Touching the BBC

I was taking a look through the beta version of the BBC’s new website when it occurred to me that what I was interacting with was a web presence that’s geared to touch and feel more than to point and click.

The overall layout that extends left and right off the visible screen area, prominent navigation arrows left and right, big visual and touchable content areas… all elements you currently see on touch-screen tablets like the iPad when accessing some types of content.

However this is the first commercial website I’ve seen that seems to be under construction with an eye on the future of user interfaces.

Clearly the BBC beta site isn’t wholly polished or finished as a touch-enabled web presence – you can load it in your tablet and see that for yourself (address: http://beta.bbc.co.uk). But I wanted to get a sense of what this may be like on a normal, standard desktop computer screen that’s touch enabled, the type of device that will be found in millions of offices, shops and indeed homes for years to come, no matter how many people also use mobile devices like 10-inch tablets.

Some PC brands are coming to market now with touch screens; luckily, my wife already has a touch screen desktop computer, an Acer Aspire Z5610 with a 23-inch HD touch screen. It’s gorgeous, and I’ve always thought it ahead of its time when so few standard software applications are touch enabled. But, assuming the machine’s specs are up to scratch, she’ll be well placed when Windows 8 comes out next year – designed for touchscreen input in addition to mouse and keyboard. (And just take a look at the new Microsoft Surface technology and think of the potential with that.)

Anyway, I tried a little touching and swiping on the BBC beta site. It’s very easy to imagine this way of interacting as natural and preferable, once the site is fully enabled for that use and the computer hardware and software fully support such use. Currently the site mostly behaves like a normal website, eg, drop down menus, etc, that aren’t really good for touch interaction, more suited to point and click.

Still, it’s a good pointer (pun not intended) to what we can expect to find on the web when touch and feel comes to the desktop.

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Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

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