donderdag 24 februari 2011

Exploring and searching at Discogs.com

Today Discogs.com, the world’s largest musical database and marketplace, announced its new home page. The central theme is ‘explore’. Unfortunately for Discogs I’m convinced browsing is the least popular navigational strategy on their site. It would be much wiser for them to invest their money in search engine result page optimization.

| This article in Dutch. |

New design (1)
How does the new design work? When you go to Discogs.com you now end up on a page featuring the 25 releases most recently added by Discogs’ users. You can choose how many releases are displayed: 25, 50, 100, 250 or 500. The magnitude of the source you can dwell from becomes apparent at the bottom of the screen: over 2,3 million releases.

To narrow your target, Discogs provides four possible filters. Applied individually these still give you enormous numbers to rummage through:
  • Selecting only releases in the electronic genre leaves over 1,2 million releases.

  • Selecting only releases in the house style leaves more than 400,000.

  • Selecting only releases on vinyl leaves over 1,2 million releases.

  • Selecting only releases from the 90s leaves more than 600,000.

These are the numbers after applying one filter at a time on the entire database. Combining these four filters does narrow down, but I’m still left with over 100,000 releases.


A big question comes to mind: why would I want to click through 100,000 house releases on vinyl from the 1990s? And that’s coming from a fan!

Subjective
Intermezzo: what is house exactly? Discogs uses a classification that their users label themselves and that is open for a lot of discussion. Maybe I would call a particular release house music, but the person who has uploaded it would not.

Browsing through the house releases I would never encounter this release. I would if I had searched for it. Then I’d also discover that people disagree with my genre classification. (When adding a release to the Discogs database, you are not supported at all in your genre and style classification. Xander Roozen and I have reported on this earlier.)

Half-hearted
I’m sure there is a good reason why ‘explore’ has been chosen as the latest feature on the website. Maybe Discogs wants to become a source for discovering new music. The recently introduced possibility to preview audio samples hints at this. Unfortunately this has been implemented rather half-heartedly.

For instance, for reasons unknown I can only preview tracks 1, 4, 5, 7, 8, and 11 from Bonobo’s album 'Days to come'. Furthermore, the page does not make clear that this is the case; I only find out after clicking on the ‘Preview’ button. In the meantime I’ve made my way to Beatport.

New design (2)
The other new tabs on the renewed Discogs home page are even more simple in concept:
  • Browsing through videos only shows the most recently added ones.

  • Reviews (by Discogs’ users) displays the most recently added. You can apply additional filters on genre and style.

  • Browsing through lists only shows the most recently added ones. These are lists created by Discogs’ users by the way.

  • Artists shows the 25 most popular ones plus an alphabetical list. I’m curious to find out what drives this popularity, but this is not explained.

  • Browsing through labels also displays the 25 most popular ones and an A-to-Z navigation. Popularity isn’t explained here either.

I can imagine that it’s interesting to read reviews, but I feel this is much more so after you’ve found a release that you are interested in. Then a review is of real added value. Rummaging through a random list of reviews doesn’t provide that value.

Search result
None of the extra dimensions besides artist, label, and release have been integrated into the search engine result page, which is a real shame. How nice it would be on Aphex Twin’s search result page to see how many of his releases have been reviewed on Discogs.


A positive effect of the new layout is the insight into the massiveness of Discogs’ database: 2,3 million releases, 1,8 million artists and almost 200,000 labels. Before the redesign these numbers were not a secret, but not readily available on Discogs.com itself either.

Usability testing
Unlocking such a gigantic amount of information is obviously an enormously difficult task. With the new design Discogs shows that they are looking for creative ways to help the user. It’s a shame though that, maybe driven by a strategic choice, they are introducing improvements to a strategy that I, as a frequent visitor of Discogs, almost never use. Maybe it’s time for Discogs to do a little usability testing?

2 opmerkingen:

Anoniem zei

hi, good site very much appreciatted

Anoniem zei

Hello there,

I have a question for the webmaster/admin here at basevers.blogspot.com.

Can I use some of the information from your post right above if I provide a backlink back to your site?

Thanks,
Thomas