I guess this post is a bit off topic. But I’d argue that Last.fm is one of the main MIR related web sites out there, and I found the launch of the new site very exciting.
Here’s a link to the main announcement on our blog (with over 2000 immediate responses from users, most of them are negative). The blog post includes links to the forums where the feedback continued after the comments needed to be closed.
Here’s a Last.fm group with over 11,000 users asking to bring back the old design. An interesting read are also the forums of that group. Some user's have even worked on ways (e.g. using greasemonkey) to bring back the old look and feel.
Here is one of many youtube videos of people complaining.
And there are even some conspiracy theories.
The negative feedback was being voiced in many different places. Including, for example, in the comment section of an article by the Times Online which focused on how the changes related to advertising.
(Btw, there’s also been a lot of positive feedback, too. For example, there are some positive comments in this digg article.)
When I joined Last.fm over a year ago there were like a million things I thought that could be improved on the site. I was bugging those in charge of the web page design on a daily basis. However, they were already aware of almost everything I was pointing out, and explained that there will be a major redesign coming, and that things will be fixed then. As time went by I started to appreciate the complications of making changes to the old site. It was a site that had grown very quickly in many different directions that weren’t fitting together perfectly anymore.
So more than a year ago my colleagues had started making plans on how they would design the perfect Last.fm if they could start from scratch. I’d also like to mention that almost all of my colleagues are hardcore Last.fm users (and have lots of friends who are Last.fm users, and spend time talking to their moms (or other less technology savvy users) about what difficulties they might have using Last.fm). I think it’s fair to say that most of my colleagues have an excellent understanding of the various issues related to the user experience.
However, at the same time the old site was still in full development. A lot of new features were being launched, integrated, bugs fixed, etc. Maintaining the old site was a full time job for a small (but quickly expanding) team, and my colleagues were spending any free minute they had on completely redesigning Last.fm. I’d also like to add that when they talked about change, it wasn’t simply the design, navigation, and structure that were being considered. A lot of changes involved some serious backend changes and new features. It really was all about making the dream of a perfect Last.fm come true.
Btw, here's an interesting podcast where Hasso Plattner (founder of SAP) talks (among many other things) about the challenges of developing the next version of a product while maintaining the previous version. I'm pretty proud of how my colleagues have mastered this challenge.
When the site went live everyone knew that there was still plenty of room for improvements, but at the same time it was clear that the benefits would largely outweigh the remaining issues. And we also knew that even if the new site were absolutely perfect from the start (which it obviously wasn't), it wouldn't be easy for those who were able to use the old site blindfolded. This included myself: there were several moments of serious frustration where I knew what I wanted to do on the old site, but couldn’t instantly figure out how to do it on the new one. (Btw, continuing to maintain two sites was not really an option.)
Despite all the negative feedback we received (and despite all the effort my colleagues are currently putting into fixing issues the Last.fm community has pointed out), there are already several indicators that the new site might be an even bigger success than we would have hoped for, and most of all it has paved the way for a lot more to come. It’s never been more fun to work at Last.fm! Btw, check out the jobs at Last.fm :-)