Summary: How The BBC Makes Websites

7 08 2009

The final plenary session for this year was delivered by Michael Smethurst and Matthew Wood, web developers for BBC Audio and Music.  They took us through their development process for which is designed to provide a permanent home on the web for all BBC programmes.

Their aim was to make URIs human readable, hackable and, most importantly, persistent.  To this end, they begin their design process with the domain objects (programmes, songs, recordings etc) and build models based on how these domain objects relate to each other.  They do not use wireframes or mockups, but do take the domain model to users to check that they are speaking the same, ubiquitous language.  They then translate the domain model into a physical database schema that enables them to richly express the domain model in the language of the user.

Once the model is established as a database schema, it is a case of collecting together all the data needed to create the resource in all of its forms, before moving on to document design.  One of the most poignant points made for some of the delegates I spoke to afterwards was the assertion that document design should be independent of the page layout – as that’s the job of the CSS.  In fact, wireframing doesn’t happen until they add the layout CSS to the HTML pages and any Javascript or AJAX gets added last of all.  Michael and Matthew were very firm that they don’t test photoshop mock ups or wireframes, they test working applications, which enables them to focus more on creating rich content discovery journeys through the resources that are domain driven.

We were given a tour of to see all this in practice and the opportunity to ask Matthew and Michael about their processes in more detail.




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