The listings grid is clearly one of the most important areas of the site and we recognised that in redesigning it, we were to some extent going to be playing with fire.
However, the old grid was beginning to feel a little dated and clunky and did things like refresh the page when you change the time. Not pretty.
We have replaced the whole technology stack that the site is built on, so we were going to have to rebuild the grid anyway. Thankfully, technology has advanced since we originally launched the grid and so we knew we could make using it a more pleasant experience.
We’ve tried to keep it simple and clean. The grid needs to contain a lot of information and so we’ve gone for a minimal look while providing all the essentials. We’ve also added things such as images as people like them, it aids selection and generally brings the data to life.
There’s a balance to be struck between those people who want the listings to be straightforward and just work, and those who want to spend time customising them. There are also those who like space and clarity and small chunks of information and those who like a lot of info in as dense a space as possible.
Amount of information
The listings grid features three hour blocks exactly as the old grid did (along with the majority of other listings sites). We stuck with this as it’s tried and tested and allowed us to give more space and improve readability.
We did look at introducing a fourth hour, allowing you to see 7pm, 8pm ,9pm and 10pm in one go as some users want to see as much information as possible. However, this compromised the legibility of the listings – particularly the shorter programmes – so we’ve not introduced it.
Instead, we may look at offering the option for users to select how many hours they would like to see – 3 or 4. This won’t be for a few weeks but it’s on the list. We’ll continue to review the feedback and may look again at this if we think that most users would prefer additional data at the expense of some legibility.
The width of the page is based on what works best on the majority of web browsers and also allows us to occasionally include advertising on the background of the page. This helps us pay the bills but keeps the advertising away from editorial content so it’s clear our reviews and guidance are impartial.
We’ve also narrowed the row width in order to get as many channels on a single screen without compromising legibility. We’ve been listening to your comments and this sounded like it would be a welcome tweak.
We’ve just added film star ratings too, something we know is a popular feature.
Size of font
The narrow font was selected in order to include as many words as possible in the space allowed. We’ve just increased the size of the font and made it regular weight rather than bold, and we think this will improve legibility. We’re trying to strike the balance between the font being too small and listings truncating too soon. The new font is bigger but retains exactly the same number of letters as the old site did.
Adverts and recommendations
We’ve moved the advertising from the top of the page where it is on the old site to further down the grid. When arriving on a listings page, you want to see listings straight away, not have to scroll down. We felt there was a natural break after the five main “terrestrial” channels and that this was a good alternative. It also breaks up the grid into manageable chunks and makes it less dense.
We’ve used the space alongside the advert to show our picks of the day, something that we know our users value and is a reason why they prefer Radio Times, rather than anything else. As you use the site, it will begin to learn what programmes you like and so these picks should become tailored to you and show you exactly what you were looking for anyway.
We would, of course, love not to include any advertising in the grid at all but the alternative is that we charge for our TV listings – something we know would be unpopular. We need to fund the service somehow and due to the popularity of the page, the listings grid ad placement is one of the most valuable on the site.
We’ve made the rollover a lot tighter and increased the delay before it appears. We realised that in order to fix another bug, we’d made the rollover too large, and so we’ve revisited its size. We also looked at making the rollover appear just when rolling over the text but decided that some users would expect it to appear on the full box and so we’ve increased the delay instead.
We have a number of other features planned that we’ll be rolling out over the coming weeks. We’ll be allowing you to highlight programmes from specific genres and your favourite programmes in the grid. You’ll also be able to reorder the channels as well as add and remove them.
If there are additional features you think we should be looking at, we’d love to hear about them.
Matt is responsible for the development of the new RadioTimes.com