In February 2010, BBC Online sumbitted it’s response to the BBC Strategy (read: budget) Review, announced the summer before.
Along with committing to reducing it’s budget by 25% by 2013, they’ve committed to halving the number of top-level directories# (i.e. anything that falls after http://bbc.co.uk/, such as /eastenders or /drwho). The BBC currently has over 400# of these top-level directories (not including redirects) and by the end of this year, 172# will be shut down with their content moved to other areas of the site or archived offline.
The new online strategy focuses on doing “fewer things better” and they plan on grouping online content into one of ten categories:
Noticeable changes will include programmes no longer having their own top-level directory, for example Eastenders will move from http://bbc.co.uk/eastenders to http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006m86d. Likewise http://bbc.co.uk/cbeebies and http://bbc.co.uk/cbbc will probably become http://bbc.co.uk/children which will then link off to CBBC/CBeebies and teaching material such as Bitesize from the Knowledge and Learning product.
There’s already been some lively discussion on the issues around deleting and archiving BBC websites facing removal that kicked off with an initial post from Adactio blogger Jeremy Keith. He suggested that the BBC’s plans to halve its top level directories were cultural vandalism. The tenor of the criticism was the same – that the BBC is failing in its duty to preserve a record of its online past. Some sites, like http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/ which is a collection of 47,000 memories and 15,000 image created by people who lived through World War 2, has been debated heavily of something that should be preserved regardless of it’s age or irrelevance to the BBC’s new strategy simply because of it’s historical and cultural value to people around the world.
This massive re-organisation that BBC Online are currently undertaking is very similar to our Linking You project; as we have discovered so far, higher education institution’s websites (including our own) have also over the years become monolithic beasts. I think for the BBC, with the huge success of iPlayer and the huge increase in second screen viewing (e.g. chatting to your friends on Facebook whilst watching TV) has made the BBC realise that they need to wake up a bit and envelop themselves in the digital age. This quote below by Erik Huggers (director of BBC Future Media and Technology) particularly emphasises the point:
“The BBC’s online strategy has, for many years, been to play a supporting role to our broadcast output. Programme first, website later. This is not the best way to deliver our public purposes in a digital age.” #
Likewise universities are slowly realising that their primary audiences (i.e. students) aren’t living in a world of paper handouts and prospectuses any more; they’re connected 24/7 and want real time, personalised content. In age of increased tuition fees, potential students are going to be more interested in HE websites that suggest courses to them based on the things they’ve “liked” on Facebook and email you a personalised prospectus, versus those institutions that ask for their address so they can send them a massive document in the post a fortnight later.
The recent redesign of University of Lincoln’s homepage has already started the process of culling unnecessary links and the grouping of content into, not products, but areas of interest:
In terms of a URI model this could easily convert into:
/schools (or /departments)
and maybe a few others such as:
From this BBC debate I think the thing that we’ve got to consider as we develop a model for HE websites is that we are going to have to make sacrifices because physical value does not necessarily represent value on the web (e.g. a University may stand by it’s vice chancellor’s vision but that doesn’t mean it is necessarily worth being a top-level directory on a HE website at /vc_message). Also we need to work out exactly what elements a university is made up such as courses, faculties, accommodation information and then try to fit it into a group of core categories (similar to the BBC’s “online products”).