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Critique: Pandora Radio’s Redesign

Web Design

April 19th, 2010

Pandora Radio Redesign, 19 April 2010
I’m a huge fan of the Internet radio service, Pandora. Headphones and good music are my retreat in the office environment in which I work, but I have a tendency to tire of music quickly and have little patience to search out more. As a result, the intelligent playlist generation of Pandora is truly a lifesaver for me. After spending so much time using the service and leaving my feedback through interaction with the company’s Twitter account, the whole brand is starting to feel like an old friend. That’s why when the site underwent a few tweaks to the design, I took notice. Here are some friendly thoughts and critiques.

Sharing and Such

The first change I saw was of the Pandora player control area in the upper right. The buttons themselves are slightly bigger and bolder, the volume control is more set apart, and the social sharing icons are hiding under the word “share”, to be shown on mouse over. Hiding the icons is a nice move; it cleans up the viewing area and removes dilution of the page with other brands. In addition, if Pandora chooses to add integration with more services, it will not add clutter to the visible page.

One possible consideration, however, is that some users may assume that “share” requires a click, not a mouse over event, and be deterred from pressing the ambiguous button, never even hovering over it to find out otherwise. As it used to be, the share icons were clearly evident, with no further user action necessary to discover the options available.

UPDADATE: This feature doesn’t work consistently. Not sure if this is because I’m browsing from a Mac (on Safari and FF3), or some other reason.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Pandora Radio Social Sharing and Player Control

Fantastic Footer

The next thing I noticed was a change to the very bottom of the page. I truly don’t remember if there was anything like this down there before or not. The four faded columns are each single links to various other parts of the site, including “Genre Stations”, “Pandora Mobile”, “Your Profile”, and others. Each has a faded list below to clarify the topic and contains a short but compelling call to action (“listen now”, “find your phone”, and “check it out”, respectively). “In Your Home” is a particularly good move, showing faded out “blu-ray” and “multimedia” below, quietly but clearly informing users that they can access Pandora from devices other than the computer.

I think this entire section is a fantastic idea, since most users access only the home page to listen to their music, then leave without digging deeper into the site. The aesthetics are clean and well-executed, encouraging exploration of the site without detracting from the primary focus, the radio page itself.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Pandora Radio Footer

Imperfect Information

The final change was to the “song information” area of the page, and this one I’m not as thrilled with. The fixed-width area has been replaced with a variable-width upside-down “talk bubble” style of containing unit. When there is only very little information to display, the bubble shrinks in width, leaving a conspicuous blank white space to its left which breaks the flow of the design.

The clear tabs which once labeled song, artist, and “why was this song chosen” information have been replaced with tiny dots which the user must hover over to see where they go. This is neither an improvement to the aesthetics of the page nor an intuitive interface. “What are those dots?” a user might wonder, but who’s to say they will hover their mouse over the tiny pinpricks to find out? It is not a good move for accessibility, either; someone with functional but poor eyesight might not even notice the dots are there, and someone with limited motor skills may have trouble positioning the mouse just-so over them.

Finally, “why was this song chosen” originally included a list of song characteristics as identified in the Music Genome Project as well as a short list of similar songs. Now it has been replaced with a simple list, “similar artists”, a functionality which seems a downgrade to me.

UPDATE: Now that I’ve interacted with this for a few days, the smaller size of the window is also getting on my nerves. There just isn’t enough information in the new box.

Rating: 0 out of 5

Pandora Radio Song Information Section

Conclusions

  • The best change to the design is undoubtedly the footer, which I believe will cause a marked increase in user site exploration and interaction.
  • The social icon change is nice for aesthetics and brand preservation, but may cause a decrease in sharing.
  • The song information area change is less user-friendly and doesn’t look as nice as the previous iteration.

Did I miss any changes? Does the new design have any other implications? What do you think?

4 Responses to “Critique: Pandora Radio’s Redesign”

  1. Chris B says:

    I agree with everything you’ve written here, though I would have used stronger adjectives in describing changes to the song information area. Personally it bugs the crap out of me.

    Thanks for the concise summary!

    • ReadyDesigns says:

      Glad you found it useful, Chris. “Bugs the crap out of me” is a pretty concise summary of my feelings as well. :)

  2. “Imperfect Information” — I couldn’t agree more with that section of your post. I’ve only been a Pandora listener for about 8 months or so, but the informational box change is frustrating to say the least. I can’t help but wonder what the decision-making process was to implement that “feature.” Oy.

    • ReadyDesigns says:

      Thanks for the comment. I have since discovered that horizontal shortening the information area makes room for the Facebook profile pic of any of your friends who have liked each song or band to pop along the side of the info area. However, that does not make up for the “dot navigation”, vertical shortening, or loss of song characteristics.

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