BBC recently rolled out a new beta version of its iPlayer, improving the interface of the player whilst adding some great features that improve the usability of the service.
The most noticeable change with the new version of the BBC iPlayer is the distinct lack of clutter that was present in the old version. When comparing the two side by side (the new version shown on the left, and the old shown on the right), it’s clear that great effort has been taken to ensure the interface is as simple to navigate as possible.
You can choose between two tabs at the top: TV or Radio, compared with the five tabs on offer in the old original version of BBC iPlayer. This allows the content on the rest of the screen to be more focused towards either TV or Radio, rather than offering both on one page.
You can’t miss the new ‘Featured’ section of the window, which houses the featured content on iPlayer. You can also view the most popular videos on the site at the moment, shown on the right of the featured content. I found this a lot easier to find my way around, compared to the “TV Highlights” section that occupied the same space before.
As the TV page doesn’t house any radio content, there’s now a big new section of the window dedicated to categories of TV shows, allowing you to browse through content much easier than before.
You may notice the option to sign in at the top of the page. This requires a BBC iD, which can be created in no time. After signing in to iPlayer, you’re given a personalised page containing your favourite TV shows. As your favourite shows are linked to your BBC iD, they’ll follow you wherever you sign in. This is a great new feature to iPlayer, as you can now see at a glance if there’s a new episode of your favourite show available without having to search for it.
Based on your favourite shows, you can also browse the “For You” section of your TV Favourites. This recommends shows to you, based on what you have already favoured on the site. Not all the shows that were suggested to me were great, but it’s a nice feature to have if you’re short of something to watch and want recommendations based on the shows you already like.
As well as the new content choices offered by iPlayer, there are some social networking features included too. You can use Facebook or Twitter to see what your friends are watching on iPlayer, and recommend shows that you’ve seen too. The new social additions are certainly an interesting touch in iPlayer, and it may increase popularity of the service too, if people recommend shows on social networks.
The new BBC iPlayer interface for Radio has an identical layout to that of TV. This provides good consistency within the service, so it’s easy to navigate around both without any problems. If you’re a regular iPlayer user, you should definitely check out the new featured iPlayer service, as the new interface and features are well worth taking a look at and it’s great to see the BBC developing its TV services such as launching BBC One HD later in Autumn 2010 and improving iPlayer service, especially then other streaming video options such as SeeSaw TV are releasing new updates to their services too.
If you’d like to find out more about these developments, then you can do so from the BBC guys themselves by watching the BBC Internet Blog video below, take a look at it and then let us know what you think to the new iPlayer features in the comments section below.