Sunday, June 15, 2008

IMDB's New Design (or) If it Ain't Broke, Don't "Fix" It

It was in February 2007 that the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) unveiled its new design. Unfortunately, the new design was and still is vastly inferior to the old design. First, it is unattractive. It is cluttered to the point of being an eyesore. The Arial font that they used is not only hard to read, but also very unpleasant to look at. There are not only too many photos, but they are all too large. Second, it was much harder to navigate than the old design. Part of this is due to the size of the font, but much of it is simply because, unlike the old design, information and links are not arranged in any logical order. Fortunately, in February 2007, one could still use the old design through making a choice in one's Preferences.

Unfortunately, as of June 13, 2008 (a Friday the 13th, perhaps a fitting day) The Internet Movie Database made the old design no longer available. According to Col Needham, IMDB's founder and managing director on IMDB's boards, this was due to the fact that support costs for the old design had grown and the staff was having to devote more and more time to supporting the old design. Furthermore, the old design was only being used by 0.012% of all IMDB users. They removed the option to hide images for the same reasons.

Sadly, despite a year and a half in which they have had to make improvements, the new design is no more attractive or navigable than it was when it was unveiled in February 2007. It still utilises the same, ugly Arial font. The layout is still in no rational order, making it hard to navigate. It is for this reason that the decision to discontinue the old design has proven very unpopular with many of the Internet Movie Database's most loyal users. Needham's announcement on the board resulted in a flurry of replies from faithful IMDB users. And not of a one of those replies were in favour of discontinuing the old design or praising the new design. In fact, most were very much in favour of discontinuing the new one! The displeasure with which loyal IMDB users have reacted to the new design can be seen in various posts and web sites around the Web. Someone at Userstyles.Org developed a style sheet that is compatible with both Firefox and Opera which will make IMDB look more like the IMDB of old in one's browser. There is a petition at Petition Online to "Get rid of the new IMDB layout." As early as February 2007 users were expressing their displeasure regarding IMDB's new look on boards across the Internet. With the discontinuation of the old design, such discussions have been revived on many boards. Many on both IMDB's boards and other boards have stated that they will no longer use IMDB. It is quite clear that many of IMDB's most loyal users seriously dislike the new design.

The good news is that according to Needham on the boards, the Internet Movie Database has plans to change both the fonts and the colour scheme, which from my vantage point should correct much of what users dislike about the new design. After the fonts are reset, they will look at the spacing on the new design to see if it should be reset as well. From the sounds of things, this could correct much of what IMDB's faithful find displeasing about the new design. Still, the fact remains that many of IMDB's most loyal users not only hate the new design, but are very upset by the fact that old one was discontinued.

While I can understand why the Internet Movie Database decided to discontinue the old design, I don't think it was quite justified. I have no doubt that 99.988% of users use the new design, but this also ignores a very important fact. It seems to me that 99.988% of users who using the new design may well be casual users who do not visit IMDB that often. Many may not even be registered users. If I were IMDB, then, before even going ahead with the new design I would have asked, "Do I really want to go ahead with a design that only people who visit IMDB once every month at most use, when so many of the users who use IMDB every day and often many times a day dislike it so?" Given that I rather suspect it is the faithful IMDB users who visit the site every day who probably provide the site with the bulk of its revenue through ads and so on, not to mention contribute much of its content, I think I would have not only continued the old design, but discontinued the new one! From my perspective, web sites should be designed for their faithful followers, not someone who only visits once month or even less.

Despite the firestorm of protests that have resulted from the Internet Movie Database's decision to discontinue the old design, I seriously doubt that they will bring it back. And I am concerned that the changes in colour scheme and font will necessarily improve the new design. Regardless, I will not cease using IMDB, despite my hatred for the new design and my disappointment that they discontinued the old design. IMDB is still much too useful for a chronicler of pop culture like myself to cease using. That having been said, I have installed Userstyles.Org's old design approximation style sheet into Stylish on my Firefox, so that now every time IMDB is loaded it looks much more like the old version. I recommend that any of you out there similarly unhappy with IMDB's new design do the same. Who knows? Perhaps if enough people demonstrate their unhappiness towards the new design, they will yet revert to the old one!

1 comment:

poppedculture said...

I guess I'm a casual IMDB user - I'm probably on every couple of days, but only for a few minutes each time. But as someone who works on the web, I know that advertisers aren't are looking for unique visitors as well as return visitors, so a lot of people coming for a short time will outweigh some people coming for a long time.

That being said, you are the customer (and a loyal one at that) so it's worth a shot to get something changed to your liking. If you say nothing, that's what will get done.