Friday, February 4, 2011

Losing community (or, what's wrong with Meetup's redesign)

Meetup.com made some changes to their design recently. The vast majority of feedback I have seen has been negative - just about everyone hates it. I don't think the negative response is just because things change. I really think it is because the changes are bad.

  • First, the front page of each group is now a list of upcoming meetups in a HUGE font. Scrolling waaaay down, past the next five meetups, you can find recent activity (message board discussions, new members). The old format had a column with recent activity and a column featuring the next meetup and listing the next few and last few. 
    Why is the new format bad? In my opinion, firstly, it is ugly. Secondly, I find this method of displaying upcoming meetups unwieldy and not very useful. Thirdly, it is too easy to miss recent activity with it buried waaaay at the bottom of the page. Just to highlight, in the Hoosier Mamas, I am not planning to attend any of the next 5 meetups. Displaying all that information front and center is useless to me.

  • Let's talk about the calendar. I'm sure some of my web designing friends can comment intelligently on this and even cite reputable information, but here is my aggravation. Once I navigate away from the front page, to find the calendar of events, I click a link in the left-hand column. If I want to navigate to any other pages I frequent (message boards, photos), I click on links at the TOP of the page. Why? Why are the menus split? This is not user-friendly. I think it is poor design. Either put them all on the left or all on the top. (Thankfully they have reverted to displaying 2 months on the calendar view after complaints about a single month view.
  • RSVP's are not as useful as they used to be. We used to have the option of responding 'maybe', a very useful option when your group is full of moms with young children. The organizers used to have the ability to decide if a meetup could have only 'yes' or 'no' responses or if 'maybe' is viable. Now, Meetup has taken that flexibility away. 
  • Also in RSVP's, once a meetup with a limited number of spaces is full, the only option appears to be the waitlist. If I don't plan to attend a full meetup, I have to put myself on the waitlist and then update to no. I no longer have the option of choosing either waitlist or no from the beginning. Why? Why would they take that away? I don't want to receive update emails about a meetup I'm not going to. I also like to see a clean calendar (yes, I'm a little OCD that way) so I hate seeing meetups I haven't responded to. I WANT to say no. Now I have to trick the system to do so. 
  • A final part of the redesign I don't like and which has caused problems: automatically including a Google map of the location with each meetup. At first blush, that seems like a great idea. Until you realize that sometimes Google maps is wrong. I know of several addresses which don't display correctly on Google maps but do on Mapquest. Forcing what may be incorrect information right onto the front page is problematic. Better to make that an option.
It seems as if TPTB assume every group functions the same way and that just isn't the case. I'm sure the logic behind some of the changes is that this site is called Meetup and the meetups should be the prominent feature. But a large part of our group (and I would guess many groups) is the sense of community. We are losing that by forcing it to be all about the physical gatherings at the expense of discussions and welcoming new members to the fold. 

Besides making for an ugly and less useful site, the redesign actually takes something vital away. They have broken something that didn't need fixing. And from the responses I've seen on the forums, they have no desire to listen to complaints, even though one of the top requests is to have the option for a group to use either the new or old format. Is Meetup becoming the next Facebook in regards to poor customer relations? Seems that way.

3 comments:

  1. I recently emailed them and they got back to me a few days later. They stated in the email that they would make the upcoming meetups list shorter and would allow in the future for organizers to specify their desired number. They also said they would work on a Google maps fix, though I have no idea what they could do. I agree with everything else you said, about the sense of community. And it's insane to have removed the calendar from the top row of buttons. SO annoying and not practical!

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  2. Allison, I emailed them with several points and they only addressed the first one. That was getting the 2nd month back on the calendar view. They keep insisting they won't change back, but I wonder if all the negative feedback will convince them they screwed up.

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