BBC’s new homepage

February 29, 2008

The BBC have launched their much blogged about, widget based, drag & drop homepage this week.

I gave it a once over while still in beta and my opinion hasn’t changed. I love it!

It’s a fantastic design job and so easy to use. It’s obviously had a usability agency all over it to ensure it meets the needs of as many users as possible too.

Hat tip to Josh at Read Write Web for his write up regarding this link that I’d never come across before. It’s a demo of an analytics tool aimed at web 2.0 and AJAX websites.

With the death of the page view as the all important metric of the analyst there has appeared a need to be able to measure users engagement with a website rather than just how many pages they viewed.

The rise of AJAX has been a major player in this with whole websites sometimes being a single screen which makes many calls to databases and servers in order to refresh itself multiple times in a users visit. Thus devaluing the page view completely.

The demo shows a novel way to gauge a users engagement by measuring in time how long segments of the page stay in the browser viewing pane. This isn’t perfect by a long way but it’s a sign of how analytics tools will have to work in the future as websites get more difficult to measure and marketeers and management get more demanding in their hunt for data to help understand their users.

Also really interesting is the demo of a tool to measure users engagement with a banner advert. I can’t wait till metrics like this exist as they may help marketers see that throwing money into display advertising is not the way forward anymore.

What I’d really like to see is mouse interaction data on pages as well. It surely is possible to collect the data on the X and Y coordinates and it’s a good hint as to what area of the screen a user is actually focused on (users tend to hover the mouse over what interests them). It’s great to know that the item you’re interested in is within view but how do you know that users are actually looking at it? Short of installing eyetracking as defacto in PC’s we may never answer questions like that!

Great post from Jakob Nielsen on the dangers of going web 2.0 crazy from a usability point of view!

Highly poingant as we’re implementing a lot of AJAX at the moment. Overkill is deadly and could trash your conversion rate. Keep it minimal, useful, effective (AJAX is great for some things, pointless for others), simple, usable and give clear instructions where needed.

I agree with his pitch on user generated content as well. Pointless if your audience/customers aren’t ready for it or if you have nothing interesting for them to talk about (that said, great in an emotive environment such as online travel if used wisely).

BBC widgetizes its homepage

December 14, 2007

The BBC have released a beta of their homepage featuring Netvibe/Google’esque personal homepage features and loads of AJAX.

I like it. Very clean, well laid out, intuitive to navigate, the AJAX drag and drop is really easy to use. It’s very web 2.0 in looks though and they may have taken that style a little too far but it is a vast improvement and looks extremely usable. Good job BBC!

Where next for AJAX?

December 11, 2007

AJAX World Magazine, a decent site that looks into the newer web technology of AJAX has published an interesting list of questions on the subject. The questions come from various pioneers in the technology after they were asked to pose the conundrums that they think we should be answering next to take AJAX forward and ‘fix the web’.

Would love to know the answers if anyone has them!

I posted the other day surmising whether Yahoo is catching up in search based on some new metrics from Compete. The general feel from that post was that they weren’t really and the numbers were questionable in value.

So, what should I see this morning? New, useful features in Yahoo’s main search interface, the kind of features that make search a whole lot less painful for users and add a lot of value, helping users to target searches more effectively.

The first thing I noticed was that they have integrated images from Flickr and also playable videos, kind of like Google’s universal search idea and equally as useful to the user. So if you search for a music artist (eg. Unkle) you should get images and video in the results along with useful additions such as links to albums, lyrics, photos and more videos. Next I did a search for a hotel (eg. ‘hudson hotel new york‘) in New York (being the online travel buff that I am) and the top result in this case was a Yahoo Local listing for the hotel complete with map links, again extremely useful (although possibly doing themselves out of a small amount of ad revenue here). Another cool feature is the inclusion of custom results for searches such as health related (eg. ‘lyme disease‘), quick easy access to relevant info is the killer in search and here Yahoo have it spot on.

And then there’s the biggest and most useful addition, and it’s an addition that Google haven’t yet implemented… It’s an AJAX based search assistant panel that appears if it senses you hesitate while typing a search query. It works as an auto-complete assistant and also a guided search tool as it will both try to guess what you were typing and give you suggestions as well. This is extremely powerful and really makes search easier for the user. It also adds a lot of value to advertisers as it should mean more qualified clicks on paid search results as the searches are better informed.

I’m actually really surprised this has come out of Yahoo first, I’ve been waiting for Google to implement something like this for a while now but for once Yahoo have the upper hand. Now all they need to do is sort out the problems with their paid search results (relevancy, gaming etc), fix their algorithms for natural search and improve the interface and they could become my search engine of choice!

Neilsen/NetRatings has announced it will lower it’s weighting given to rankings based on the longtime industry yardstick of page views and begin tracking how long visitors spend at websites. It has added both ‘Total Minutes’ and ‘Total Sessions’ metrics to NetView, its syndicated Internet audience measurement service.

This is to counter the problems their measurements encouter with rich applications using AJAX etc which allow users to interact with websites and services without reloading pages.

This has been coming for a while and I look forward to seeing the shake up in the rankings based on their metrics. I can think of a few sites that should benefit (due to users interacting with single pages for some time) and I can also think of a few sites that should suffer (due to users clicking around blindly and then leaving).