Discogs have implemented a new web ui and backend interface that removes a large reason to use it for research. I wanted to layout my complaints graphically with images on the off chance that a product manager or someone with influence at #Discogs would see it. I posted most of the detail, without images on their community forum 23-days ago, but my feedback didn’t solicit even a reply.

Yes, I do a lot of research on discogs, or did, I’m also a buyer and infrequent seller. Discogs marketplace purchases tells me that I’ve made 345 orders. Given I always try to find a seller that has more than one thing from my discogs “wantlist” that easily means I’ve bought more than 500 records and CD’s from sellers on discogs.

The change isn’t an arbitrary, subjective UI change that some seem to think it is. It doesn’t just add a sub-optimal tab feature onto the artist page, or too much “white space” as many have noted. It fundamentally breaks one of the key search features of discogs. That has removed almost all of it’s utility as an engine for research. That simple fact also eliminates the need to add hard to find releases to the database, which also means it’s attraction as a sales platform is diminished.

How It Used To Be

When I open Discogs on my desktop system, it used to drop me straight onto the Creed Taylor artist page. With minor changes, it has been like this for 10 years or more. The search box, circled on the mid-left of the page, was the best way to find who Creed had produced, recorded, or otherwise worked with. There were a subset of less important things that didn’t work. The best way to cross-reference was to start at the artist page and search for Creed Taylor. That would usually catch the things that were not shown in the first search. [1]Yes, there are lots of things wrong with the profile of Creed. No, CTI Records was not a subsidiary of A&M. No, Creed didn’t become an employee of A&M despite what page 6 of Billboard … Continue reading

What It Is Now

You are welcome to your opinion as to which is the better looking or more usable. It is worth noting that all the information about how many releases and what types of roles(credits) have been hidden behind toggle switches. It takes two or more clicks to see what was previously always displayed. It could be said that the filters are more prominent, thus making it easier to find specific releases. There is also still a search box, so what is there to complain about?

Search Is Broken!

When you search now it doesn’t search the credits for a release. Discogs is a database with many fields, including credits, companies, matrix aka runouts, tracks, dates, catalog numbers etc. etc.

Using the old UI, if I wanted to find out if Creed had produced or recorded any albums with Les McCann I’d just put Les’s name in the search box and press enter. All the releases would be returned. As I said earlier, if I wanted to cross check, I would click on Les McCann’s artist name and use the search box to search for Creed Taylor. Job done.

What Result Do I get Now?

Starting from the Creed Taylor page, I search for Les McCann. “0 Results found”. If I start from McCann’s page and search for Taylor, same result.

Is This Just A New Browser UI?

No it isn’t. They’ve changed the backend interface that the UI aka Javascript uses to do the query. As I outlined in my community forum entry [2]https://www.discogs.com/forum/thread/1028851#10639519 it uses a different URL/URI

The new artist page uses this https://www.discogs.com/artist/97480-Creed-Taylor?searchParam=Les+McCann
The old artist page used this https://www.discogs.com/artist/97480-Creed-Taylor?query=Les%20McCann

Can’t You Just Use The Old One?

No. Well, I probably could assuming the interface or endpoint is still there. Since I spent my formative years plus a lot more as a software engineer, I could likely spend days reverse engineering the old search and a page to use it and be done with it. That would come with a risk though, as almost every re-engineering project does. If Discogs change or remove support for the old style search, my time is wasted.

Why Would They Do This?

I can only speculate. Again, ignoring the subjective look and feel UI changes. The way the new page seems to work when used from a web browser, while running a trace using browser developer tools. 1. It potentially reduces the server load. 2. It introduces some asynchronicity into the search. Both of these could be good things. The way the queries are formed could result in significantly less queries and less queries mean lower server utilization. If Discogs runs in a hosted cloud service, that will mean lower bills.

The reduced function and asynchronous nature of the way search now works would likely also reduce server load, and network traffic. At scale, that could improve end user performance and reduce server load/cost.

Another reason why they could be doing this is to end the development of the Discogs apps. By making the functionality common using HTML is can be rendered (almost) identically as a browser window or progressive web apps (PWA’s). I already saved Discogs as a desktop PWA which allows it to run in it’s own browser winow seperate from other browsers, tabs and windows. Maybe this is a more “strategic: shift by Discogs which would save them 75% of the cost of developing the iPhone and Android apps.

I wrote about the downside of Internet apps starting about 12-years ago, here, here and here.

If this were true, the page and wasted space issue via padding would be very different on a phone screen.

Is There Another Way To Achieve The Same Result?

Yes, pretty much. The problem with this is it is inconsistent, depending on what you are looking for. It invokes a more generalized search, which I already use from a custom search page that I keep on ctproduced.com and an even more personal/customized search as a local HTML file.

There is an advanced search page, but I cannot make it do joins, “this and that”, “this or that” type queries and discogs have never really documented how it is supposed to work. Yes, I’ve read the search help page.

Literally while I was writing this post, discogs released an announcement of why they’ve done this. It can be found here.

References

References
1 Yes, there are lots of things wrong with the profile of Creed. No, CTI Records was not a subsidiary of A&M. No, Creed didn’t become an employee of A&M despite what page 6 of Billboard magazine, July 22nd, 1967, implies, but that’s for another day.
2 https://www.discogs.com/forum/thread/1028851#10639519

Update: October 27th, 2023 11am – added opinion about migrating away from phone apps.

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