Metacritic show how not to do a website redesign

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.

New Home Page Design

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.

Old Home Page Design

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?

There has been 9 responses to “Metacritic show how not to do a website redesign”

  1. Frank says:

    Yeah, the new design stinks. I visited for the first time this evening, and it took me twice as long to find what I wanted as in the past, and half the info I wanted (i.e., critic reviews) was hidden. Plus every other time I clicked on a page, I got a blank — had to hit F5 between 1 and 3 times to force the page to load, again and again. (Allmusic used to have this problem too, but I haven’t noticed it there recently.)

    When I clicked on the Feedback link, I was amazed at the the outpouring of criticism. Couldn’t help wondering: how long before this fiasco becomes a blog meme? — as in, Wow! What a way to fuck up a website!

    Do you know of any other major website that redesigned itself so badly?

  2. Marksman Spun says:

    Surprised that you call the redesign “cleaner and simpler” since the whole outcry from Metacritic users is exactly the opposite.

  3. admin says:

    Hi Marksman,

    You are quite right. Rather than being ‘cleaner and simpler’ the site is actually just less data-heavy.

    Although the original design has a huge amount of data on each page, the layout still made it pretty simple.

    Thanks for your feedback.

  4. nick says:

    I RARELY send feedback on this kind of stuff, but the change was so drastica and upsetting I had to.

    Here’s what happened. I read a bad review of Showtime’s “The C Word” and wanted to see how it was with other critics, which means… head over to Metacritc.

    AND IT’S GAWDAWFUL new design. At first I was like, huh. Then i clicked the TV tab. It only had 5 shows on it. So i typed “The C Word” into the search box, and……

    “Your search resulted in zero matches”.

    Seriously. How could they possibly think going for Something that worked like clockwork, to sticking a million wrenches into the gears was an appropriate way to “improve the site”. Clearly they hired numbskulls who don’t use the site regularly to “revitalize” it. Just BONEHEADED!

  5. Jeremy W says:

    I was so disheartened at Metacritic’s new redesign that I went looking outside their own feedback page to see what others thought (this is how I found your piece). As a longtime, heavy user (I studied film in college) it breaks my heart that one of my favorite websites on the internet has done this to itself. It’s like when quite pretty or attractive women feel the need to do tons of plastic surgery. It’s just wrong and not necessary. The irony is that the new redesign makes it look a lot like other “mainstream” sites, but perhaps because of their longtime design and streamlined layout, they’re getting more flak from their users than other sites would. The only reason I have gone to the site in the past few days is to check their own feedback thread (now slightly under 650 comments as of writing this (about 99% negative). Most importantly however its not FUN to use anymore. Click after click after click and you still can’t find what you want. The reasons you searched the site were similar to what a lot of Metacritic users. You may know better than I, but I can’t think of many other website redesigns that have been worse or less well received than this.

  6. alex dante says:

    I’ve been using bookmark shortcuts in FF for years to be able to do quick ‘mc ‘ searches against metacritic. The new path aliasing for searches completely destroys the possibility of doing this.

    Less information that is more awkward for me to search for? At what point did this seem a good idea to anyone?

  7. […] Here’s another take on the redesign. […]

  8. Terry Davis says:

    It’s almost 6 months later and two things can be noted:

    1. The amount of negative responses have acclumilated at a exponental rate.
    2. CBS continues to ignore them.

    Imagine that, a giant television network that won’t face the fact that it made a mistake. Truth is, Metacritic was over the moment CBS took over – a sad day indeed.

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