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And it's goodnight from him - BBC News App

28 January, 2015 - Source: Else

Well, the new BBC news app has certainly been lambasted throughout the media and on the App Store. Yet, putting aside the innate human dislike for change, is it really that bad?

  • BBC News
    BBC News

1,500 impassioned app store reviewers have clubbed together to bestow a measly 2 stars upon it?! What has caused so much friction with this release?

A brief skim through the reviews indicates a revolt against the new design, "..images are too big!", "there’s a need to scroll more...", they,"can’t see as many articles at once as before".

Interestingly, no mention of bugs or the app not performing as described. Strange. What we are facing here is an outcry at change, a reluctance to modify a habit. The app is not perfect yet, as designers working on technical products, we know releasing a new product into the wild is bound to evoke a polarising reaction.

The BBC also suffer from people having a sense of ownership over the product because they pay a license fee. “I’m going to delete it and find one that doesn’t take 4000 hours to navigate”. Really? Did it really take 166 days to work out how to use it?

Maybe a smartphone is not the thing for you.

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

If this was our mantra the design industry would never progress. This mentality would have 56K modems singing away in our homes and the web looking like this beauty from Apple in the late 90’s.

Personally, I think the criticism the BBC has received over the last few days is unduly harsh. They have repackaged the most popular features of BBC News into an application that provides an innovative, location based, personalised news service in line with the current digital landscape.

Behind the scenes, the service has been moved onto a new cloud infrastructure, making it the first BBC News product to be cloud-based. The team tested the product with 2,000 users over the past year AND even delayed the launch for a month due an earlier version being too slow. They are clearly focused on providing a great user experience and they encourage feedback.

The team should receive credit for being progressive and trying to enhance their offering. Instead they face distain. If we don’t allow companies to innovate then how will we ever progress?

The good the bad and the ugly.

The older version felt like a newspaper with a finite amount of content to be read. The update facilitates access to much more content, articles lead into other articles and related topics at the end of articles mean I’m no longer dead ended after I’ve read a story.

There is a better trail of information for me to follow, the new app is suggestive and exciting in the way that they have made the content discoverable, I found myself being drawn into articles that I probably wouldn’t have before.

According to Gavin Edwards, SomeOne/Else UX Director, “The old app provided a canned experience with no onward journey, the update feels like a less restrictive experience.

It means that should the user wish for more articles in a specific category it's a much richer experience..”  Another new feature is that the BBC sports app is now accessible from within the News app, this is the first hint of interoperability between the BBC app suite.

Ok, so there are a few things I’d have done differently.

There are two streams of consumption on offer, the mass consumptive option or the personalised option. In my opinion the app doesn’t place enough distinction between these two modes and if I have a preference for one I am still interrupted by the other.

If my preference is to configure my news to be personal to me, then My News should be what I see when I log in. Additionally I shouldn’t have the modes of mass consumption more accessible than my predefined tabs, let me nuke the Most watched, Most Read and Most Popular tabs if they are of no interest to me, or at the very least let me organised my tabs so that I can give a higher priority to the things i’m interested in. There, that’s my constructive feed back.

That's all it takes. No need to publicly flog the design team! The BBC encourage feedback and they do listen to it, but if you're simply screaming “Roll back or I’m leaving” I’m afraid to say you sound like Veruca Salt and don’t deserve to be taken seriously.

Why do we resist change?

According to Harvard Business School there are numerous reasons people resist change. One is due to the element of surprise. "Decisions imposed on people suddenly, with no time to get used to the idea or prepare for the consequences, are generally resisted.”

Despite vigorously Beta testing the App the BBC have forced people to change and this isn't any app, it is used daily by the masses from their home screens.

Audience readying.

Readying the audience is a concept that maybe we should think about, we’re all guilty of it, we design user centred products and release with the user in mind but we don’t really consider preparing the mass user base for the change.

Should we? or should we take the 'suck it up' mentality that Apple seem so good at doing?

On the whole people, despite their threats, are unlikely to abandon the BBC based on this app, Facebook is threatened with abandonment every time it redesigns it’s site, but there are no signs them slowing down anytime soon.

By Karen Calligeris - Experience Architect

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