LAST.FM’S FRESH REDESIGN
Alas, I’ve lost my black Last.fm homepage and have to deal with an impersonal red…but the improvements galore make up for the lack of color choice. Last.fm, on Thursday, unveiled to the public its redesign. Since I joined in 2005 and haven’t seen anything major like this, it was a very welcome surprise. The details of which can be found via the Last.fm blogpost. Briefly:
- New, simplified user interface featuring more space, more images, and more easily available options
- Improved chart updates shifting from delayed to real-time
- Import your listening history (i.e., iPod), making it easier for new users to get into the service
For users, the profile page has been redesigned to emphasize simplicity. There is now ample space throughout, which makes it cleaner and easier to read. Image use has been boosted as well. The previous collage is replaced with simple square buttons. The general page is reorganized into three columns; tabs on the left (previously on top), charts in the center, and other additional information to the right. The user profile is prominent, instead of pushed off to the side; a welcome enhancement to emphasize the individual over the music more. However, the ‘About’ section has been pushed to the right. In my opinion, it seems as important as the user information and should be underneath the user’s profile. Now it feels more an afterthought.
The Charts have undergone a major overhaul with a main ingredient; clarity. Charts have been upgraded in terms of responsiveness; able to update in real-time. Likewise, tabs have allowed users to switch amongst different, previous views on a whim. It’s a major improvement that allows you to remain on the same page. All have settings that can be changed. Included is a new Album chart, however it only lists albums based off of single tracks it appears. Full album listens are a no-go, it seems. I definitely haven’t listened to Lykke Li‘s album over 40 times. This feature is accessed through clicking ‘Top Artists’ then selecting the appropriate option. The only other comment I have to say is the replacement of the collage for ‘Recently Listened Tracks’. It’s been replaced by album art, which is nice and traditional. Previously I had more fun picking apart the collage artist by artist since it felt more like an image of a mixtape.
Other than those, there are numerous changes to improve the community features. ‘Recent Activity’, similar to Facebook, exists and can be turned off through privacy settings. The ‘Shoutbox’ is lengthened, à la the Wall, putting more emphasis on communication among members.
Last.fm improved the other parts of the website as well. The Artist pages, as with Profiles, are cleaner. The tag cloud is gone now, leaving you to guess which tag is the most popular, replaced with a mere list. ‘Top Albums’ exist, but are pushed far below despite albums being an integral part of an artist’s work. Videos are more prominently featured, but I feel it’s secondary on Last.fm, as people use YouTube instead. Generally, it’s far better organized yet still lacks some personalization features that Facebook or MySpace allow to increase communication between artists and their fans.
The Music page is stripped down, focusing on the music while displaying interesting chart information. Brand New apparently is big in the United States, but I’d love to see what’s jumping up the charts around the world. That’s the power behind Last.fm; it’s ability to pull all this data and throw it back in an easy to manipulate way. What’s popular in the U.K., Ireland, Sweden? Still will have to hit the blogs and charts for that instead of a one-stop place.
Events: Main Page
The Events pages have introduced concert posters-the premier method of advertising shows. It even pulls photos from concerts you’ve attended and places them easily on the side. Last.fm’s Events usually saves time and energy searching individual venues or artists by giving you a relevant listing of nearly all concerts nearby. But the initial page isn’t, and-in my case-lists Sweden as an upcoming event. Now, I have traveled all the way to Sweden just to see the country where the Refused came from…but I definitely won’t have the means to do see any of those at the moment while I’m in Chicago. To do that, you must Find the Events manually by typing in the zip code or city. Sure, it’s minor-but it goes against the whole personalized feel of having a profile and all that useful data you’re logging in.
Events: After Search
For the Listen page, where you can use a personalized radio to search for new music, the player itself doesn’t automatically show. It’s a minor detail, but I just expected it to automatically be there after clicking ‘Listen’. From there, you can choose from ‘Your Library’, ‘Your Neighbourhood’ (Neighborhood for you Americans you), and ‘Your Recommendations’. It’s minor, but it doesn’t seem as integrated as some other services.
Finally, the Last.fm user Home page displays your ‘Recently Added to Your Library’, but more personalized features such as a ‘Personalised Podcasts’. The podcast feature grabs free mp3s based off of your listens, sending you to a page showing the list of those tracks for you to download.
Overall the new Last.fm is a major improvement utilizing new features of the web, particularly in stellar tabbed charts and options associated with it. Unlike Facebook, I can’t become an artist’s fan and receive messages from them. That’s a pity, but a feature I hope will come. Likewise, I am a little disappointed in the ability to search through what’s moving up and down the charts-geographically. What would be better than to see the top tracks in N.Y.C. compared to L.A., or even to Amsterdam? The purpose is to aide the discovery of new music and, given the universality of the internet in music today, this feature could expose users to unheard, non-marketed music in other locales. I won’t hear Johnny Foreigner any time soon in Chicago, but I’d love to find them easily here rather than dive into blogs.
If you haven’t started using Last.fm, it’s free to join. You install a small program into your Mac or PC that just sits there, gathering listening data. The more you use it, the better the recommendations. I have used it for a good three years now.
Update (7/25): Paint It Black is back! I am so back in black.