Last night, the Wool Digital team attended #BBCUXCrunch at the BBC in Media City, hosted by The Digital Showcase/ @theuxcrunch - the first event by these guys up north after a huge success in London.

First thing to note was the extreme security in the building to get in and out of the BBC, we are talking airport severity, which added an additional air of intrigue to the excited UX fanatics, who entered 10 by 10 (true story).

Also, the food was brilliant. The best food at an event, ever. Fish and Chips, Pizza and various mini canapes. I only wish i’d eaten more. Top points for that BBC!

The evening kicked off with Luke from The Digital Showcase giving the audience a run down of Europe’s largest meet-up. Definitely guys to keep an eye on for future events.

Yaël Levey (@yaellevey), Creative Director for Weather at the BBC was a great host for the event - so massive shout out there!

Starting off the talks for the evening, Paul Crowley (@flickertracks), Head of UX and Design, presented ‘Reinventing the BBC for a new generation’ which explored the GEL (Global Experience Language) aspect of the BBC design team, acting almost as a library for all things creative. ‘Pioneering new technology for public good’ was a key theme of Paul’s presentation, which explored how the World’s 3rd most popular site (and only British one to be ranked in the top ten) continues to be innovative whilst also being a trusted platform by users internationally. Paul hit the audience with some big numbers which truly contextualised the gravitas of the BBC, for example, did you know that there are 35 million users per day to the site? How about, if you took each user and imagined them as an iPad - end to end you could reach the Moon in 6 weeks based on the sheer volume of users of the BBC. Within the presentation, it was made clear that the BBC endeavour to make great solutions and stay ahead of the curve wherever possible. In 1996, during the initial ‘boom’ of the internet, the BBC began to experiment with web and saw an existential growth, which lead to the creation of over 470 websites - which have since been rationalised into 10 products which are currently used and are household names.

Paul went on to explore the current challenges which the BBC are facing thanks to changes in consumer behaviours and attitudes towards the BBC. Most notably, TV consumption is massively decreasing, especially within the younger the age demographic, something which the company's entire business model is built upon. For example, 15 year olds are now only watching, on average, 11 hours of TV compared to 35 year olds who are watching 24, and this average of hours of broadcast television only decreases for each age demographic. Thanks to this, ‘reinventing the BBC for the next generation’ is the top priority and it is the large team of designers at the BBC are the forward thinkers expected to deliver this.

An important topic explored was the need to reinvent the BBC, not reproduce what is currently in use due to the ever changing needs of users and trends. Paul presented the idea that ‘a spear is no good in a gunfight’ to emphasise the idea that today’s design guidelines are used to solve yesterday’s problems.

So, how are the BBC going to find what are the best ideas moving forward? Through natural selection, as with all evolution, natural selection is the best strategy.

Next up were Tom Hackett (Head of Client Service) and Adam Todd (Creative Director) from Magnetic North, an agency in Manchester who frequently work with the BBC. They explored how Magnetic North worked with the BBC to create a football score predictor for the 2016 Euros. Firstly, they presented that the key aims of BBC Sport are to be create products which are personalised, ignite participation and help to connect people - the main aim of the score predictor project was to create more opportunities for participation.

The aim of the game overall was to create something which was simple for users, with the ability to create leagues and fixtures along with the flexibility for cross interaction between teams.

The biggest challenge for the project (apart from the completely solid deadline)? Making sure that it was completely compatible with any live data which might arise during the tournament - like unplanned changes such as cancelled games.

So how do you go about delivering this mammoth task? Get something in front of a user as soon as possible.

Through a process of quick and dirty wireframing, and creating a working prototype which enabled users to begin trialing the process. Once a prototype was up and running, Magnetic North and the BBC hosted a few rounds of testing and iteration to ensure that the product was well and truly user friendly. The final stage of the planning was to actually get the design completed, the team at Magnetic North spoke about how using the BBC’s GEL made this process much more seamless.

Overall, the launch of the project was a huge success and saw over 130 thousand new users signing up to BBC’s online portfolio. 

Next up, Liz Leakey (@Lizleaky), Creative Director for Children, gave a lightning talk on designing for a younger audience, and explored how designing for children can make you a stronger designer. Over the past few years, it was decided that the approach towards children’s design wasn’t as well articulated as it could be, and the nine principles of designing for children were created: 

Create rewarding experiences

Include moments of surprise

Create aspects of challenge, and make sure that these are well balanced

Include delightful interaction

Allow for natural discovery

Have a forgiving design, and allow people to explore, maybe even fail

Create animation with personality

Include immersive audio

Ensure everything is consistently captivating and authentic

Liz then explored how all of these principles can be included in design for people of all ages, and very much have been by many industry leaders. My favourite part of the talk? Liz’s quote, ‘you don’t notice the bins at disneyland’.

Following on from a whole host of delicious food, it was time for Suzanne Clarke, UX Designer for Children, to explore a year in the life of an Accessibility ‘Champion’. The key role of an Accessibility Champion is to widen the knowledge of the whole team surrounding accessibility and inclusion through having experts scattered across each team - this incentive was created when the small team of accessibility pros realised they just simply didn't have enough capacity to consult on all projects. The various facets of the role of an Accessibility Champion include discussing standards and guidelines, supporting others in the team, learning from others, training people within the wider team and reaching out to as many people as possible. Throughout the presentation, Suzanne explored as variation of projects which the BBC produced in a year, all of which had various aspects of accessibility optimisation within this - one of my favourites being changes in techniques to cater for the colour-blind and the development of children’s Iplayer which was completely accessibility lead. Overall, the Accessibility Champions sounded like a great incentive to really create the greatest platform around.

The evening ended with a workshop hosted by BBC research and UX specialists, Emily Heath (@gradualist), Rob Scott (@robscottsays) and Kelly Lothbrook-Smith (kayelesss) where the audience acted as guinea pigs for a current project which is currently underway.

The evening was a great insight into all things which go on within the UX and Design team at the BBC. If you were at the event and would like to join in the conversation, tweet us @wooldigital!

We can’t wait for the next event from Digital Showcase in the North!

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