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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

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Kim, these are really great comments. I enjoy how well-thought out your analysis of the site redesign is.

I'm not sure listening to 'the Users' is always the best bet. After all, was it 'the Users' or Jonathan Ives of Apple that came up with the beautiful UI and UX or the past number of years? However, the Users are speaking and don't like what they see!

I really like that you went through and went bullet point by bullet point to critique the site. Wish there was more of this around!

Tim

Thanks for the comment Tim. Glad to see someone is reading this! But I beg to differ with you on the Apple point. They have a well developed UCD process:

Here's just one thing I found - Mac Dev Center: Apple Human Interface Guidelines: Introduction to Apple Human Interface Guidelines http://bit.ly/97zpF0

A lot of this is basic usability 101 and UCD but they do have a specific section on "involving users in the design process" http://bit.ly/aoct06.

Kim,

Thanks for this amazing post. Your details are well outlined, and your professional opinion seems relatively clear.

Regarding the above conversation about listening to users, I think there's a give and take that likely occurs. From a business standpoint, you have to pay some attention to what your users are saying. More companies are turning to Twitter to do just that. But sometimes there are difficult decisions to be made that the users never hear about. They may not know the "why" of something, but those decisions do exist.

Thanks again for the great post.

Warm regards,

Shawn

Hallo Kim,
Thank you so much for this detailed and professionally considered review of the destruction of t61.
My one dispute would be that you begin by saying this is "what happens when a business doesn't get feedback from their users", while I would argue that they have been receiving feedback from users for a long time and consistently choosing to ignore all. This is the culmination of that.
I too am curious what these "big business or technical reason(s)" for their choices are, but rather than waiting for anymore, am joining the rapidly growing community at http://www.Uvumi.com
Thanks again

Kim,
Good comments, but they fail to go far enough in a number of ways, in my opinion.

First, the sheer arrogance of Sam and James in their unannounced rollout, their deliberate disdain for the offended users, and in their complete about-face in regards to their stated mission of 'helping musicians find their audience' is a classic example of how to wreck a thriving operation. Not only have they refused to answer massive and sustained outcry about the loss of community functionality, but they dismembered the active and growing community unilaterally.

Community was, frankly, the single most important aspect of the Old SixtyOne. You cannot even directly comment to the artists any longer - you must send your comments to them via their individual songs - which means interrupting what you *were* listening to.

Next, and independant of the human-factors nightmare of the redesign, the rollout was buggy as hell. Beta testing for function? Apparently not. Oh, they *claim* to have done beta testing, and apparantly some twenty or so sycophants claim to have helped, but if they actually *did* any testing, why was the rollout so pestiferous..? Almost nothing worked correctly on launch.

Bad show, guys!

Kim,

Great thoughtful analysis of why it is important to listen to users when you significantly change the user experience of your product. I was not a user of The Sixty One and probably won't be now. Too bad since it seems like they had a nifty website before the redesign.

I appreciate your critique of 37signals. As a UX professional, I have always been skeptical of their "we are our users so we know what to design" approach.

Amy

Hi Kim,

I really enjoyed (perhaps not the correct word - more cringed) reading your thoughts on the changes at The Sixty One.

I am a developer by trade, but with a strong UX focus (although I'm not a professional). As a developer I can see how easy it is to make UX mistakes, developers are about solving problems, but not always about looking at the wider picture.

However while technical difficulties could be reason case for any one of the changes you outlined above, it seems very unlikely that it is the reason for all. That to me sounds like a business decision - not a technical one.

And that, to me at least ;), is way worse - when a bad technical decision is made it can be changed back. With a bad business decision it is much harder to change the minds of those in charge.

Lauren


Thanks to everyone for the great and thoughtful comments. Shawn, Paul and Laird - I coudn't agree more with your points. I'm definitely not advocating that we (or I) as professionals abdicate our responsibility to DESIGN and BUILD usable and enjoyable products by only listening to user input, no matter what it is. When I'm working on designing sites and applications there are 4 general inputs that I use:
1. Business input - what is the business trying to accomplish and how can design support this? I lived through the .com bust where we all learned that not having a valid business plan is short-sighted. But there are still plenty of start-ups around that seem to have an arrogant opinion that if they build it people will come and they can disregard and ignore their customers, i.e., users. t61 is being totally arrogant and unprofessional.
2. User input - who are your core users and what are you going to design and build to support them? This input is the main point of my post here. Especially with sites/products that have an established user base, you can ALWAYS learn something from the people who use your site. If you've never participated in a usability test, it's really amazing how much you can learn from watching people use something you've designed. Some of it can be really subtle, and some of it can be really obvious things that you've totally overlooked.
3. Technical input - this is actually becoming less of an issue than it ever used to be. It's pretty amazing what can be done with software these days, but performance, stability and again, a different way of thinking about how a site looks and is structured are all important technical inputs. For me it's all about learning different things and finding different ways of thinking about complex problems.
4. My own professional experience. It could be based something that I've done before (right or wrong), something I've seen someone else do, a gut feel or a new exploration.

I do think that t61 had done a huge disservice to it's users (customers) and I know we'd all love to hear from them.

thanks for the great post.

i'd actually be willing to give them a bit of leeway on the radical design changes had they not been so arrogant about it. thousands of complaints and suggestions on facebook and twitter. and they respond by blocking comments. it's pathetic.

i'm leaving my music up there for now mainly as a way to track how many listeners packed up and left. they may not have lost so many had they just treated their customers like real people instead of some google analytics stat.

i guess one good thing about T61 going down the tubes is that i found your awesome blog. i'm hungry now!

Kim. I really appreciate your post. I am a user of t61 and I feel bereft--the new design is visually stunning. But my whole community seems to have disappeared. And that was what I loved about it. I would have coped better with the new design if it had either been designed better (I shouldn't have to stumble around trying to figure out how to do stuff), and/or they should have provided help and support. There is still a search feature, BTW--it's under "Explore" top right. I am also bewildered as to why they'd want to alienate so many people. It's insane.

Really appreciated this post as an artist that's been on T61 since the beginning. I miss the interaction I was able to have with the people who supported my music. It's very impersonal now...

Thanks for the thoughts and insights!

Sumkid
twitter.com/iamsumkid

Finally, someone who has articulated and written (quite well, mind you) of the exact problems I was facing on T61 with the new design! I am on the verge of just dropping the site like a bad habit and moving on to last.fm!

I had so much fun on the old T61 being able to communicate with my favourite artists (like Sintellect) or being able to follow a person who shared the same interests in music as myself. Worst of all is the GUI...it's just terrible as it basically destroys whatever semblance of organization or ease of use that it had before!

*sigh* So, it's curtains for the site...as is seen by the way they treat people who voice their concerns and dislikes about the new design.


so far as i know, at the begining of 2010, thesixtyone implemented a new design with emphasis on high resolution photography, location, and lyrics. but this rebranding sparked controversy among some users, you can easily see their displeasure on the Facebook website's page. some of the most active users prior to the redesign also have quited using the site. so..bad choice actually, or wrong people chosen to manage this change.

The wow factor and looks are qkluciy over-shadowed by terrible navigation and usability. I'll take listening to, properly organizing, and finding music I might like any day over what utter travesty has been thus far wrought.

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Edible/Usable is a blog written by Kim McGalliard about cooking, food and usability. Hopefully it will entertain, enlighten and make you think a little bit more about how you experience food, how usability is important in cooking, and what makes any particular eating experience a pleasure or a pain.

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