Music plays a huge part in many designers’ lives, including my own. There are many ways for us to listen to music in this advanced digital age, and nearly all of them include some sort of community or social networking features. But what about a place for designers to share their inspiring music collections with others? Designers.MX has been just that. It’s a site where designers can share handcrafted mixes that reflect their own unique music tastes, and visualize those tunes by designing beautiful album artwork. It’s been around for about a little over a year, and has proven to be quite successful, with new mixes being added every day. Recently, they put the site on pause to redesign it from the bottom up.
I’ve had the privilege of being invited to the private beta, so here are my thoughts on the redesign.
The new Designers.MX retains the same color scheme, but that’s about it. Everything else about the site is different, with a new layout, new content types, and sharing options. This version of Designers.MX helps you share not only a mix of your music, but of everything that inspires you. Sharing images, designs (the ones I found were mostly music-related), and videos is a main feature which integrates with your social networks very well. You can easily share your designs and photos with your network on Designers.MX, to go along with your tunes.
The design of the web app is clean, with black, dark gray, and orange being the main colors. There are subtle grunge patterns present in some places, which gives the interface a slightly vintage feel. The layout of the site as you browse through the content is similar to Pinterest, in the way that it shows the content in a grid with equally spaced columns, but randomly spaced rows. When viewing a mix in detail, the artwork takes center stage, with a list of tracks and comments below. One of the main differences from the old interface to this one is the generous use of modals and lightboxes. Artwork, videos, and images are all shown in dark modals which take up most of the space inside your browser window. I preferred the more detailed view from the old interface, but since this version includes more varied types of content, I’m not as annoyed as I thought I would be.
There are a few issues with the interface I hope they resolve as quickly as possible. Firstly, the profile view should focus more on the user’s own mixes more than the mixes they’ve listened to. Also, addressing the mixes a user has listened to as ‘remixes’ is misleading, and there should be a play count on each mix you’ve listened to.
The site isn’t laggy by any means, but as with all web apps, it depends on your connection speed. Audio and video quality is great, on par with Rdio’s native app, which I use nearly every day. I wish there was a custom music player similar to the old version, instead of relying on Spotify and Rdio media players, which offer a lackluster experience in the browser. For some reason, you can’t play mixes which haven’t been created with either service, which makes many of the older mixes unplayable. Since music is Designers.MX’s focus, the designers and developers need rethink the way mixes are played, and resolve the issues promptly.
I haven’t had the privilege of creating a mix yet, but there is an orange request button in the top left corner of the web app, enticing you to share your unique music tastes with the Designers.MX community.
The quality of the mixes themselves has always been great, but since Designers.MX has added books, design, and videos to the collection, it’s even better. It’s very inspiring to browse through the site and look at thoughtfully designed artwork and powerful videos, in a beautiful layout which makes everything pop. Everything is high-resolution, but the graphics aren’t retina ready. Sharing your own inspiration is difficult, because you first have to request to be a mixer, dampening the experience.
There are a few other features that I wasn’t able to test at the time of publication, since they were either unavailable or not working. One of the vital features which seems to be broken is the basic search function. I couldn’t search for usernames which I knew had profiles on Designers.MX, and I could only view the profiles of users in the ‘everyone’ and ‘popular’ feeds. Also, on the holding page for Designers.MX, one of the features they showed was Spotify and Rdio integration. While attempting to listen to a Spotify playlist, I noticed you have to log in with your account to listen to playlists made with those services. The same goes for Rdio, which prompts you to subscribe to their premium service to listen to playlists. It’s a major issue that may deter some users, and hopefully the Designers.MX team is working diligently to fix these and other issues as I write this.
There have been numerous request for a native Mac App, and even a few concepts have popped up on Dribbble. This would be a great path for Designers.MX to take, it would be great if they’re considering it.
Designers.MX is still working on their iPhone app, which should feature most of the site’s core functionality. All they’re saying about the app right now is that it’s still in the works, and should be available in the coming weeks. I’ll be reviewing the app once it’s released, so stay tuned!
The new Designers.MX offers a lot in terms of media content that’s of interest to designers of any type. There are a lot of influences from vintage photography, handcrafted goods, and of course, music. If you’re like me and have been waiting for the new version since they teased it three months ago, check out the public beta now!