New BBC iPlayer Layout: What were they thinking?

Quick note: This blog post is old. It was published as a complaint in 2008. Move along, folk.

Sometimes I come across a site and have to wonder what the designers, consultants, marketers, management teams and everyone else involved were thinking when they signed off on the project. The sting is that much worse when it’s a re-design of a well-loved site.

Well, the brains behind the new BBC iPlayer layout have failed, miserably! The new design is cluttered and lacks the wonderful functionality of the older sidebar. Its ease of use is completely gone in favour of… something? I have no idea what benefit the new layout brings. There is no additional feature set. It doesn’t DO anything different.


I have two major concerns with it:

  1. It’s cluttered.

The benefit of the original iPlayer was an ease of use and elegant design. It was simple to find a programme, easy to play it, and easy to find related content. They have now juxtaposed radio and television programming, littered the screen with unfathomable boxes, and made the filtering by category bloody difficult. Its main content doesn’t fit above the fold, making its screen real-estate poorly-used even though there is much more content on display at one time. The wonderfully-simple method of sidebar filtering is gone in favour of some myspace-esque scatter-box setup. It’s complicated, un-elegant, and supremely difficult to use.

Poor effort, badly done.

  1. It’s ugly. I know this is subjective, but the actual player doesn’t fit well in its space. For all the seeming effort to splash content across the screen, the player itself doesn’t use enough of the screen when it’s in viewing mode:

You wouldn’t guess that the better-looking part of this screen is below the window scroll line, would you? Instead you get terminal-esque white text below a plain box which doesnt fit.

Background Rubbish

When I went to the forum to see if anyone else had noticed, I was pleased to see the top-most comments were all complaints about the bad layout. The boards were closed (I can only hope because of overwhelming viscerole being poured out!) but I did note another poor design feature: the background gradient repeats both horizontally and verticaly. What this means is that on a wide-screen layout, you see a tiled gradient instead of a smooth black-to grey.

I hope the BBC Design team heeds the forums, this plea, and countless others waiting to occur. Please fix the great iPlayer. This revamp’s rubbish and it feels like something pushed out to tick boxes rather than satisfy user needs.

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