Critique Of Layout Changes, Useful Easy To Implement Fixes, And Other GREAT Suggestions

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So here's my 2 cents (ok, so it’s really about 20 dollars) on the redesign... I use the site all the time for business. There's not a moment I don't have multiple allmusic.com windows open. Ever.

I will start off by giving a few positive notes, since why start off sour?

I do like a few things. Not having to select what you want to search in the drop down box is ok. I’d maybe make it optional to select, but I hated how it always defaulted back to artist (which didn’t happen until after Rovi changed the site BTW). But that is an alright change.

I also like that you’ll be trying to link through to play full samples. Using an outside source is a little dicey, but better than nothing. If I were you I’d talk to MediaNet about using their backend system for full song streaming.

I actually do like having the full album art display on the list pages, even if it clutters it up a bit, a useful tradeoff for that IMO.

I’m sure there are other things as well after you play around a bit more.

As for things I don’t like... I will start off by saying that I do agree with the people who said they don't like the new "fluffy", "pretty", layout as much as the old one. The new site does have the look of many of the newer overly bombastic websites that seem to be everywhere now. To give a little balance, as I'm sure the staff looking at these messages is thinking this, I am not a stuffy old guy who doesn't get it, or something to that effect. I'm 26 and have always been on the cutting edge of all things tech. A lot of younger people don't like the "dumbed down" layouts very much either, it's not just older guys. I can't recall how many sites I've loved (past tense) that have been butchered (and some their usage discarded altogether as a result) in the name of "surveys" and trying to look like other overdone websites.

There is something to be said for a clear, uncluttered layout. It DOES NOT hinder a websites popularity either. Think most Google pages (they have some overdone ones too though!), Wikipedia, IMDB. They're fairly simple and straight forward. So just think about it.

Now that said, I'm guessing you're not going to scrap everything and start from scratch... So perhaps a few suggestions to minorly tweak things to make the new design better.

1. The page displays as too wide to fit on my screen. That needs to be fixed because that's just bad programming, nothing to do with anything else. You don't want people to have to scroll horizontally.

2. That new font. I hate that font. It's on sooo many new sites. Don't know what it is, but that big thick Arial Black or whatever looking font. Other sites use the Impact font for similar effect. That thing has to go. There's something about it that just makes things harder to read, and look childish. Try going back to a regular Arial or Times New Roman. I know it's a "cool", “in” font to use, but I have a suspicion that font look is going to be a passing fad and go the way of animated Gifs everywhere a la Geocities in 1998. It just doesn’t look good, clean, or professional. Find a font that does like Amazon and most of the other ACTUAL big players.

3. Font sizes. A lot of them seem to be too big for no real reason. If you're going for the younger/more mainstream demographic (which it seems you are), we can still see! Make the fonts smaller, it will look less childish and I think help with some of the display issues, and none of the old guys have been complaining about font size on the old layout, so I think they’ll be ok too!

4. The whitespace issue really does exist. Some of the spacing is not optimal. On your albums lists, track lists on albums, it really does need to be addressed. There's just no reason for that much empty space. It ruins the layout of the pages. Shrink it, and wrap the data if need be.

5. While a truncated disco on the main artist page is ok, I'd suggest putting a discography tab and page back in. There's no reason not to. Also I feel the main artist page will look better without, say, Louis Armstrong's whole disco trying to pop in there... And it will load faster too, especially with all those image you guys put in there now! Less unnecessary bandwidth usage, quicker load times, better look! All wins!

6. I’d add the “Songs Written By” option back into the Song List on an artists page. Useful, you have the info in the database. No reason not to, you’re just removing functionality if you take it away.

7. Add back in the Song page that displays everyone who performed a song by that exact title, including when there are various songs with that same title by different authors. MAYBE you could make the search list all songs by that title and separate by the writer before getting all the artists... But the current song search does not cut it. Bringing up variations on the title searched, then clicking on that for all people who did that is infinitely superior to how it is now. Once again this is a MAJOR deal killer for doing research.

