BBC World Service News

BBC World Service News

Project Overview

As a UX Designer for the BBC News and BBC World Service I was responsible for user experience design across all the global language services, designing for products using 27 languages, 8 scripts (Latin/Cyrillic, Chinese, Devangari, Burmese, Tamil, Sinhala & Bengali), across desktop, responsive, mobile and native apps.

Working across various languages of which I had no previous knowledge is an interesting and unique UX challenge. iA’s Oliver Reichenstein puts it perfectly:

“When you can’t read or write and you need to interpret everything you encounter by deciphering visual clues, you begin to understand how things and people function behind the words. If, in plus, a lot of the standard mechanical interfaces work differently, it was a magnificent training in basic interface phenomenology.”

A broad skill set is required to translate global audience insight into tangible ideas that fulfil a specific markets needs. To create something that allows users to achieve the task they set out to achieve, quickly and intuitively, whilst simultaneously delighting them and encouraging them to stay longer, consume more and return later.

Designing products for such a broad user group requires a deep knowledge of local markets. A one size fits all product is simply not possible. User are not a single distinct segment or type of audience.

I have conducted and participated in numerous user researches and competitor analysis over the years which exposed many interesting facts regarding age, demographic, content consumption and social behaviours. For example in the Russian market, where there is a high smart phone usage, the audience predominantly expected to see hard news of a serious nature, delivered more like a twitter feed. Where as for BBC Brazil the audience had a strong appetite for the softer quirkier news, so we provided more image galleries, ‘soft news stories’ from around the world and larger images.

The pace of online news doesn’t allow for bespoke design. Newspaper print designers are, to some extent, able to tailor designs to the days news. But the high frequency, sheer volume and variety of content types that can be displayed in online news at any given time over the course of the day doesn’t allow for this. Articles may appear as text only, or with images, with an image gallery, with video or audio. A big breaking news story is presented differently to a normal top story. And there may also be different editions to the front page – such as the weekend edition that differs in content and volume to that of the weekday. All potential displays are created and factored in as part of the design. One of my tasks was to create templates and a palette of modules with their associated behaviours.

One of the most crucial parts of a text heavy site is the way the typography is treated. To create a coherent hierarchy for headlines, short summaries, lists etc. and to keep a global consistency across the BBC brand we would spend time crafting the optimal font sizes and style for each of the services. We did a meticulous job of working out tracking and leading for each of the scripts. These rules are then applied to each and every module and its many permutations: with different sized images, without an image, with related stories, and additional elements such as iconography for comments and denoting video etc.

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