How not to redesign a website: Nonesuch Records

Nonesuch Records announced the launch of a redesigned website. As heavily reliant on Flash as the initial design was, it wasn’t as excessively heavy-handed as it could have been. Well, the new site crosses that threshold.

I wonder how much cross-browser checking the designers of the new Nonesuch website performed, because the fixed height of the design can be a real problem for Firefox users. I have a few add-ons which adds new toolbars to my interface, and that makes the viewport slightly narrower. The Nonesuch site doesn’t offer a page scroll when said viewport falls short of its fixed height. Let me show you:

[Nonesuch usability example 01]

The last headline in the news feed in the left corner gets cut off because there’s no scroll. I would need to hide my toolbars to see the entire interface, which isn’t convenient for me:

[Nonesuch usability example 02]

Thank deity for RSS readers — I wouldn’t need to visit the Nonesuch front page to receive updates from the label’s blog. (Or the blog site itself, for that matter.)

I also fail to see why all that text needs to be in Flash and GIF. I’d hate to think of what that means for people who use screen readers. And using images to render text? That is so 1997. That typeface is lovely and everything, but really — there’s a reason that practice is frowned upon.

Judging by the alt attribute of the tags with text images, sight-impaired folks are pretty much screwed out of the vital information in those images even with a screen reader. The lack of title attributes is also not encouraging.

And the design itself is … confounding. My eyes can’t figure out really which element ought to be the dominant one. The section for the store seems to take up a lot of real estate, but the uniform text size of the store section and the news content undercuts that emphasis. Same goes with the image links to the Artists and the Nonesuch Radio. The imperative to "Listen to Nonesuch Radio" isn’t parallel with the generic label "Artists". The former should be simply labeled "Nonesuch Radio", or the latter should invite users to "Explore Nonesuch Artists". Without that parallelism, it feels odd.

I like the services Nonesuch is offering with the newly launched site. Free high-quality downloads with an album purchase? Hot damn! I’m there (when more content gets added.) But as one of my journalism professors taught me years back, design is information. And this design doesn’t tell me anything.