8. Add the label field back in on the album disco page. Once again you have the data. For me, that missing just destroyed half the usefulness of the site since you are lacking... New Feature Point number 1 below.

Other things you should add

1. Bring advanced search back!!! AND expand it’s functionality. You guys removed the feature after Rovi took over for no apparent reason, which really diminished the usefulness for me. You used to be able to search by Label, which for doing research, is immensely important. I get the feeling a LOT of your users are power users. And even if they’re not, they make up the bulk of your eyeball time. I spend more time in a day on here than most internet users will in 10 years. In a week, more than a lifetime. That’s simply how it is. Your casual users will never make up for losing people like me. ALSO the key reason is... YOU ALREADY HAVE THE DATA! Your companies number one resource is a database, and yet you cripple the usefulness of your number one asset... Does that make any sense? As a business owner, I say it does not. I say it’s a really bad flaw in logic. You’re simply not utilizing your greatest (only) real asset to the maximum. I would honestly PAY a subscription for this if need be. It’s that important, especially if you don’t make some of the other suggested changes, this would be a way to at least still be able to workaround other flaws in the layout.

You need to add the ability to search by every field you have in the database (artist, song, label, year (range perhaps), songwriter, catalog number, everything) with as many fields being used as desired at once. This lets people find targeted info that’s nearly impossible to find in the deluge of data you have. Also, how about allowing basic search engine functions to work? Like “putting things in parenthesis” to look for only that exact phrase, or – signs to remove that word? That’s basic stuff that adds to functionality and takes little effort.

2. Along similar lines, how about adding a label page? You know, one like Discogs.com and everybody else has? Yours would crush theirs and everyone else’s because you have more data. Once again, you already have the data and aren’t maximizing it. Similarly, one could add a proper songwriters page, which you pseudo have by clicking through certain ways, but make a proper one.

3. How about track level credits? Discogs has this. Lots of places do. It’s key stuff for compilations. It’s a simple database feature. Perhaps you won’t have it for everything because it wasn’t done in the legacy system, but my company’s websites database and internal database does, and so do many others. Actually expanding what your company offers, instead of putting a new coat of paint on it as you’ve said previously seems a far better way to attract more users. Musicians, recording date, first issued as for 78/45 era, whatever. Full credits song by song, as much data as you can pack in. Your many excellent writers know this stuff anyway, put it in the database when you can! It’s also far more keywords and natural relevant data that will get you more hits in search engines. More customers!

4. How about actually listing compilations an artist is on in their disco? Already have the data, don’t use it. Wasteful. This would need to have a separate page from the single artist compilations page you currently call compilations, perhaps call it “Appears On” or something to that effect.

5. Any other way you can slice and dice database info! Sorting weird ways, searching weird ways, whatever. As I said your number one asset is simply a database. The more ways you can sort that, the greater the value to the end user. You don’t have to make these "crazy things" appear on your default search or pages. Offer an advanced search, or a page with advanced options. If you don’t you’re ignoring your greatest asset.

Sorry for the long rant, but as I said I use your site a lot, for real business purposes, and if you guys make the changes as proposed without some of the above “fixes” your site is simply going to lose it’s usefulness for me. I figure if even a couple of the common sense, no brainer add ons I suggest make it through my time will have been well spent! If not... Lord help me, because I don’t know where else I’ll be able to do half the stuff I use your site for. If you want me to help or further discuss any of my ideas (or many others I left out for the sake of semi brevity) please contact me. I’m willing to help with this because it IS important to me.
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Vaughn Kiefer

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  • Scared The Site Might Be Ruined!

Posted 7 years ago

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Zac Johnson, Official Rep

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Wow. This is a ton of good stuff and I'll try to answer it all if I can (I apologize for being brief in my responses):

FIRST SUGGESTIONS:

1. Page too wide:
We did a lot of user research and analysis and found that the overwhelming majority of our users are using a screen resolution 1280 and higher. With all of the information we're trying to show at once, we knew we could use the space to more advantage.

