Whenever a website is redesigned I am apprehensive, hoping for lots of good things, but dreading that something useful might be removed.

It may seem odd that useful things would be removed, but I am a contrary sort and I fully accept that I may be one of only a handful of people using a niche service, so it might be too expensive to maintain.

But if you are an entertainment venue, the most important and probably most used part of your website is your events listings.

That has to be clear, concise and easy to use.

Oh dear you are already thinking, what has happened to annoy Ian this time?

Each month I scan the listings pages for a large number of websites to see if they have anything interesting to add to my own listings guide, and therefore, a simple page that conveys the information is vital – not just for me, but I would expect, for anyone who wants to know what a venue is up to.

So who on earth is responsible for the abomination of a design at the Southbank Centre?

Sometime over the past month they have removed the simple and quite excellent layout and replaced it with what can only be described as an “advent calendar”.

Compare and contrast how two events are displayed in the listings page (the dates are old due to using Wayback Archive for the old version).

Before

Untitled1

After

Untitled

Seriously, they have stripped away all the useful information and left just an image and a title

Before, I could scan down the calendar for the month ahead and see fairly quickly what an event was about. Now, I have no idea. Is “person X” a musician, a writer, a social event? No idea! The only way to know is to click on each event in turn.

You think I am going to do that? Really?

OK, the previous version could have done with removing the tags, and maybe the venue – but the rest of the information was vital.

The Southbank Centre isn’t the only website that thinks hiding information is the preferred way to go as I am seeing more companies adopt this evidently fashionable, but utterly useless webpage layout.

Again, compare and contrast the previous and current design and tell me how the new design is easier to understand what each even is about? It is design by obfuscation – and totally barmy for a listings guide.

I should also point out that they have replaced a simple scroll down the page, with my eyes scanning left to right repeatedly – which for a month of listings is shockingly tiring for the eyes.

This…

Untitled2

…has been replaced with this:

Untitled3

How on earth did their online team sign off that as an “improvement”?

Rant over – for now.

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10 Comments

  1. Kit Green

    My guess is that they have set a brief such as “we want more click throughs”. Hiding information beyond the next click will make some people take the bait. Others, like you and me, will just move on.
    Result: No more click throughs than before and less satisfied site visitors.

    Or perhaps the brief was to be edgy (yawn).

  2. Kevin

    Or if you don’t already know what they are they don’t want your sort to visit?

  3. Alan Burkitt-Gray

    Kit Green is almost certainly right. Google Stats will tell them how long people are on the site. Not long enough, they will say, ignoring the fact that if people can get information quickly and efficiently that’s a good website.

    • IanVisits

      Although I don’t actively measure it – one of my guiding principles with the events guide I operate is “can I give you usable information and get you out doing things”.

      The quicker I get get people from “I want to do something” to “this is what I am going to do”, the happier I am.

      I want people to go away, and as quickly as possible!

      The SouthBank website is essentially an e-commerce platform, and any sales website designer will know that more clicks = fewer sales. I suspect the people working at Dell, Amazon etc would look at SB’s website in horror.

  4. Alas, I suspect the malaise which has befallen the South Bank is a far simpler and more common plague on today’s web – they wanted a redesign for no better reason than that they hadn’t had one in a while, and they let some poncy art student ‘web designer’ go to town on it with no checks, oversight or healthy scepticism.

    Many, many people and companies still fail to realise that websites are not art, they are a medium for conveying information in as simple and effective a manner as possible. How pretty that information looks is almost completely irrelevant, and should never be allowed to take precedence in the manner on display here.

    See also: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc. etc. etc.

  5. Simon

    That’s absolutely horrific, couldn’t agree more.

    Reminds me of the recent rash of disastrous bbc.co.uk redesigns. Atrocious, eye-bleeding stuff.

    • Dammit, the BBC! I knew I’d forgotten something. A titan in the dismal field of design for design’s sake.

  6. One of the most common errors website owners make is they ask for a re-design from someone who does not use their website. A real user will know the value of the current layout and actually improve it rather than doing something which is ‘flashy’. Drives me up the wall this sort of attitude.

  7. Edwin Aldridge

    Completely agree. The South Bank Centre have been mugged. Whoever designed this abortion of a site needs to but a copy of “The Elements of User Experience” and do it again for nothing.

    I just want to know what being performed in the next 3 weeks. Title and composer. Way too hard.

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