Reddit is one of the most popular social communities on the internet. If you’re interested in something, there’s a good chance that there is a community of folks on reddit curating and discussing content about it.
The team behind Reddit.com has recently redesigned the site and moved away from their famously sparse and text heavy design into a new, highly visual format.
This study focuses primarily on the UI (user interface) and UX (user experience) considerations in a desktop environment. We’ve enlisted 75 testers from our panel at UserInsights.
Tester criteria was:
Structurally, the first thing we notice is they went from a 2 column layout to a 3 column layout. A clear emphasis on registration has been integrated.
Take note of all of the calls to action for registration or signing up:
Further, we can see that by default the content has been placed into expanded cards. Note that reddit does have multiple ways to change the post feed format, but in all of these cases we went with the default view.
Now onto the user feedback!
This change seems to firmly plant a stick in the sand proclaiming that reddit is about the content, not the links that its users have curated. It’s an interesting change that seems to have implications on the community aspect – the ability to comment.
This change bridges the navigation distance between discovery, content, and comments.
Whereas before, you had to parse the text of each link and decide if you were going to click on it based on the headline (and some reddit users can be quite crafty about the headlines), you now can see the content by default. The headline can now serve as more of a commentary or caption for the image than a description of the image.
Most of our users saw the images first, and then would read the headline for more context. This simply wasn’t possible and is a complete inversion of the old layout.
Users generally enjoyed the ability to view image posts without clicking on the individual links.
Reddit seems to have removed the ability to style your subreddits. At least the major subreddits our users tested did not have the specific stylesheets that the old reddit subreddits did. You can see an example of the /r/cars subreddit below:
Also, conspicuously absent is the expanded sidebar text. There is, however, a new ‘rules’ card in the right rail.
This creates a more unified experience for visitors. Some subreddits have brutalist / iconoclastic design patterns in place, filled with memes and nontraditional navigational elements. In fact, some of our users even utilized the reddit settings feature to specify that they would like to always display the default reddit stylesheet on their subreddits when browsing.
That said, the majority of users preferred the old version of reddit, citing niche specific custom stylesheets (more fun) and more helpful sidebar text.
The 3-column layout, as expected, does contain a lot more visual information. However, the balance is also felt with content to whitespace ratio, as seen below in this screenshot of the old reddit:
The visual hierarchy of the old reddit design was firmly on the left aligned post links. The new design still emphasizes the post feed, but also contains other peripheral information (some of which users can toggle to hide). While the card format does adhere to a specific style of information organization, it is not unified between content types. This creates an asymmetry of visual hierarchy. Some posts simply stand out more than others – which may have consequences on which content is engaged with the most.
The expanded card format increases the vertical length of the page. Users were fairly split on this point, with some likening the change to utilizing a popular reddit browser plugin ‘Reddit Enhancement Suite’, and others preferring the more compact listings for discovery aspects.
Also worth mentioning: the old version of the site had paginated results, while the new version offers infinite scroll.
Several users mentioned utilizing the ‘message user’ feature on profile pages. The common navigation path here is to go to a post, click on the creators username and then send them a message.
The old version of reddit had this as the core call to action on the profile page, while the new version has it hidden beneath a ‘more options’ link that expands the card container.
This change was not well received by our testers. They were aware of the new placement of the feature, but wished it was always visible as that was their primary intended action on the user profile page.
Previously, the homepage offered a handful of ways to sort and filter the content:
The new design hides much of this information behind dropdown menus:
This new design pattern adds an additional click to the sorting / filtering process. Users generally disliked this option and preferred the old version.
Reddit is a very very complex website with multiple use cases, user roles and content types. A redesign of a site this large and complex is an enormous undertaking, magnitudes larger than a small blog or SaaS product. Due to the limited scope of this test, we weren’t able to weigh in on any particular use cases, role paths or other specialized data that reddit is assuredly using to inform their design and UX choices.
So is the new reddit better than the old reddit? It’s tough to say. Only reddit has data (and context) that would allow for such a thing. A qualitative test of a small percent of single use case users isn’t enough for us to make a judgment.
There’s a lot more here than meets the eye but we hope we’ve given a nice overview of how users may see some of the new changes!
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