Building my rebooted:bbc.co.uk homepage - #9: Embedded iPlayer
The BBC recently announced that what was known as the myBBCplayer has become the iPlayer. I don't know what it is about 'i' at the moment, but there seems to be the same sort of rash of them just as when everybody started doing e-Commerce and e-Banking and e-Government back in the late nineties. Perhaps the vowel moves along the alphabet every few years, and by 2010 we'll be talking about o-Services and o-Gadgets?
Anyway, I don't know what form the iPlayer is going to take - whether it will be web-based pop-up like the BBC's current Radio Player, or some downloadable software like the iMP trial was - but whatever it is I want a great big chunk of it embedded into my homepage design. I think the BBC will be really missing a trick if it ends up advertising "Get what you want, when you want, where you want - go to double-yew double-yew double-yew dot bee bee cee dot co dot you-kay slash interactive teevee player gizmo thing" rather than having it slap bang in the middle of the homepage, and being able to advertise "Get what you want, when you want, where you want - go to bee bee cee dot co dot you-kay". I really think if the BBC is serious about putting on demand at the heart of its services, it needs to put it at the heart of the homepage.
So what is the player going to do on my redesigned page? Well, I think like a TV you are going to be able to skip across the channels, and I think from each channel you should be able to watch the current live stream, or choose to watch catch-up TV. And I think Radio should be in the mix as well. Back in the UK I used to quite happily record things off Radio 4 onto my TiVo via Digital Satellite, and I think on demand really removes one of the distinctions between radio and TV - that you use different devices.
So my idea is basically a screen with some moving stuff, some tabs at the top to change channels, which will be BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Three, BBC Four, CBBC, CBeebies, News 24 plus two "non-channel" brands - BBC Sport and BBC Weather, plus a BBC Radio tab. Then next to the screen will be a contextual menu for each channel. So, not entirely a huge leap from the BBC's existing broadband pop-up streaming consoles it must be said - although having a moving image slap bang in the middle of the homepage is a bit of a leap - not least in terms of the volume of bandwidth the page will take to serve.
The next question I have is what should the video box be playing when you first load the page? If anything?
I really like UEFA.com's homepage design - but I always think my computer is about to self-destruct when I visit it, because low down on the page it has embedded video which automatically starts with some countdown pips. The BBC Two broadband site is another place with embedded video on the page.
If I was at the BBC, I'd want to get some more research done specifically around this. Does embedded video annoy people? How prominent should the mute button be? Should the video in fact start silent and then offer the user the chance to add sound?
And actually, the more I've thought about it, that is a lot of tabs, and some users will never watch "BBC Four", or have no need for the "CBBC" or "CBeebies" tabs. So perhaps the tabs should be customisable. And I was also thinking, maybe having the ability to add tabs like "BBC Food" and "BBC DIY" would be useful for a lot of users. And I'd need "BBC Sci-Fi" of course. So perhaps there should be a palette of tabs that the user can choose from and have on their version of the embedded iPlayer?
Well, I'm not going to solve those questions myself - so I think for now I'll just specify "some video content with some tabs above it" - it might be BBC One streaming, it might be a specifically put together promo for programmes that day/that week, it might just be a silent generic BBC ident. The tabs might be channels, genres or individual programme brands. Someone else can figure that all out at a later date...
...and that is another important lesson about product development - know your own limits, and know when other people are best-placed to make decisions ;-)
- 13 May 2006 18:22