Digg Redesigns, Loses More Than a Quarter of Audience

Digg redesign

Last night, social news aggregator Digg.com sent a message to its publisher community confessing that its recent site redesign had got off to a "bumpy start." That's a pleasant way of describing the huge backlash the service has seen from its users. How has the service actually fared since undergoing its makeover?

While Digg admits it has "experienced a dip" in overall traffic, according to a new report by Hitwise Intelligence, that explanation is quite the euphemism. Since the end of August, Digg's traffic has plummeted 26% in the U.S. and 34% in the U.K. That adds up to nearly a third of its visits lopped off, which is a bit more serious than just a "bumpy start."

"The Internet can be a fickle creature, but if there is one lesson that seems to consistently ring true it’s this: don’t alienate your core users," writes Robin Goad, research director for Hitwise U.K. "It’s a lesson that Digg.com is learning the hard way. Having been a paragon of social bookmarking with over 40 million unique visitors a month at its peak, there has been a huge exodus of traffic thanks to an unpopular redesign which irritated a legion of faithful power users."

The question now becomes: How many more users is Digg willing to sacrifice before it decides the redesign was a failure? Requests for comment to Digg were not immediately returned, but in the company's email yesterday, Digg hinted that traffic was beginning to rebound.

Of course, redesigns for popular services often face backlash. When Facebook redesigned its site last year, the makeover was met with widespread criticism. One thumbs-up thumbs-down poll of nearly 800,000 Facebook users found that about 94% disliked the new layout. And when Microsoft launched the now-infamous Windows Vista, critics universally panned the "upgrade," with the vast majority of users sticking with XP.

However, for a true platform—a social network as large as Facebook, or an operating system as dominant as Windows—most users are unlikely to switch to a different service due to objections over redesigns. They have too much invested in sticking with it. But Digg isn't the only fish in the sea: There's a slew of services out there that serve as a worthy replacement, such as Reddit. Are the site's users patient enough to wait for improvements and bug fixes?

Still, news isn't all bad for Digg. While its traffic numbers have taken a big hit in the last month, it hasn't yet caused a spike in traffic for Reddit, which has tried to capitalize on Digg users' anger. Visits to Reddit have only increased 2.6% during that same period, suggesting users may one day dig Digg again.

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  • Gerald Irish

    Well a drop off of 25% of traffic is a much bigger number than 1-5% of Facebook users complaining about a redesign but still using it. The problem with new Digg is that they fundamentally changed the operational paradigm of the site for the worse. Before one of the criticisms of Digg was that it was dominated by power users and that there were groups gaming the system.

    Now that's gone, replaced by corporate news feeds dominating the front page. Sorry, but why would anyone go to Digg just to find a bunch of mainstream stuff that they could just as easily get from a RSS reader? Notice that before the redesign a good article would get a few hundred comments, now the most you'll see is around 30 to 40 comments. That's a strong indicator that some serious damage has been done to the audience of the site.

    Digg was already feeling the heat from Twitter, and now after this colossal blunder a large portion of its users have simply moved on. Maybe they'll be able to replace lost users with new ones but that scenario rarely occurs. Digg isn't dead by any means, but it is certainly on its way to being irrelevant unless they implement some serious changes to win people back.

  • perels

    People always complain about changes - no matter how good they are. It is a fundamental thing in all human beings - they are not willing to accept changes easily, it will take some time to adapt. The lapse of time between the actual change until the adaptation has taken place is famously known for complaints.

    Who complains about fb now?

    Also to put things in relief - fb at the time of change probably had around 250,000,000 users - "only" 800,000 cared to join the "facebook-group-against-new-design". That is less than 1 per mille (800,000 / 250,000,000 = 0.0032). Of course not people all hating the new design joined that group, but at max. I guess it would probably be around 4-5 per cent (meaning 12,500,000 users hating, 237,500,000 liking the new design).

  • KimRandall

    Personally, I love the new look. It's less time consuming, straight to the point and seriously, you cant get confused. That dip could have to do with login issues. I had them and simply contacted Digg and they reset everything and admitted it was their end and many people were having issues with logging in.