The BBC is undergoing a massive redesign of their entire online property, everything from the news site to mobile sites to their proprietary iPlayer video streamer. Usually when a site initiates this kind of facelift, they'll offer a quick "look how far we've come, check out our new site, hope you like it!" story--tech blog Engadget's redesign in November is a good example of this. But the BBC went about fifteen steps further, laying out templates, charts, and explanations for every design change, from the front page's grid structure straight through to the typeface. It's fascinating--especially given the BBC's first online incarnation, pictured above.
In the words of Bronwyne Van Der Merwe, Head of Design and User Experience at the BBC:
We set out to broaden our ambitions; to create a design philosophy and world-class design standards that all designers across the business could adhere to. We wanted to find the soul of the BBC. We wanted something distinctive and recognizable; we wanted drama. We knew whatever we created needed to be truly cross-platform and that we needed to simplify our user journeys.
That philosophy manifested itself in a more streamlined, universal grid-based structure for all elements of the site. The grid idea is the most inspired choice of a lot of inspired choices--it's designed to allow for a certain amount of flexibility while still maintaining a consistent visual effect. Basically, they've got both a 16-pixel vertical grid and an 8-pixel horizontal grid, so content can be arranged either vertically or horizontally. The BBC is excited about the flexibility of this design, but it could also be abused enough to ruin any consistency across pages--the difficulty will be to keep each page visually logical.
But it's the little touches that really bring the design together. The heavy use of the Helvetica font, mandated transparent black overlay on headlines and subheadlines in videos, and a more neutral color palette really lend a modern, edgy feel to the whole site. What's especially exciting about this is the designer's openness to discussing how they came to make the choices they did, from the inspiration (see picture above) straight through to the nitty gritty.