Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Amiestreet.com redesign usability failures

So Amiestreet.com was redesigned and access to the old site was cut off recently. That would've been good if the new design was better than the old. Which isn't. Read on to find why I think it is so.

Just one note before I dive deep into the comparison - being a longtime user of Amiestreet my views can differ from yours. Missing features would not be obvious to you, so I tried to avoid mentioning them in the review (for me, there are many).

General issues
The design is wrong on many levels. Let's start with the general design / information architecture issues.

Clickity click!
This perfectly describes the new design - you click and click and click instead of being able to scroll through a page filled with content. The flash 'TV sets' are flashy, but that's it. I would prefer a simple list any day of the week. We're on the web, scrolling is normal.

To sum up, this quote says it all:
Scrolling and image maps are less of a problem now, but users now expect a comprehensive site.
from Changes in Web Usability since 1994 by Jakob Nielsen, 1997
This still applies 11 years later. Period.

Content Width
The width of the content section (~860 px) is apparently 'optimized' for screens smaller than of the smallest netbooks. Which would easily accomodate widths of at least 960px without problems.

Top Section
The top section is to busy - there's an incredible amount of visible links (18 if you're signed in and on the homepage), but they're cramped in about 2/3 of the available space. Looks fragmented and most of the visible links could be hidden in some menu (see next section for more details).

The Black Bar
The dreaded black bar consumes full 280 pixels vertically on any artist screen. Bye bye information density.

Site Navigation
  • The main navigation is chaotic and baldy thought out. Main menu is structured in a strange way - the distribution of items is uneven. Recommendations has only two items.
  • The 'Account' tab/menu looks out of place (why is there a '' pull down menu in the top right corner containing mostly the same things?
  • Clicking each 'tab' does the same thing as clicking the first item in the menu. This unfortunate (but consistent) behavior comes from combining a menu with tabs. Not good.
  • The 'stray' links to the right of the tabs express the lack of decisiveness of the designers - they're important (maybe, for whom?), but they don't fit the 3 existing categories.
  • The links come in various flavors throughout the site - blue underlined going black on hover, white underlined on hover, black underlined losing underline on hover - just to name a few. This contributes to the overal confusion.

Misc Wrongs
  • Why have an icon in the top-right corner when it is downsized to 10x10 px?
  • Browse Music - Home doubles in function to the 'logo click' (they lead to the home page).
  • Although album is the dominant item now, links to albums are missing in the RECs.
  • The library implementation is just plain wrong. Loading all items in front is crazy - my library is now 2750+ songs and I never need access to all of it at once.
  • Artist pages are now fragmented more than they were previously. Similar Artists, other Artists and Recent listeners information provide little value to me.

Unfortunately it is not only me who thinks this way. The official blog post welcoming us to the new design has 2 positive comments ... out of 33.

Amie seemed a nice place at fist, but is no longer. I'm sad now.

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Anonymous jimmy Valentine said...

not to mention all the features they took away from artists...like promotional widgets and daily play counters as well as the rec charts with genre specific categories..
amie was innovative and fresh now its a lumbering shell a mere pale shadow of its former greatness..

jimmy Valentine

Blogger BitShepherd said...

I tried to keep the issues down to just the usability things that exist in the new design. Therefore any missing features are omitted from my review. Plus I was no artist so no luck gauging the impact on that side.

The only sensible thing IMO is to honestly report on these too. Maybe I'll find some time to do a follow-up about the features, that went missing.


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