BBC tweaks homepage design

The BBC News website is changing the way it handles major breaking stories, rolling out a new front-page design that will give more weight to bigger news.

Previously the site published key, breaking news stories, such as the July 7 bombings, as everyday lead items with an accompanying In Depth section. Now the site will better reflect the biggest events.

“The idea being that, if an event is so huge, we can drop our traditional format and devote far more of the front page to that one story,” said BBC News Interactive editor Pete Clifton in his weekly column.

“Of course, in some ways it would be a relief to many if we don’t use the ‘splash front page’ for a long time to come. But the new format is now built into our content system, and it’s ready to roll when the situation dictates.”

The BBC’s move marks the latest step in the evolutionary study of how audiences prefer to receive online news.

When first launched in 1997, the site’s front page presented three lead stories that, whilst ordered top-to-bottom according to importance, appeared of equal weight.

A 2003 redesign followed the approach of many tabloid newspapers, giving extreme visibility to the lead story, following user testing research that showed a majority of hits was received by the day’s top news item alone.

The latest change to the corporation’s Content Production System (CPS) software will now be able to reflect show-stopping national and international events. The site will function as normal on other days.

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