The BBC News Website has been trialing Apture for a few a weeks now – it’s been great to see one of my new projects find its way onto on of my old but significant projects.
The Beeb’s has been trialing Apture to provide background context for concepts and themes mentioned in it’s stories. If you want to see a great example of this, check out “Driving primates to the edge“. Tristan Harris, Apture’s co-founder and CEO, writes more about the trial on the company’s blog and the BBC also have a post about the trial on their Editor’s Blog too.
BTW, if you’re not seeing the Apture links on that primate story it may be because you need to switch to the UK version of the BBC News site (the BBC is only trialing Apture on the UK view of it’s site) . Click “UK version” in the BBC page’s left sidebar. If you return to the BBC story page, you should see a box called “BBC trial – in page links”. Click the “Turn on in-page links” button, and Apture’s iconic links should appear on the page.
Emerging results of the trial
Whilst I can’t reveal the exact numbers, the response to the trial has been fantastic – with the vast majority of feedback being overwhelmingly positive.
People like the ease of use and the way they can find out more about a given topic without the need to leave the story they are reading – and that’s exactly the use case Apture was designed to provide. Of course, if you do wish to view the content on it’s original page there is always the opportunity to click through from the Apture window.
I thought it might be useful to provide my own perspective on these two points – given my unique position of having worked on both projects. Of course, these are my views and not those of Apture nor the BBC.
#1: Not linking directly to other site
Jack Pickard’s comment about the BBC not linking directly to the sources is an interesting one, especially in the light of the BBC Trust’s mandate to the BBC that it must link to external sources more often.
For me, this comes down to appropriate use of the tools available to you. The purpose to Apture is to bring bite size chunks of pertinent content immediately to you, with the specific goal of providing explanation about the theme or concept of whatever you are reading. This helps readability and increases the user’s ability to engage in the story – especially where they may be unfamiliar with the subject matter.
The primate example above is a good one. As you read about the Bonobo chimp Apture gives you the opportunity to find out exactly what it is without the need to break your flow and move off site. To me, that’s a benefit and a good use of Apture.
However, where the journalist has made reference to Conservation of Nature’s 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, you can see they have linked directly to the website of the study. It’s not a few lines of background content but a whole new direction to take in one’s reading and so merit’s its own link. To me this seems like an example of best practice and, frankly, a great example what people are complaining the BBC are not doing.
It’s worth considering whether the BBC would have linked to the as many ‘background’ sources (such as the Bonobo monkey) without the Apture functionality. I don’t believe they would, and therefore the net outcome is little loss in outbound linking from stories to sites.
On the BBC’s Editor’s blog, “pigsonthewing” complained:
I still don’t see any in-line links – oh, wait, I now have to turn on in-line links.
There have been a number of comments about this issue – but it has to be said mainly from ‘tech’ quarters rather than mainstream users.
Perhaps the only caveat to this is mobile phone browsers, however I would argue that from a usability perspective, rich functionality like Apture may not be appropriate on a small screen anyway – to this point when I created the BBC News PDA site, I stripped out the fact boxes and inline images for this reason.
Conclusion and final thoughts
I take on board all of the points people have raised about Apture (as do the Apture team, I’m sure) – and there is definitely ways in which the service can and will be improved. But having worked for so many years on the BBC News Website, I’m delighted that the majority of people who gave feedback enjoyed the service and found it useful.
I believe the BBC will remove Apture at the end of the trial so that they can decide their next steps with the product. Of course I hope that the BBC will continue to work with Apture and roll out the service across the site.
If you would like to put Apture on your blog or site you can visit the Apture site for details of the free plugin. Apture is an angel-funded company and is currently seeking Series A investment.
(Disclosure: I am on the advisory board for Apture, and hold a small interest in the company. I worked for the BBC for six years, the majority of which was on the BBC News Website)