Replace the legacy BBC Monitoring website with a modern platform that would drive up user numbers and engagement
BBC Monitoring (BBCM) provides a real-time view on news stories from around the world, sourcing content from local media and supplementing it with expert analysis and reference material.
To increase engagement with this partly commercially funded service and grow the number of users, BBCM wanted to replace its legacy website with a modern, resilient portal that:
- Effectively showcased the depth and quality of the service, to encourage potential subscribers to sign up
- Made it easier for subscribers to explore and find relevant content, thereby encouraging continued use
- Streamlined the content-creation process for BBCM editors
From the foundations to the user interface, we crafted a brand-new BBC Monitoring platform. We combined flexible delivery with a transparent commercial approach that gave the BBC certainty over its budget.
Using our agile approach, we produced an early prototype, then progressively added to it and refined it, based on input from users.
Transparent commercial model
To give the BBC confidence in its total project budget, we used a fixed-price-per-point-of-effort commercial model. Our features backlog showed the points-cost for each item, meaning the BBC could adapt its priorities, with clear visibility of the implications of any change.
Core technology and user experience
We built the new site on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud, designing it to provide the necessary resilience in the event of an AWS Availability Zone failure. At its heart is an Elasticsearch database, partly chosen to enable us to create a high-quality search experience and flexible notifications. We also took over the user experience and design of the project from a third party. The information architecture and majority of the final page designs, including the main homepage, are our creations.
Showcasing BBC Monitoring
The previous BBCM site had no way of showcasing the service to potential subscribers, so a large part of our work was to design and deliver this capability. We did extensive user research to understand the sort of content we should be displaying and how best to present it. Repeated user testing enabled us to refine the experience.
Getting individuals or organisations signed up is the first part of the journey – BBCM then needs to ensure they make (repeated) use of the service. Our work in this area was broad, and included:
- Corporate single sign-on, enabling users to log in with their business or academic email addresses
- Building a setup wizard to help new subscribers configure the service to provide them useful and relevant content in convenient ways
- Creating an intuitive search system, including Google-style predictive ‘type-ahead’ suggestions
- Designing new ways of presenting and sharing the content, to encourage return visits
- Incorporating an intuitive analytics dashboard to show BBCM how the service is performing
Using the foundations we had built for the main website, we created a new content editing tool, to make it quicker and easier for the BBCM editors to produce, preview and publish content. This used the FontoXML library.
Machine learning and innovation
Lastly, as part of developing the new service, we worked with the BBC on a number of exploratory innovation and machine learning initiatives, to feed into the service.
The new BBC Monitoring service is now live and has seen a significant usage increase.
The BBC Monitoring portal launched successfully and has seen a significant growth in usage compared to the legacy service. Meanwhile, the new content-creation tools are making it quicker and simpler for the BBCM’s teams around the world to publish rich content to the site. And the analytics dashboards give BBCM an easy-to-understand overview of how customers are using the service. The success of the new platform following launch has enabled BBCM to migrate all its customers across and close down its legacy systems.
We are continuing to work with BBC Monitoring, adding new features and capabilities to the service, and maintaining our innovation sprints, trialing pioneering technologies and approaches to understand how they could be used to improve the BBCM offering.