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Pitchfork Site Redesign: Mixed Reviews

Pitchfork, that bastion of indie snobbery, just launched a shiny new website to a resounding chorus of “meh.” Although pretty much everyone agreed that Pitchfork’s old site desperately needed an overhaul, the end result may not be everyone’s cup o’ PBR.

For starters, the site is now basically an iPod ad with some music reviews attached. The opening animation rumbles like an ad-sales earthquake, in which Apple Flash-slaps Pitchfork upside the head and then settles out of court for a healthy six figures. Despite the intrusion, we might have resisted the urge to grouse had Apple concocted a better slogan. Unfortunately, “The funnest iPod ever” comes off more like the stupidest campaign ever. OMG my BFF! That new iPod ad, like, totes blows!

Also on the moneymakin’ front, the site has also inked a major deal with lala.com, an online music store that provides Pitchfork’s new site with free streams. Click through to an album review, and a smattering of tracks appear in a built-in player. Although some of Pitchfork’s more obscure selections cause the player to lose all its hipster cred and disappear, it’s certainly welcome when it works.

The actual redesign is more of a 5.3 — the plusses just barely outweigh the minuses by three pretentious tenths. Chief among the plusses is a search-function overhaul. The old site struggled mightily to unearth a review of even the least-obscure EP, while flooding the results with European tour dates from 2004. The site’s new search is broken down by category, so reviews, news, features, and video all appear in cleanly divided sections. Also, the search works, which is a distinct improvement.

The minuses revolve around an information overload, which causes the site’s many sections to fight for the user’s attention. News, articles, features, headlines, tours, reviews, interviews, columns, lists, spotlights, best new music, videos, forkcast, and recent posts all crowd the homepage, while certain crucial sections (including news and album reviews) lose the tiny shred of context that was built in to the old design. As a result, Pitchfork seem to be gambling that its users will trade a quick scan for a long slog. Although the sheer volume of content is certainly impressive, we’d have expected these merchants of minimalism to know that less is usually more.

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