Thursday, November 06, 2008 - all your features belong to us!

This is a continuation of my last post, where I was discussing the usability mistakes the team did while re-designing their site. The changed features were intentionally omitted. Unfortunately, to understand the negative sentiment of existing users, one has to consider the features as they're the main reason behind rejecting the new UI.

Note, that this review will be written based on my personal usage of the site. It is in no way an attempt to produce an exhaustive (I am not an artist and had no access to that part of the functionality) or objective comparison of the two designs.

Now you're warned and informed. We can finally explore the gory details of what seems to be the beginning of the end for (as I have no intentions to increase my credit in there).

I am what you would call an 'Early Adopter' - I tend to try new things and see if they fit my needs. On Amiestreet, this translated to checking out new music regularly (sometimes even multiple times a day) and seeing if there's something good. Also the direct interaction with independent artists was one part of the equation for me.

My Bartle Test results are as follows:
Based on your answers, you are ESKA.

  • Explorer 100.00%
  • Socializer 53.33%
  • Killer 40.00%
  • Achiever 6.67%
ESKA players often see the game world as a great stage, full of things to see and people to meet. They love teaming up with people to get to the hard-to-see places, and they relish unique experiences.
Although the Killer aspect does not apply to Amiestreet, the other ones do and the description just sums it up quite nicely.

Features I Used Most
First I'll enumerate the features of the old UI, that I used most. You can probably skip this section if you're a longtime user like me.

Charts / Latest
This was my primary source of new music. Sure, it was two clicks away, but it listed all new songs added to the system in reverse chronological order (recent first). In addition to the song name, the list also contained the album (link to the Artist/Band page), Genres and Price. When seeing an interesting song I would usually play it, but also open the Artist/Band page in another tab to see if there was something else to discover.

The Artist Page
Basically a one stop shop for all the albums and other information about an artist. You could see all the music of the artist on one page. The songs were grouped by album, but you were able to perform operations (Play, Buy, Download) on all of them or on a selection. This page also allowed you to see the recommendations related to that particular artist a natural place to go if you stumbled upon a known artist to gauge his popularity. Not to be missed was the ability to initiate the sharing of the artist from this page.

My Home (aka Dashboard)
The main reason I came to the dashboard was that it contained the summary of my contacts' reommendations (long list as well as few of latest ones), messages and my recent activities (I could explore my latest purchases).

My Library
The library was again a listing of songs you bought in reverse chronological order. It allowed you to select the songs and download them as you saw fit. For me this was a blessing, because I usually remembered the songs' names, but not the names of the albums they were in. Additionally it allowed me to skip on the songs (sometimes albums) I got, but did not want them to downloaded to the PC I was at.

Amie 2.0 Features
Here's the comparison you've been waiting for. For the sake of simplicity I'll only compare the features enumerated above.

Charts / Latest
Does not exist! They shifted focus from song to album. Completely. The song is no longer an option on most places in the UI. Try to purchase all except of 2 songs from an album that contains 20+ songs. The pain increases with each song beyond the first. The number of clicks multiplies. Ouch.

The 'New Releases' page is opened (they end at pixel 900 of the page) with one of those 'TV' like, information-poor, but interaction-rich portlets. Haven't you heard, that the need for interaction only arises when the user is not getting what he wants in the one place? Go read the Magic Ink, or maybe continue with the rest of this page first ;) 

Also note, that the album bits in the portlets lack links to the artist pages.

The Artist Page
The artist page is again opened not only with the dreaded Black Bar, but other unrelated/badly organized information has crept onto the page - here come the other artists, recent listeners and overview. What are those pieces of misinformation you ask?

Other artists are other bands the same record label the current artist has. Who cares? Can't you compute similar artists instead? The label link is already in the black bar and if I would follow it when looking for other artists of this band.

Recent listeners is another bit of information, that has appeared and is not really that important. Where's the fans?

The worst thing is the Overview, that dominates strangely vacant Artist page. As much as it tries to provide some sort of overview it ultimately fails for me, because I usually visit the page while following an artist link next to a link to a song (from Recently Released). Note, that I don't use the album link, because at this point I am interested in all songs and albums (let's look at the other albums if they're as good as this one?), that the Artist produced. And limiting my view to one and only album just spoils the fun for me.

My Home (aka Dashboard)
The main reason I came to the dashboard was that it contained the summary of my contacts' reommendations (long list as well as few of latest ones), messages and my recent activities (I could explore my latest purchases).

My Library
I don't understand why this piece of new functionality was created. After spending 10 minutes trying to figure what to do with it I just resigned. There's some moderate usability issues (why do the tabs on top of the main area lead you away forcing you to endure the reload when you hit back when the next page loads?), but the main wrongdoing is the absolute absence of focus from the library. What is it for? Why does it exist?

You can no longer download songs using your Library and it also does not convey any sort of historical information about my recent additions to the library (this historical listing is now called History and does not list separate songs, just albums). Why does it list all songs at start? And why does the list include the price? The songs are mine and therefore the current price does not matter anymore, does it?

As I said in a comment to the official announcement - there's two words to describe the new design.


Thanks for reading. And remember to let your voice be heard! Don't try - just do it. I did.

P.S.: Can't you just stop teasing me when I haven't updated my links to amiestreet? Saying "It looks like you followed a bookmark or link to our old site. Please enjoy the new Amie Street!" everytime I use that old bookmark does not make the new design any better. Not to mention, that the system message almost blends, which makes it quite hard to notice.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got a message today that said an artist I had fanned had released a new track. The note doesn't say the name of the album and links to the artist page. So there I was scratching my head wondering which of the many albums the song was on so I could listen to it. I tried a few albums and didn't find the song. Probably a lost sale for the artist.


Blogger BitShepherd said...

Yes, the 'new design' was and still isn't ready to be used. It has many usability problems as well as an awfull lot of missing features, that were present on the old site.

The notification emails are entirely unsolicited - I did not set up any on the old site nor have I changed anything after they rolled out the beta.


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