by anthony on 08/29/10 at 1:02 pm
The new Digg is out, and everyone and their dog wants to give their opinion about it. Some users like it, some users hate it, but for me, I am more interested in what we can learn from their new user interface.
There are two major design flaws I spotted in their navigation. The first one is with the order of their tabs. They chose to put “My News” before “Top News”, which is completely backwards. “Top News” is a global page that all users have access to whether they log in or not. It is also the default start page, which is why it should go first. “My News” is a local page that is accessible only if you are a registered user and logged in. Thus, it’s not relevant to users until they log in, which is why it should come after “Top News”. Putting the “My News” tab first makes users feel like they aren’t on the home page when they first enter. Instead, it feels like they entered the URL wrong, especially when the URL address defaults to “digg.com/news” instead of “digg.com”.
A UI best practice to follow is to put global menu items before local menu items in navigations. Global items are more often used than local items, since local items are only relevant to a limited number of users at a given time. By putting global menu items first, you will be following an order that the user expects, making the UI more intuitive and user-friendly.
Digg’s violation of this UI convention is probably because “My News” is a new and exciting feature they are trying to promote, so they want users to take notice to it. It may seem like a strategic marketing decision on their part, but unfortunately, bad design is not a very good strategy. The “My News” page is important, but they should carefully consider violating fundamental design conventions, as to not compromise the overall user experience. With most great products, the user experience IS the marketing strategy. It’s not just one particular feature that matters the most, but how everything works together. Digg’s tab order doesn’t follow UI consistency, nor does it comply with the user’s mode of interaction. The good news though is that fixing it is just a matter of rearranging the order.
The second design flaw with Digg’s navigation are the scope buttons that filter stories. When I initially looked at it, I didn’t realize “Top in 24 hours”, “7 Days” and “30 Days” were all related and filtered stories by popularity. Since they all dealt with time and were grouped with the same weight it led me to believe that they actually filtered stories by the time they get published. However, “Most Recent” is the only one that solely filters stories by time and not popularity. For these reasons, the “Top in 24 hours”, “7 Days” and “30 Days” buttons belong in a group together with a line that separates ”Most Recent” from the others.
Another UI best practice to follow is to group items that function similarly together and to separate items that function differently. This makes it clear to users how closely related items are when they are next to each other.
What Digg did get right is that they grouped all the filters together in one area. Had they gone a step further and grouped the filters by time and popularity, it would’ve been perfect. Digg is still fixing bugs and making changes to their site. Who knows if they will fix these issues. We’ll have to see. Regardless of that, there is still a valuable lesson we can all learn.