The web interface for the Pandora's music service got a fresh new look Wednesday after years of the same Flash-based application. "New Pandora" uses an HTML5 design that was first unveiled in July and is faster, a little more visually appealing, and integrates some new features.
Pandora Chief Technical Officer Tom Conrad says the redesign "represents years of learning and a deliberate and comprehensive review of every last detail of the experience," which seems like a reference to years of user frustration with sometimes slow load times and a lack of easy access to user control buttons throughout the service, among other issues.
The new design certainly feels a lot less 2005. It has a clearer, more intuitive user interface that includes a large control bar at the top of the screen with the familiar play, next track, thumbs up, and thumbs down buttons.
Loading times do seem faster, although not always instantaneous as promised. Social and sharing features are also there now, but it still feels like Pandora has some catching up to do with the likes of Rdio, or even Spotify. Newcomer Spotify doesn't have the most intuitive social integration, but makes it easy to dive in to social sharing by automatically connecting users with all their Facebook friends who are also using Spotify.
The enhanced artist information, which includes a cleaner layout for lyrics, bios, and related artists, is certainly an improvement. Overall though, the simplified navigation and easier creation of stations, including one-click shuffle and personalized suggestions, is the most long overdue change here.
Cap on Listening Hours?
Pandora also says it has dropped all caps on total listening hours, but there's a big asterisk--what the company terms "an abuse prevention limit of 320 hours a month." If that limit is exceeded, Pandora will "reach out to the account holder to ensure the account is being managed appropriately."
Users aren't the only audience Pandora had in mind when creating its new look. The company is also using the update to pitch new advertisers. A statement announcing the redesign to potential ad space buyers touts the design's "additional screen real estate" and bigger video ads.