BBC Bitesize redesigns to attract kids and teenagers of all ages

The education website now offers a more personalised teaching service for students aged three to 16+, and the new look hopes to represent this broader scope.

BBC Bitesize, an online study resource for school children, has been rebranded and given a new website design by studio Rufus Leonard, alongside the BBC’s in house designers.

Originally launched in 1998, BBC Bitesize has looked to help several generations of children and teenagers prepare for GCSE exams and further their learning, and celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

Lisa Percy, executive editor at Bitesize, BBC Learning, says the service has “evolved” over the past two decades, so the Bitesize team was keen for the new branding to reflect the changes.

“Originally it was very much focused on GCSE revision,” she says, and while this is still a key part of the service, it now offers “much more than that”.

Percy adds: “It also has content for primary school kids, those in the first years of secondary school and it is expanding to support students [aged 16 plus] in other ways like helping them make career choices.

“We needed to come up with a new brand that handles and reflects those various needs.”

This was a “massive challenge”, she says, as the youngest and oldest age ranges were “wildly different”.

The rebrand was a collaboration between Rufus Leonard and the BBC’s UX (user experience) design and Bitesize editorial teams.

The brief was to create a new “digital-first” brand that worked across all platforms, that was “flexible enough to work across the ages, to allow for the scope of Bitesize and its content,” says Percy.

The website has been overhauled, with new functionalities that allow for a more “personalised” and “user-friendly” service, she says.

“It was long overdue some TLC (tender loving care),” she says. “A lot of the technology has been updated.”

Developments include allowing users to sign in and being able to save sections relevant to them, such as revision guides, subjects and exam boards, to enable them to pick up their work where they left off.

Sign-in was initially launched for those aged 13 plus but has since been introduced to those of all ages, with parental approval.

Iain Millar, head of innovation at design studio Rufus Leonard, says: “[The Bitesize team] was looking at innovative new platforms and content formats to create a new, personalised BBC Bitesize experience.

“The existing brand was static and outdated and the team wanted something brand new that reflected their bold ambitions, that could mark the 20th anniversary and that would excite and inspire their audiences and be built to last.”

The breadth of what Bitesize covers, in terms of both ages groups and subject areas was part of the challenge, ensuring consistency throughout the website while also allowing it to change with its users.

This was addressed by unifying certain aspects across the website but allowing flexibility with other things.

Millar says: “There’s a system based on a combination of consistent brand anchors like the [brand]mark, typeface and art direction and more flexible elements like tone, colour, animation, and photography.”

Text across the website is set in BBC Reith, a bespoke typeface which was recently created for the BBC, named after the organisation’s founder Lord John Reith.

The switch was made to BBC Reith both to cut costs, as the organisation will no longer need to pay the licence fee to use external typefaces, and because Reith is better suited to digital screens compared to its predecessors, which include Helvetica, Arial and Gill Sans, according to the BBC.

An updated animated Bitesize logo has also been introduced, which springs to life when a mouse is hovered over it, reflecting that “it is a website for young people”.

The word “Bitesize” appears in a white, sans-serif BBC Reith font on an orange background. When animated, the letters shrink away into the left corner, and reappear one letter at a time, surrounded by white sparkling patterns.

The pattern “sparks” also appear on coloured backgrounds across the website, and according to Millar, “bring everything together and reflect the energy and excitement within the content”.

Image courtesy of the BBC

While the piranha fish image that many once associated with the brand has not been a prominent part of the design for some years, it now occasionally appears as one of the “sparks” on the website’s backgrounds , as “a nod” to the brand’s history.

“There is a lot of affection for that fish,” Percy says. “It is a nice, little touch.”

The colour palette includes a bright orange, which is the “core Bitesize colour”.

“It has real brand recognition within the education community, so we didn’t want to stray too far,” Percy says.

Different colours are used for different age groups. An orange to berry coloured gradient has been used for the primary school section, which reflects the “energy and curiosity that the youngest learners have,” she adds.

Purple has been used for secondary school learners as it is a “calming, soothing colour” thought to minimise stress for those preparing for exams, according to Percy. Blue has been used for post-16s as a natural progression.

“It also helps with signposting,” she adds. “So it is clear that you are looking at content that is meant for you, or for someone else.”

Millar adds: “Like the colour, the illustrations were developed to be both age appropriate in their content but also the style flexed from more playful and energetic for the younger audiences, to becoming more refined and sophisticated for older groups.”

With Bitesize content delivered through computers, tablets and phone, Rufus Leonard says part of the challenge was ensuring the designs worked well on all platforms.

“Logos and illustrations were developed and tested at multiple resolutions, colours selected for contrast and accessibility, and dynamic elements like interactions and animation considered from the outset,” Millar says.

The previous redesign took place around 2011, but that had just “freshened up” what came before, according to Percy, while the latest changes are “more radical.”

The new look and feel of the site is currently rolling out in phases, with the fonts and page furniture changing first.

The 20th anniversary of BBC Bitesize offered an “impetus to launch [the redesign] over this summer”, but Percy says it would have happened regardless of this.

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