by Tanner Ulsh

A few months back, a video from Myspace popped up. It featured a new design, a new focus, and Justin Timberlake. Beta invites have already started coming around to eager requesters and at this point the site has delivered a lot of what the video has promised. Is it worth trying, though? For those not fortuitous or interested enough to get in on the latest social media movement, here’s the rundown on what to know about the new Myspace.

The overall design of the new Myspace is a tepidly daring move towards the shifting trends in Internet usage. The horizontal “Windows 8 meets Pinterest” layout flagrantly violates the standards and wisdom of classic web design in favor of an ambiguously touch-focused interface. The overall page structure consists of a floating contextual navigation bar on the left, a persistent music and notification bar on the bottom, and a huge area devoted entirely to feed content in the rest of the screen. Searching is a full-page affair, automatically filling your screen with large type as soon as you punch a key on your keyboard.

Dragging to scroll is clearly the intended method of navigation, with content intentionally being half-drawn to hint that more lies beyond. This leads to a bit of weirdness when using the site with a mouse and keyboard, as scrolling up and down causes the page to move left and right. This conflict in cues and function leaves new users attempting to hover-scroll or drag-scroll where there is no such function, giving even the simplest uses an unfinished feel.

On touch devices, the advantages of such a site layout are clearly apparent. The feed content is all very large and touch-friendly, with even the fattest of fingers finding themselves with plenty of space to interact. The horizontal scrolling shines here, with seamless loading through content back to the creation of your account. Not all is dandy for touch users though. The navigation bar seems to eschew the entire touch-friendly feel that the feed gives off in favor of very thin buttons placed incredibly close together. Even on a 21” touch monitor, I found myself pressing the wrong button two to three times whenever I wanted to move about. The music and notification bar is in a similar place, with small buttons and tight placement. Most frustratingly, you can only access your current playlist by hovering over the music bar. Astute technology users might note that there is no true “hover” function on touch devices, and you would be right. The only way to get your playlist to show up on a touch device is to clumsily tap around on the bottom until it decides to show up, often changing place in your current song or pressing the search button and opening a full-screen overlay.

Too Connected?
The new Myspace prominently features a set of interactions called “connections” as a way for users to…well, “connect” to things. Users connect to other users, which subscribes them to updates from the users they’ve connected to. Sometimes connections are one-way, sometimes both. Users connect to songs, which does…something, maybe. Users connect to pictures, which serves an equally mysterious function. You can connect to others’ actions, like songs they’ve listened to. What does all this connecting do? Well, everything and nothing. Connecting is akin to “liking” and “sharing” something at the same time on Facebook. You don’t really have an option to separate these things, and there’s no real lasting record of it. Connecting tries to be everything, and suffers for it.

Identity Crisis

The New Myspace feels either confused, or confusing. It’s unclear whether it’s the creators or the users are the ones that can’t find a hole for it to fill. The interface jump ropes over a touch-friendly or mouse and keyboard-friendly interface, often just choosing whatever it feels like at the time. Myspace doesn’t have the room for personal sharing like Facebook does, but it doesn’t have the text-only no-nonsense streamlining that makes Twitter so desirable for mass propagation. It lacks the sharing tools and space to be a content network like Tumblr, and it lacks the musical selection and advanced algorithms of Pandora. It doesn’t lack these things because it has its own place to fill and doesn’t need these other features; it lacks these things because it’s trying to be all of them and isn’t doing a very good job of it. 

The new Myspace needs sorting out with a good amount of user input before going to a public release stage. Unfortunately, there is no way to give input. It’s up to the designers, owners, and programmers up in control of the new Myspace now. We’ll see if anyone cares when the time comes that they’re done.

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  1. We recently did usability research on the new MySpace with a drunk subject. We were interested in finding out how drunk users would react to the design (assuming that won’t be an infrequent use case for the site). The results were really similar to what this article states (albeit with more curses and booze). We also found this one drunk user, despite some frustrating usability experiences, had a lot of fun discovering friends, new music, etc.

    You can see the 5-minute video here: