Metacritic show how not to do a website redesign

15th August 2010

This week the CBS owned movie review aggregator website Metacritic got a major facelift. The new design is cleaner and simpler and the dark blue colour scheme has made way for a clearer white and grey backdrop.

Long lists of heavy data have been removed in favour of short, ‘feature’ style blocks. For example, the previous home page design had room for approximately 175 recently released and reviewed items plus links to every major area of the site. The new design has 36 items split into blocks given titles such as ‘Movers & Shakers’ and ‘People are watching’.

Unfortunately though, the Metacritic users detest the new design. At last count there were over 500 negative comments left on the blog post announcing the new design.

[caption id="attachment_428" align="alignright" width="175" caption="New Home Page Design"][/caption]

Here are a couple of good examples:

Comment by Andy on 8/11/10 at 5:33pm I really, REALLY don’t like this new layout. Very difficult to navigate. For example, where is the upcoming DVD release schedule? Hopefully you go back to the old format

Comment by Thom on 8/11/10 at 5:26pm | Link to this I work in usability – you’ve basically broken every common sense web design rule there is with this new layout. Information is layered for no apparent reason, you’ve pulled user reviews to the fore, when the critic reviews are the point of the site, and the landing page provides about a tenth of the releases the old landing page showed, but is some how ten times as complex. You need to rethink this.

Metacritic’s differentiation from other review sites is that it takes an average of every reputable review it can find and assigns it to the item as its ‘Metascore’. Rather than having to hunt for reviews for movies or games, a visitor can glance at the Metacritic page and see an overview of every review for that item. The site tracks every new movie, game, album and TV show and often each individual item has over 50 reviews plus a host of user comments.

Building an interface for a site such as this is difficult, but over the years Metacritic adapted their tools to allow people to get at the data quickly.

Unfortunately, none of this has been taken into consideration for the new layout.

The previous interface gave users direct ways to get the information required. Personally, I would use the site to see queries such as:

  • The best rated films of 2009
  • Best rated Wii games released in the last 3 months
  • All PS2 games with a score over 80%
  • Thrillers on DVD released in the last 5 years sorted by score.

[caption id="attachment_430" align="alignright" width="166" caption="Old Home Page Design"][/caption]

However, these searches are no longer possible. The new interface only allows a list by release date (includes hundreds of dreadful items plus items that are not yet released) or by score (includes items all the way back to when time began). Not only have the links gone, but the advanced search has also been removed, meaning it cannot be done manually either.

Furthermore, several games consoles have been removed from the site. The previous list of 14 consoles has been stripped to 7 to fit into the new design. The forums have also been cut.

It is not known why the drastic change was made. Maybe the suits wanted more page views or deemed the site too data-heavy, but changing the site away from its core goal is surely going to drive traffic away and ultimately cost them ad revenue.

It will be interesting to see what happens with the new design. I can’t imagine the owners ignoring this kind of a reaction. I presume that even if user’s comments are ignored, a sharp drop in traffic will make the managers think again.

Are you a metacritic user? If so, what do you think of the new design?