Auntie’s Got a Brand New (Global) Bag

by on March 24, 2010

So, a new “visual language” (AKA design directions) from the Beeb! Most of their blog post is about visual design and grids, so I’ll leave comment on that to others, but I couldn’t ignore the following:

“We want to create a modern British design aesthetic”

And people at the Beeb wonder why they’re seen as arrogant! He he, only jokin’.

However, there are a couple of interesting IA/UX things here.

Firstly: “We’re moving away from left hand navigation to consistently placed, horizontal navigation across the site.” I can see why they think this is a good idea. They clearly want to promote the role of large, and even full-page photography to pole position,. But I wonder if it’ll give them problems like it did with Amazon (remember the “crazy tabs” era?). I predict they’ll sneak in some secondary navigation device before too long. I also wonder if they’ll succumb to the dreaded fly-out menus.

There is no direct mention of whether the rather pointless “movable tiles” approach to the content on the home page will be ditched or not, but I predict the former, if only because they want to retire the once trendy “distinctly ‘web 2.0’ design.” This observation leads me to one of my favourite pontifications: if you ditch an interaction idea on the grounds of updating a visual design, then it wasn’t a very useful idea in the first place, was it? That comment is almost certainly going to attract hate mail from somebody in the visual design community, but I call this the Glass Wall effect (8Mb PDF, sorry, but it’s a good read for some early web design nostalgia). It’s also probably me finding significance where there is none, but have they become almost obsessed with carousels (or at least things that look like them)? I often wonder what people make of these. I’ve not actually observed their use in wild very much.

Which also leads me to another observation: there’s not a single mention of user (or indeed any other kind) of research here, other than in the name Research Studios, who – bizarrely – do not use the word on their website either(!). So do they do research to support design or not? It appears not. I assume from this that the Beeb has now fully internalized the Apple Way. Perhaps that’s a good thing.  Neville Brody sure looks the part of the Genius Designer though, I’ll give him that. Then again, perhaps visual designs don’t need to be researched. Who knows.

But I’m rambling. Overall, this new style guide can’t be anything other than good news. So many people in my field regard bbc.co.uk as a reference site. It’s great they have the ability to evolve in clear progressions rather than being in hoc to the minutiae of commercial considerations and the yoke of “incremental design.”

Go Auntie, take my license fee and spend it for all you’re worth. I’m with you all the way.

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