An image of part of the BBC Proms website.
A week ago we relaunched The BBC Proms website. This website and content management system was developed by Magnetic North, in collaboration with the BBC. I was lead information architect on the project.
Key features of the new website
Andrew Downs, editorial lead on the BBC Proms website development, adds:
In 2011 we rebuilt the BBC Proms website from the ground up.
We wanted to do a more streamlined and focused job of meeting, and exceeding, the online expectations of both the broadcast and live event audiences for the World’s greatest classical music festival.
The new website offers easier ways to book tickets, listen and watch, and reveals a wealth of in-depth content from the BBC archive as well as shorter, light-touch briefings directly related to each concert programme.
Key features from before the Proms season is underway:
Browse, book and listen by composer, performer or category
Discover more about the music with links on every event page to the Radio 3 online archive of programmes about works and composers.
For 150 of the works performed we offered preview clips of the music right up to start of the concert.
Sign up for the newsletter.
Search the archive with details of every Prom since 1895
Play the Proms quiz
Mobile-optimised version of the site.
When the season is underway:
Listen live in High Definition Sound, or listen to or watch Proms broadcasts on demand for 7 days.
Audio and video highlights of each week’s concerts in the Proms Showcase.
In-depth programme notes for each concert
Relive and share your favourite moments with photos, videos, reviews and comments on site or via Facebook and Twitter.
Go behind the scenes with the Blog and Q&A with the Director of the Proms
Download interviews with key performers in our weekly podcasts or download a daily 4 minute briefing on a key work from each event.
On TV press Red Button to watch Maestrocam with explanatory commentary.
Background to the design
We began redesigning the proms in October last year, with some user research work conducted by Engine.
One of the deliverables Engine produced was a set of Personas for each of the target audiences. There were 3 types of audience defined, which I summarise as follows:
- The casual enthusiast – This person is interested in the Proms but doesn’t feel confident in their knowledge of the music. They are looking for guidance and reassurance.
- The existing Radio 3 audience – Knowledgeable and articulate about classical music. Knows what they want, and wants to get to it quickly and easily.
- The expert enthusiast – Highly knowledgeable and articulate, but looking to be further educated, to learn more about the music they are choosing.
We also did some user testing of 2010s proms site, and user interviews, with users who were classical music enthusiasts (conducted by Foviance). In some of these interviews, users talked of how they would ‘swot up’ before going to a concert, by listening to recordings, so they really knew the music they were going to listen to before they attended the concert.
Core objectives from the audience research
The above research gave us confidence when setting objectives for the redesign. We found out that when talking about and selecting classical music, the audience almost always talks about liking music from a particular composer. They don’t tend to talk about liking a particular piece, until they have framed it with ‘I like <composer name>’.
This encouraged us to make selecting a prom based on the composers name a core piece of the navigation (hence its presence in the top navigation).
Discover the music
The discover the music panels used throughout the site came out of our audience research. One of our business objectives is to increase the number of listeners to radio 3. The expert and classical enthusiast personas also caused us to develop the ‘Discover the music’ panels that are seen throughout the site. On each event page, the ‘Discover The Music’ panel is used to highlight relevant content, based upon the music being played at that event.
It helped that Radio 3 were given permission by the BBC trust to make more use of their fabulous archive of music programmes. For example, Radio 3’s Discovering Music programme involves a presenter/conductor showing the audience a well known piece of classical music, and performing parts of it with an orchestra. An amazing resource for users looking to ‘swot up before they go to a concert’!
Starting the redesign – Content Management
The new site is built on the BBCs latest infrastructure, which allowed us to build a content management system. As usual, I took a domain driven approach, which meant that we started by defining ‘What things are in the proms?’ and ‘How are these things related?’.
You can see the final domain model we derived below:
The Proms Domain Model
Notice how this is not very specific to the Proms. A good domain model is about the domain, not the particular brand or project. What we have here is an approach for building any music events based website. So, our content management system is reusable across any music events site.
The concepts shaded in light blue are concepts that have a controlled vocabulary of terms – for example there are approximately 80 terms that can be used to define a performers role in a performance. They can have the role of ‘guitar’ but not of ‘guitarist’. This helps us when building aggregations of performers. For example, our Composers A-Z shows all contributors with a role of ‘Composer’.
Performance Flags allow us to provide emphasis to a particular performance – for example if it is the world premier, or the UK permier. This obviously helps the user notice certain performances more than others.
Similarly, a contributor can be flagged as someone that Radio 3 supports through its ‘New Generation Artists’ programme.
Where to put the effort in a Content Management System?
One of the strategic decisions to take when defining a CMS is about where to put the effort. The approach we took in this CMS is all about the reuse of the content. A lot of the effort in this CMS goes into populating and curating the ‘Works’ information.The reason for this is that the Works information can be reused in subsequent years. For example, editorial staff can associate an audio preview with a work. Next year, when that work is performed, the audio preview for that work will be already populated. We know that in classical music, a lot of the works are regularly performed, so putting effort in here makes strategic sense.
Contributor information is also reusable in subsequent years, so adding related links for a particular contributor is efficient use of effort.
A final example of careful Content Management design is that because many of the classical music composers are dead, we can reuse analyses of their music over many years. So, by associating an analysis with a work, we can reuse that analysis each time the Proms performs that work. Episodes of the ‘Discovering Music’ programme are each an example of an audio analysis which we can reuse each time that work is performed.
The easy alternative would be to put a lot of effort into creating beautiful event pages, but without contributor, work and performance concepts, this effort would have been very hard to reuse in subsequent years.
The website navigation
One of the navigation elements I’m most pleased with is the consistent event navigation on (almost) every page:
The launch and audience reaction:
It has been particularly pleasing to me to see the audience reaction. A significant change from previous years was that we decided to build ‘a page per prom’. This lets users talk about, link to, blog about and generally point at an individual prom. They have!
It’s been great to see on twitter the number of users linking to parts of the proms site. For example:
These and many other coversations vindicate the strategy of ‘one URL for one thing’ which we followed on this project.
There have also been some great articles talking about their favourite proms. And more great articles like this.
I’m looking forward to seeing how ‘discover the music’ panels get used – I’m hoping that this feature on the new site encourages the users to listen to Radio 3, and then to get to a prom and hear a great classical music performance.