This statistic from the w3 schools site also factored into our decision:
http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/bro...

Sorry if this makes the site more difficult for those users still on 1024x600 monitors.

2 & 3. New font
Regarding the body copy, we're trying to make a distinction between the editorial writing we're doing and our presentation of the raw metadata. We wanted the written passages to look a bit more "book-like" and we took some cues from sites we like that present a lot of text:

McSweeny's: http://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/on...
i09: http://io9.com/
Engadget: http://www.engadget.com/
Lifehacker: http://lifehacker.com/5903625/mp3-or-...
InformationArchitects: http://www.informationarchitects.jp/e...
and others.

I don't know if this explanation makes you like the font choice any better, but at least now you know our thinking behind it.

4. White Space in Track Lists and Discographies:
We're using that much space because of our Sample Playback buttons in track lists and showing the album covers in the discographies.

5. Discography tab:
Working on a way to allow users to jump to the discography from the top of the page. Not sure about the concern of showing lots of albums in the discography...seems like that's the best way to display it (without truncating).

6 & 7. "Songs Written By"
For this (and many of the things you list) they are not available in the new data model we're working with. More info here: http://beta.allmusic.com/faq#change

We're working on an Advanced Search that should make some research tasks a bit easier. We're a very small web development team with lots of stuff to tackle, but we'll get there.

8. Label is available in the artist's discography. Are there places you're not seeing it?

OTHER STUFF:

1. Advanced Search:
Yep. Man I can't wait.
Again, based on our new data delivery system, even if we have the data in our back end database, it is not always exposed in the views we're given, so not everything is as easy as just "showing the data" but we're working on expanding the data in the calls we're using.

2. Label Page:
Yep. We'd love to. We have the data for which albums were released on which labels, but I think a label page would also require an essay or written intro on Verve, Blue Note, 4AD, Stones Throw, etc, and that would take time and resources. Certainly not off the table, but probably not soon. Advanced Search may give some functionality in that regard.

3. Track-level credits
Super useful, but we've got some 32 Million tracks in the database. If I'm not mistaken, we're capturing that data in our back-end databases now, but it may be a while before it is at critical mass enough to expose it on the site.

4. Listing compilations in an artist's discography.
I worry that it might inflate the discography of a Louis Armstrong or a Bob Dylan to the point of not being helpful.
The compilation appearances should be available on the artist's "Credits" tab.

5. Slice and Dice searching and filtering:
Agreed, and much of it will come in through Advanced Search, but creating new sort/search/filter request calls (using our web service API) is not as straightforward as writing a new MySQL query to surface the data.

Please shoot me an e-mail at support [at] allmusic [dot] com if you'd like more detail or if you have other suggestions.

Everything you've listed has merit in my opinion, but I don't know how quickly we'll be able to implement them.

Thanks much for the passionate feedback,
Zac
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supra92

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Quick comment on the Label part. I, too, thought the Label info had been removed from the discography page, but I looked again and indeed there it is, right beneath the album title. My guess as to what OP was referring to is that Label used to be a separate column on the far right.

Given the new discography format with the album art thumbnail visible for every album (fantastic, btw), putting the Label name underneath the album title (and thus utilising that whitespace beneath the title and to the right of the album art) is a reasonable decision. Seeing Label by itself in the far right column would probably be a bit easier/more useful, but given the increase in font size that probably isn't feasible.

I agree with the OP about the font size -- I think the "more booklike" font itself is fine, although I had no issues with the previous font either. I do think the font size could be one point smaller perhaps, but not a dealbreaker on this end.

Fervently agree with AMG's decision to go wider (ie, 1280 pixels). Especially for such a research-intensive/oriented site, the wider display is much appreciated (and agreed that the vast majority of people are using at least 1280 wide). It's even more so when you consider that almost every laptop and LCD monitor sold today is 16:9 or 16:10 widescreen -- even the absolute worst laptop displays do 1366x768 or 1280x800 (which is near-unusable)... but that's still more than enough for AMG's 1280-wide site.