The BBC recently launched a new site in the form of BBC Taster, a digital sandbox for new ideas that's an alluring mix of leftfield formats and experimental features. We've already taken a look at it, and now we've asked a group of web professionals for their impressions of the BBC's latest online venture. Here's what they have to say.
"My first thought when I hit this site is that it feels to lack a lot of context – it feels like I should probably be already aware of it (from a pamphlet or an email or whatever) and that I should already know what's what when I arrive. Either that, or it just doesn't do such a great job of letting new visitors know what or why it is.
"After reading a small bit of blurb – at the bottom of the page – my second thought was that it all feels kinda stark and un-engaging, which is the opposite of what I would think they'd need to go for. If they're wanting to gather feedback from viewers – feedback on new and exciting things – the site should probably be a little more immersive: I want to be led in by the promise of much to explore, like I'm opening a treasure chest of new and unreleased material.
"Unfortunately, currently, it feels more like a kitchen cupboard. The design is also a little confused; the colours and illustrative treatments feel bold and brave, but the layout and IA feel a little conservative and 'safe'.
"Once I looked around a little more and acquainted myself, I started to get into the idea a lot more. I enjoyed the idea and the execution behind the Our War project, which really helped me to understand and warm to the Taster project itself. This could be a really great platform for the BBC to take proof of concept and – dare I say it – MVP productions and ideas to an engaged and wide sample market.
"I applaud and encourage the initiative, but I feel that, right now, the execution doesn't fit the new, cutting edge, exclusive, inclusive, first-look nature of the project. That said, it's very, very important – as it always is with projects that you had no part in – to remember that we're critiquing Taster at the start of its journey.
"I'm sure that once they find their feet and gather feedback, they can really start to improve and/or introduce immersive, engaging design that lends itself well to serendipity and discovery."
Harry Roberts is a consultant front-end architect and net's 2014 Young Developer of the Year
"When you get so wrapped up in your adult life – working to pay the bills – you sometimes forget to have fun. BBC Taster is a big reminder to me to experiment with your work and find time to do things that are just purely for fun and to enjoy the work that you do. I love the way that you can rate each thing that you try out in Taster – giving feedback really early on to the devs and Taster team at large on what works and what doesn't – and also what the audience at large think as well.
"Not only is the content pretty interesting, but the Taster site itself is full of little quirks. Navigating to find something new, you get to choose whether you want to try something "about me", "epic", "fun" or even "geeky" and you can even see the amount of time left to try out each section, so you can come back to something later if you want to.
"More than anything though, I appreciate that Taster is an experiment – seeing what is possible to do on the web and extending the experience of their audience, all the while reminding me to step back into that child-like place of fun and experimentation in my own work."
Rachel Shillcock develops and designs custom brands and websites
"The very fact that the BBC has created this sandbox for testing new ideas is worth some credit. That users can rate the ideas is a good way of gauging what content users enjoy too and should inform future projects too. I like the variety of projects to choose from and the inside story content explaining the thinking behind them is invaluable too.
"That said, I didn't have time to go through a lot of the projects so lots of great ideas may be lost beyond the surface. This platform definitely feels like one to watch."
Robert Mills is studio manager and content chap at Bluegg
"I think anything that explores new ways to present content, and new types of content, has the potential to be really cool. But why so much Flash? It seems contradictory to pair innovative content with an outdated technology. It may well defeat the point as visitors aren't likely to be able to consume content on their preferred browsers and devices, and so will come at this new content from a biased position of discomfort (or just plain won't be able to access it in the first place).
Laura Kalbag is a designer and works as part of Ind.ie
"I like the way the BBC is trying out new ideas in a safe environment away from the mainstream. Experimentation is something the Beeb have always done with the late night schedules on TV so it's good to see them doing the same online.
"There is some risqué stuff in there, like the interview between Lena Dunham and Jen Saunders, that wouldn't go down at all well linked to from the homepage so it's good it's happening out of the way. The way they are making the content bite size for easy online sharing again should mean it's shared within a niche group that will appreciate it.
"Measurement is really important when experimenting and using social shares as way of measuring that success is perfect for this kind of content.
"I'm not sure about the Taster section as a whole. The individual pieces of content aren't related to each other. Moving from interactive poetry to Doctor Who to Hip Hop to WWI doesn't feel like a natural series of steps. I can't see why I would keep coming back to the section but I can see myself clicking on a link to something interesting from BBC Taster someone I trust has shared on Twitter."
Joe Leech is a UX consultant and the author of Psychology for Designers
"I'm all for transparency, especially from a large organisation such as the BBC. Them showing new ideas like this, especially how innovative they are is brilliant. From their perspective they're doing some in the wild customer development and from our point of view we've got access to seeing what they're up to from an R&D perspective as well as seeing how different technologies are being used. Using YourStory as an example, that's bringing together 31 years of data from their archives to create my own personal story by linking it up with my Facebook profile. Hopefully more companies will do the same as this, innovation breeds innovation."
Gavin Elliott is head of UX at traveljunction.com
"Anything that allows the team working on a product to get feedback early and learn from reactions and actual usage will only ever benefit everyone involved, from the end users to the decision makers and the product itself.
"There's some incredible talent and projects taking place at the BBC and it's great to see that the public will be able to get involved by trying them out and having their say. I'm a firm believer that these kind of initiatives go a long way to motivate employees and ensure they're constantly learning. It's great to see that a place like the BBC have launched this and I'm looking forward to seeing how it develops."
Anna Dahlström is a UX designer and the founder of byflock
That's what they think – what do you think? Tell us your thoughts about BBC Taster in the comments.
Words: Jim McCauley
Jim McCauley is a writer, editor and occasional podcaster, and is available for children's parties.
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