Introducing the new CBC.ca

Today we are happy to announce a new phase of CBC.ca. It’s responsive. It’s one product. It’s hosted in the cloud. It’s fast. It’s easy to maintain.

Best of all? You’re helping us build it.


Feed Me, CBC.ca

CBC.ca has evolved a lot since its inception 20 years ago. The technologies have changed, and so have the habits of users.

Notice how online giants like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are designed to let you endlessly scroll through content? This trend was top of mind when we started planning the CBC.ca redesign. Our goal was to create a highly engaging and informative site by creating a scrollable interface with a long list of content.

Old vs new CBC.ca desktop site

How we did it: Build, Measure, Learn

Three years ago, CBC’s core digital team underwent a cultural transformation and adopted Agile and Lean Startup practices. This shift in thinking forced us to work differently ― instead of build, build, build, test, we learned to build, test, learn, repeat.

Using data to inform decisions may sound like a simple concept, but it completely changed our product development practices. We used to let the strongest opinion drive scope. Now, we use quantitative and qualitative feedback from the people who use our site.

At the very beginning of our journey, we started with paper prototypes. We drew them up and walked out onto the street, guerrilla testing our first sketches with willing passersby. We asked people to indicate where they would expect to find News, Sports or Life content. If what they were looking for was easily discoverable, we built the first iteration. If it wasn’t, we went back to the drawing board.

Hand-drawn mock ups of the new website; this is how it all started!

Once we’d built a minimum viable product (aka an MVP), we took tablets and phones outside and asked people to complete user tests. We would watch as volunteers performed tasks like updating their region, finding an article related to the weather or figuring out who won last night’s hockey game. Then, we’d adjust our product according to the findings.

Eventually, we got to the point where we had a fully functioning website that could be shared publicly and we asked a volunteer panel to review the site.

We looked at the engagement of the site overall — did our test subject use the navigation tool? How much time did it take them to find a story of interest? Were they using the site’s search function? If they were, did the search return the results they were hoping for? We also asked them to fill in a survey and provide general feedback — what did they like? What was confusing? What did they expect to see that wasn’t there? Once we had data to work with, we made changes based on our findings.

(If you’re interested in helping to shape the way CBC’s websites and products evolve, sign up for our research panel!)

Old vs new CBC.ca mobile site

In the fall of 2016, we started rolling out parts of the CBC.ca site to the public. We got things rolling with CBC Life, CBC Comedy, CBC Arts, and the Canada 2017 site.

With parts of the new CBC.ca now live, we are able to get data from users interacting with the site in real time. Where do people click? Which components are used more, and which are used less? We continue to build, measure, learn, and all of the data we gather continues to inform each and every iteration of CBC.ca.

As the site gets more and more sophisticated, so do our testing capabilities. We are now able to use technology to publish two different features live at the same time and use A/B testing — sometimes referred to as split testing — to see how segments of our audience react. The version of the feature that drives the most engagement wins!

A/B Testing: Three options for the order of items below a story are presented in three different columns; Version C gets the most clicks, so Version C it is!

We are excited to maintain this site. The technology is new and innovative, making it possible to add new features and test improvements much more easily. We have chosen to use React (the same Javascript library that Facebook is built with) as the foundation for our new site, and we are hosting it in the cloud. New features can be put in front of the audience with less than a day’s worth of work in some cases!


Looking Forward: Keep Building, Keep Learning

So what now? We keep going. We continue to work with you, our audience, to evolve the site into the best that it can be. If you have any feedback or comments for us about the new site, please leave them below or email us here.