and sports stories get the colored background. All of the stories and links on the homepage, meanwhile, closely follow the rule of proximity: large headers in purple clearly denote the different sections of news, sports, travel, business, and BBC TV and radio programs, with related articles and links neatly listed below them.

Where the BBC departs from normal standards of Web design is the rule of unity: the rest of its Web site’s pages look nothing like the homepage. The main News page ignores the purple color theme, with the top banner in red and article headlines in blue. The page is arranged in a completely different pattern as well: a column on the left provides links to news sections on different regions of the world, while the rest of the page does without the homepage’s neatly separated boxes. All of the other News pages featuring regional, business, technology, and entertainment news follow the same format.

Other pages are still more different: the main Radio page features a dark gray banner and very spare layout.

These are still beautifully designed pages, but I find it rather perplexing that they’re so different from the homepage. I’m not so sure about the changing color scheme of the homepage either; it could prove confusing to readers. The first time I noticed the different colors it was quite distracting – I thought at first I’d somehow ended up on the wrong page.

The reasoning for the different styles, I suppose, is that unlike many news outlets, the BBC is a vast organization with equally strong branches in print, television, and radio news. A Web layout for listeners looking for BBC radio stations should be arranged differently from one for readers seeking news articles. They’re separate mediums; it makes sense they should have distinct presentation styles.

Where the BBC could unify its various pages is through color: each page’s banner could feature the same bold background color, and all links could have their own distinct color as well. Even with different layouts on every page, a uniform BBC banner at the top would make it clear they’re all part of the same media company.

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3 comments

  1. Nice analysis. The BBC cannot afford to have a terrible Web page, like, let’s say, MinnPost. Given its international reputation for dissemination news, the site has to attractive, concise and well-organized. The color change element is a nice touch. The great thing about the BBC is that it has its own feel.


  2. […] Examining the BBC « The BBC’s Web Design The BBC’s Interactive Elements April 15, 2010 As can be seen throughout its Web […]


  3. They really changed up their layout.



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