Looking at the new BBC search - part two

 by Martin Belam, 25 May 2006

I've been taking a look at the new version of BBC Search which was launched earlier this month.

One of the real focuses of the project looks to have been the greater integration of audio and video assets into the results. For years the BBC was essentially just publishing a text-plus-pictures information magazine on the web - now it really seems to have woken up to the fact that increased broadband take-up in the UK can help it push its greatest USP on the web - the TV, radio, online and mobile A/V content it produces.

The new Audio/Video results look more like traditional image search results, rather than the list format that the old design employed, although I notice you can toggle between thumbnail and list view. I think the thumbnail view is a real leap forward, and makes the idea that these are A/V results much more tangible to the user.

Comparison of the new and old A/V listings from the BBC

A selection of the top 3 A/V results are also displayed in a side-pod alongside the regular results from the 'all BBC' and 'News and Sport' scopes. This is something that BBC News and BBC Sport had already been doing for some time.

The A/V results are dominated at the moment by content from the BBC News and BBC Sports sites. I know the technical challenge in getting all of the BBC's various strands of output into one index are considerable, but some of the results post-launch were quite disappointing for high profile items. Just after the launch of the new search if you looked for "The Apprentice", the A/V search results gave you no indication that the whole of the final could be watched in full online, even though it was being advertised on the homepage and elsewhere on the site.

This stream of The Apprentice and the catch-up clips were not available from the search A/V results

Likewise, a search for "Doctor Who" brought no mention of being able to view the latest TARDISODE.

So, although it is great to get the A/V content integrated, I would have been tempted in the short term to have put A/V 'best bets' into the system to fix that. Of course, that takes editorial resource and budget, so I can understand why it hasn't been done.

Talking of Doctor Who, at launch the basic A/V search seemed to missing some of the usual syntax functionality you would expect - the use of quotes didn't appear to force a phrase matched search - which made getting content about a Time Lord rather than some medical story from BBC News a bit hit-and-miss. That seems to have changed now, and search for 'talk talk' and '"talk talk"' generate different A/V results sets - though still no clips form Top of the Pops. Post launch the A/V search results also seem to have gained a more explicit disclaimer:

Beta Version. The BBC Audio & Video search is a new service. More content will be added in the future.

Across the whole of the service there doesn't seem to be any indication of whether any advanced syntax is accepted, so if I want to look for a page specifically on the Radio One site I don't seem to be able to narrow the search down to that specific area of the site anymore. That means it leaves me still feeling that if I want to find a really specific page on the BBC site that I know I have visited before, I am better off going to Google and using some search combo including allinurl:radio1 site:bbc.co.uk and a long search term.

Tomorrow I'll be looking at how the new search site sits within the BBC's global navigation.

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