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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 May 2006, 08:23 GMT 09:23 UK
BBC revamps website search system
Mighty Boosh webpage, BBC
Video clips of popular programmes will be easier to find
The BBC has updated the way net users can search across its news and sport websites and its programme webpages.

The new search system launches on 11 May and should make it easier for users to find webpages, audio and video from any part of the BBC.

The search system aims to give visitors a single way to seek out the latest editions of popular programmes such as The Archers.

Initially 300,000 audio and video clips will be searchable via the site.

Channel hopping

The changes being brought in allow users to choose the bits of the BBC they want to search.

"Search has come on a lot in the last few years, said Daniel Mermelstein, head of search products at the BBC News website who led the revamping project. "People expect a certain way of displaying the results and for data to follow that convention."

He hoped that the new layout will be more familiar to people as it resembles what they see on search sites such as Google, MSN, Yahoo and others.

"It's a much more standard search interface," said Mr Mermelstein.

Also gone are the artificial divisions between news, sport and the rest of the BBC that the old search system imposed on users.

Previously users could search either the news and sport sites or the rest of the BBC.

Remote controls, BBC
Many people now download rather than tape favourite programmes
"As a user experience that was a bit odd because people do not tend to divide it that way," he said. "What exact departmental silo it comes from is irrelevant."

Now a search across the whole of the BBC includes news and sport. Alternatively users can restrict searches to just news and sport.

Behind the scenes work has been going on since September 2005 to unify the data held by the BBC News and Sport websites and the web information put together by other parts of the organisation. In total the index behind the search site holds 1.5 million pages.

One of the most important parts of the new system, said Mr Mermelstein, was the ability to look for audio and video segments right across the BBC's output.

"That has been difficult to find before because only the news and sport sites had the audio/video search capability," he said.

Initially only a handful of audio and video segments will be indexed and searchable via the new interface, said Mr Mermelstein. The full range of BBC programmes is likely to be added late in 2006.

Behind the scenes the BBC is standardising the labelling system for the audio and video segments that will be put on the web. This work will feed into development of a personal media player that will let people watch and listen to BBC programmes when they want to rather than just at broadcast time.

Standardised labels will make it much easier to index all the media content and make it searchable, said Mr Mermelstein.

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