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Digg Redesign Met with a Thumbs Down

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Updated: The new version of Digg launched yesterday after more than a year of development and was either unreachable or unstable for much of the day. It doesn’t seem to be winning many fans, at least not among the link-sharing site’s existing users. A scan of the most popular comments on the relaunch shows an overwhelming number of negative responses, and other users have spoken out on Twitter and elsewhere about their dissatisfaction with the site: not just the fact that some features are missing, or that it’s been unstable, but with the overall rationale.

The top most-voted comment on a story about the relaunch, which has received almost 1,000 thumbs up from other users, says: “It’s garbage. The navigation is a lot worse, who knows where the subcategories are, you can’t follow your friends as easily, commenting looks stupid now… even if they fix the bugs, it’s still worse than it was before.” Another — which also has almost 1,000 votes — says “the person who designed and/or suggested the design for this new DIGG should probably be fired,” while another comment with more than 750 votes says simply “New Digg sucks!!!!” Another says “Worst. Facebook clone. Ever.”

Others have taken to their blogs to complain about the redesign, and to Twitter. On a site called — appropriately enough — Social Media Rage, a user said that the relaunch was “a massive failure,” and that Digg had “sold out, plain and simple.” The blog post echoed some other users’ comments that the new version of the site was appealing too much to mainstream content publishers, who can now post their stories automatically via RSS, and ignoring its devoted userbase. “Publishers now have more traction than the hardcore Digg community,” it said, arguing that users had made Digg a success and now the site was selling out to mainstream content companies who wanted to promote their links.

On a recent technology-focused podcast called The Drill Down, which features a number of veteran Digg users — including Muhammad Saleem, JD Rucker and a user known as Mr. Babyman — the guests talked about their dislike of the new design and the loss of many of the features, such as timestamps on stories that have been submitted, and the so-called “bury” button (note: there is some strong language on the podcast). In addition to these kinds of criticisms, however, they also talked about the redesigned site’s focus on content from mainstream media publishers, and how that was getting in the way of the kind of alternative content Digg used to be known for.

Anyone who’s been through the redesign or relaunch of a site or service knows that complaints from long-time users are nothing new. Many people don’t like change, and instinctively react negatively, even when the changes end up being positive. Facebook knows this better than anyone: The canonical example is when it was deluged with criticism for launching its “news feed” of user’s activity, but that has since become one of the most popular features of the social network. And Digg does have its fans, who argue that the site had to undergo a radical transformation in order to remain relevant.

The risk for Digg, however, is that by trying to appeal to new users and mainstream content publishers, the service could wind up turning off many of its most devoted users. That kind of trade-off works for a company if they can attract enough new users to make up for the ones that are leaving, but if that doesn’t happen then it can mean a long downhill ride, and Digg is already dealing with a substantial traffic downturn over the past year.

Update: Kevin Rose has responded on his blog to some of the criticisms of the new site, saying “while not everyone is happy w/the new design, as of right now the usage looks extremely good” with more people registering (43,000+ new users yesterday) and participating in the site. While the Digg CEO said his top priority is “to stabilize the site, then we’ll look at the data/feedback and make decisions on what to change going forward,” the site will be making some changes as a result of user responses — including allowing users to change the default view back to Top News, and restoring some missing features such as reader favorites.

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14 Responses to “Digg Redesign Met with a Thumbs Down”

  1. Former Digger

    Besides all of the features that have been removed with the launch of Digg 4 (bury, comment tracking, friends, friend tracking etc.), you only need to have a look at the “top news” on Digg to see what the biggest problem is. Every single story that is on the front page is a link to a website that was submitted by that website.

    I am sorry, but a story submitted by user is not what Digg was set up to do. I left yesterday, and I am a Redditor now.

  2. change to appeal to the Facebook crowd isn’t wise. Said crowd might add Digg to their bookmark collection, but, in essence, Digg is trying to become something I never saw it as: a Social Network. Digg will never replace Facebook. I have been an active Digger for 5 years and am appalled at 4. All of the supposed functionality is geared towards Facebook-type utilities. It’s clumsy, buggy, and just bad. What Digg must realize is that what/who made that site great is being pushed away as a result. Facebookers won’t help this site … they -sorry to offend- aren’t innovating users.

  3. You can try to justify the redesign blunder in many ways, but when Digg as a developer redesigns in ways to KILL usability and site navigation, its bad enough. But when you alter the nature of the community and the very environment that made your site valid and unique to start with, it is purely irresponsible and you should just sell all the way out or leave the game like Matt Van Horn did. (Good luck with Path BTW.)

    Im a 5 year loyal digger that has just left and isnt going back and they should be asking the question, ‘how can that happen?’ For Shame Kevin For Shame!

  4. SanchoMandoval

    It seems that Digg is trying to make good on some pretty serious investments/debts and very high overhead (their staff is huge). Unfortunately this almost inherently is going to be a problem with a site that has a hardcore userbase. You really can’t make $40 million a year off the two or three thousand people who post a few comments a day. If you are trying to raise that kind of money you have to dramatically broaden your appeal… and designing the site to meet the desires of power users really has to end. And I say this as someone who meets my definition of a (ex) Digg power user. Digg’s course of action makes perfect sense if you’re trying to make a lot of money but at the same time it completely tramples on what Digg’s users actually wanted.

    Ultimately, I am not sure a news aggregater can make hundreds of millions of dollars a year like Digg wants to. You need millions of users viewing a few times a week, not thousands of users viewing a few hundred times a week. News aggregaters inherently appeal to pretty devoted people, though… if someone just wants casual news then Facebook and visiting satisfies them.

    Oh well, off to Reddit.

  5. “Many people don’t like change, and instinctively react negatively, even when the changes end up being positive.”

    no and the fact that you can’t tell the difference between general complainers and a piece of shit revamp makes you an idiot.

    suppose you have a road to your house that is old beaten up asphalt and you want it redone. a contractor comes and completely redoes the road. when you finally see it for the first time you are quite upset because the contractor converted the asphalt road to a dirt and mud road (as opposed to concrete). does that mean you are against change or that you are against being retarded?

  6. The new digg is a bold move and personalization is a hard nut to crack. Kevin has been saying that their new infrastructure is going to allow them to iterate a lot faster. The key I think is going to be how quickly they can iterate (something that is not easy to do when you have millions of users). What is surprising is that this new version is missing some of the 1-page simplicity and gaming dynamics which were the engine to digg’s (at least initial) growth.