As the 5th most popular website in the UK, BBC is always one to watch. So what can we learn for ourselves, our businesses and most appropriately our websites from their newest change?

So MASSIVE news this week – BBC iPlayer has a new layout. Ok, perhaps not huge news but we should definitely take the opportunity to see what the BBC has spent (probably) hundreds and thousands of pounds on! As the UK’s 5th most popular website it’s definitely about time that we all sat up and listened.

So what can we learn from the new BBC iPlayer?

As we all know, the BBC tends to have astronomical budgets especially now that they have freed up £30m from closing BBC three as a traditional TV channel – so I’ll just leave you to judge just how much this redesign has cost. Watching these big spenders can show us not only what a big budget can buy, but also what they are judging as important to them and usually these are not such expensive changes!

I have found three core changes in the BBC iPlayer update: usability, social media integration and mobile integration.

First let’s tackle usability.

How has the new iPlayer improved usability?

There are some clear and some not so clear changes to the new BBC iPlayer layout in terms of usability. We can think about this in two ways; what has been added and what has been taken away.

New BBC iPlayer Homepage including new features

Search bar:

BBC iPlayer now comes complete with a search bar – note the search bar in the top right that is perfectly capable of finding programmes. The top right search bar was the original search bar but being integrated with the standard navigation on the whole BBC website may have caused users to essentially be blind to it.

Key lesson: What you can see is not always clear to the user.

Easy to access tools:

You may have also noticed the location, language, parental controls and FAQ options becoming more prominent. Finding these options in the old layout was a chore but making the general design more streamline has allowed BBC to replace unused functions with that the visitor really wants.

Key lesson: Find out what your users want and make it as easy as possible for your users to find it.

If it’s not working, drop it:

As I mentioned, BBC have streamlined this design and dropped a number of features (including their TV schedule). Your homepage space is precious, if people aren’t using your features or not following your calls to action try a different one. Focus on what you want your visitor to do and what they want to get from your website.

Key lesson: Experiment; if something isn’t working don’t be afraid of replacing it with something more useful.

Social Integration

So social media isn’t such a new thing anymore. Many businesses are using it in many different ways from sharing your content to customer service. BBC iPlayer has (finally) caught on and introduced more prominent social icons and calls to action. But what is beautiful about it is that they have thought about what would be appropriate for their audience. Their channels have clear demographics which they are now taking advantage of when it comes to social integration:

BBC three:

iPlayer BBC three social media icons


iPlayer BBC FOUR newsletter icons


BBC TWO mix of social media integration

BBC three is shamelessly targeted to young audiences so it’s a no brainer to include links to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Currently young people are digesting a large amount of short form content – perfect for Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. BBC FOUR however, with a much older (and some would argue more sophisticated) audience would perhaps be more interested in a Newsletter or a blog, this gives them the long form content which constitutes more of the content typically digested by older audiences who prefer more in depth articles. Let’s not forget the Archive Collections, a nice touch! Lastly we can see BBC TWO with a healthy mix between to two; reflecting their mixed audiences.

Key Lesson: Social Media integration is important and calls to action are important, but know your audience. You wouldn’t urge BBC FOUR viewers to interact with you on Instagram, would you? Exactly. You will already know your audiences and different demographics – carry this message clearly through your website and calls to action.


Mobile Integration on iPlayer

BBC are making moves to make iPlayer more mobile friendly. iPlayer now features responsive design, this means that the page and functionality will adapt depending on the device it is accessed from. This is clearly a top priority for them and is even dominating their marketing imagery:

iPlayer Responsive Design across tablet, phone, laptop

An analyst at CCS Insight, Paolo Pescatore, when interviewed by the BBC stated that he believed it would not be long until “requests from media devices will exceed those from other devices such as computers and other connected devices”.

The BBC are also including clear calls to action to try to promote the use of BBC features on smartphones and tablets:

Mobile and tablet iPlayer call to action

Key lesson: Mobile is here to stay! If you want to learn more, why not have a look at our more in-depth analysis of Desktop, mobile and tablet traffic.


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