6 million user website

Several years ago I remember taking part in an online survey somewhere on the BBC website. It was geared towards understanding what I, as a user, wanted to see in future developments. I made the effort to stop and take part because I believed there was something worthwhile in developing their web presence, I also believed they were willing to listen and respond. It seems I was right.

Apart from the BBC internet blog and backstage etc. @media 2008 had the fortune of hearing a whistle-stop tour of the redevelopment of the BBC homepage. This site has haunted many web designers since it’s launch with comments from colleagues of “Why can’t we do… {insert name of feature here}… like the BBC homepage?”. It became a shining example of what can be achieved.

Tom Cartwright and Claire Roberts presented their short piece on the development of a site that: took them three months to build; had to cater for 6 million users per month; couldn’t contain loops in the code; couldn’t process XML; had to be accessible; where 5% of users (that’s 300,000) didn’t use Javascript. This is web development at the sharp end.

A point of interest is that they managed to get 60 image requests down to just 3 using sprites. This had the affect of reducing the number of HTTP requests, a big saving on a highly trafficked site.

The size of this project is reflected in the fact that the development team recognised a need to drop JQuery as a Javascript framework and develop their own. Tom described Glow (www.bbc.co.uk/glow), a new framework that supports Safari 1.3 (apparently unlike JQuery). We were told that Glow would be available as open source software towards the end of the year, but judging by the password it looks like this still hasn’t been finalised. They also mentioned that their next project will look towards a pan-BBC identity system for users. The idea is that they’d have implicit and explicit personalisation and that, once logged into one BBC site, your credentials would follow as you traverse the sites. In support of this the BBC joined the OpenID federation, looking at becoming a consumer.

For insights into the future of the BBC homepage see www.bbc.co.uk/home/beta/. They recommended Steve Souders’ High Performance Web Sites (he really knows optimisation).

Posted on Tuesday 30 September 2008.

Posted in @media, accessibility, Ajax, apple, books, browsers (UA), css, design, development tools, images, Uncategorized, usability | Add a comment »

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