thesixtyone minus minus


thesixtyone, a social music discovery site, recently rolled out a new version of their site. By “new”, I mean that the user interface is almost completely removed from the previous version. See for yourself; here’s the old site and the new one. With the update, thesixtyone’s UI became much more minimalist and much functionality was actually removed. Through simplification, the site became less easy to use. What follows is my highly amateur critique of some usability issues.

Manual migration Login hangs indefinitely on the older version of the site unless you do magic. In a brilliant move, it was decided that all untagged saved/bookmarked music would not be moved to the new site. This means I had to manually log into the old site and tag all my old music. …which I couldn’t do because I couldn’t log in. Hooray! Would an automatic tagging to import stuff really have been that bad?

What environment are we using this site in? It reminds me a lot of the media center interfaces you see on consoles or set-top boxes. Which doesn’t actually make a vast amount of sense. thesixtyone is used on PCs; I don’t need half the UI hidden because I’m not using a limited or imprecise input device like a remote or game console controller.

Too much shiny On a related note, I was just pulling up the site instead of Rhythmbox and leaving it open on my secondary monitor to listen while I worked, but now that it has pictures flashing around every time a song changes (and indeed, while songs play), it’s just too flashy and distracting. I’ll have to leave it open in an inactive tab. No more brief passive glances at the UI.

Moving buttons

Reduced contrast The dark-gray on black style is harder to use on my old monitor than the old UI.

Loss of user control Here’s a short, superficial list of things missing from the old site.

On their own, none of these issues are really very serious. But, as Joel Spolsky said in User Interface Design For Programmers,

thesixtyone, please consult a usability professional.

© 2021 JamesGecko