Propeller. Fail.

The reviews are starting to roll in.  There are only two possible conclusions so far: either the community will need some time to get used to the new changes over at Propeller, or the changes were a bad move.  The initial feelings of the community can best be described when you look at the current (as of 12am PST 7-23-08) top front page story.  Here is a screenshot:

Propeller New Design

Not good.  Not good at all.  And yes, for those who don’t use or haven’t been there yet, that is an actual screenshot that was actually accepted by the actual decision makers at AOL.

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  1. I really liked the old layout, I hope it gets changed back!

  2. dave

    I hate that stupid cartoon character. Propeller users skew older so they remove the top story feature and give us Mr. Wizard.

  3. So far I am definitely not in favor of all the changes made to Propeller. The new layout is too unfamiliar, so I am struggling to navigate as easily. I know I need to get used to it, but I wish they kept the layout somewhat familiar.

    I can’t stand the color scheme either. I think the groups are a good idea, so you can share with similar people.

    Overall, I am not a fan.

  4. The cartoon character is a little goofy, but the layout, color, and features of the upgrade were a smart move. Pushback is always very popular until people get the hang of a new website, so hang in there a month or two and see if anyone is still complaining, I doubt there will be substantial pushback at that point.

  5. Igor Sandler

    Why people have to get use to something as terrible as the new layout????? Why do they have to hang month or two??? What is better then the old layout? Colors??? Are you kidding me? What we are, in kindergarten, Brian Reilly? Old layout was better, easy to read, easy to pick. Why do you think I personally picked to be my home page among AOL, MSN, Yahoo etc??? Because it was better, different, easy to see and easy to read. Where is this opinion comes from:”Let then hang there.” Why??? The only reason to change is to make ti better, not for the sake of change.

  6. Rodger

    I really don’t have the time, nor do I want to build my own web site ! But it looks like a typical AOL idea. Try this: Want sports? want news? want world news? want headline news? want weather? WANT ADVERTISEMENTS? want tech news? etc. etc. Fill out a list of what you want to see once, then leave it changeable ! But then again,,, what was wrong with the old propeller??? I liked it much more. Bring it back !!

  7. Over the past several weeks, one of my websites has come to rely quite heavily on traffic driven from Propeller. Several hundred visits/day. Yesterday the site barely broke 100 visits. Same day as the new Propeller rollout. Today is better, but only marginally. Is there a corrollation? Coincidence? Has this happened to others?

  8. Beeboppin71


    Yes there is a corrolation between the number of hits your site was getting before they changed Propeller and after. It’s very difficult to navigate the new Propeller and your story submissions have been simply lost. They’ve been replaced with the goofy cartoon character. You should look for a new way to promote your site. Too many of the older users are too frustrated with this new layout.

    Brian Reilly,

    The colors of the new Propeller stink. Everything is getting lost on that all white background. There is too much on one page and nothing stands out. Most of the features in the upgrade do not work. Most of the regular users there are from an older more educated crowd. We need a more sophisticated look, we like access to what we want at our finger tips. We do NOT want to sift through a bunch of crap to find what we’re looking for. We ‘re not interested in joing a bunch of silly groups. If we wanted something like FaceBook, we would be there. We want to be able to review the stories, vote, and comment. This new Propeller? I don’t care for it! It’s obvious to me that they didn’t do an ounce of market research before designing it and if they did, they just don’t care about how their regular members feel.

    Good luck to all,

  9. Realizer

    Every damn thing about the Propeller layout is messed up, No way to sink stories, no way to see who negged comments. I am going to stay away for a few days and see if we old timers have any influence..

  10. Any idea whether this will shake out soon and improve?

  11. markmawn

    There is a distinct boundary where clever design, ingenuity and trendy graphics overshadows usability. I believe that boundary has been crossed.

  12. willy007

    This site is definitely NOT user friendly … now. Most user loyal to the site might give themselves 10-15 minutes to gain familiarity … then give up. I’m one of them.

  13. lr brown

    The “new” design of propeller is a massive failure to understand why users were attracted to the old version.

    The “frontpage of propeller” was never very attractive – too many of the front page stories were simply emotional shouting matches about trivial issues with no interesting information or substance. The real attraction of propeller were the back and forth user comments and discussions on a waide variety of stories, many of which never reached the front page. One could learn a lot from these debates.

    Unfortunately the VERY POOR DESIGN of the “new” propeller actively discourages interactive user participation in comparison with the previous design:

    Inefficient presentation of visual information (enormous amounts of whitespace; MUCH more scrolling, clicking and paging required to see the same information);

    Elimination of useful tools (e.g. navigation within discussion threads, e.g. ultimate or penultimate page, ….);

    Poor choice of categories (the previously most popular ones have disappeared);

    Elimination of the most useful user tools (e.g. the ability to view your own or friends recent comments).

    Propeller will not survive by “showcasing” 10 frontpage stories (interesting or not) and has just alienated a large proportion of its active user base by massively degrading the back and forth discussion and comment capability.

  14. Yes, The layout sucks, also I get A lot of 404 errors when trying to post comments and even look at my own profile. site is slower and is trying to hard to change its look and i was like….this looks STUPID!

  15. bmatson

    Will you please bring my homepage back!!!!!!

  16. I am sorry to say too, that, I was unpleasantly surprised to see they had changed in to this. Will they bring it back? I dont know. Maybe, we just need to get used to it… As long as the effectiveness does not flaw, I can get used to it.

  17. It might work out. Of course, the old timers are going to have a hell of a time with getting used to the things that were so familiar. I had the same problem when I upgraded to MS Office 2007 – the whole layout threw me off completely. Although in the long-term, once I got used to it, I found it actually more functional. It just took time.

  18. Scott4261

    I have only been around propeller for a year and a half. I started participating on the old and stayed with propeller. But is new format is not very user friendly and it has more glitches than the old format. I have tried numerous times since Tuesday to post comments and NOTHING has posted. Most times when I have attempted, I got that ridiculous “500 message.” And when I didn’t get that and thought I had posted, my comment was “lost in the ether!” In fact, according to my profile page, I have NO RECENT ACTIVITY!

    Why did these website designers throw the baby out with the bathwater?

    I certainly hope the “brains” behind this change will take some constructive criticism. Please bring back the old propeller and make some subtle changes to THAT format (for example: I DO like the idea of groups of interest).

  19. Scott4261

    If propeller doesn’t revert back or to a more user-friendly format, I will go somewhere else. The freinds I’ve made on propeller will need to send me an e-mail at or find me on another website yet to be determined.

    This really is so sad and it did NOT have to be this way…..

  20. Any suggestions for good Propeller alternatives? Digg and Mixx are OK but never brought the traffic Propeller was up until yesterday. Don’t have much experience with the others.



  21. TGrinnalds

    Hate it. Go back.

  22. Grrr

    I agree, Scott. The useful bits of propeller are gone, and just changing the god-awful colors and design, the horrible wasted space and lack of presented text in any of the synopsis boxes, the lack of data on who pos/negs articles and comments or any other useful info besides an abstract 10.0 for everything everywhere that isn’t a 1.0, the obtuse difficulty in finding anything to the point of having to copy and paste urls out of dead links to get around if you want to try and fight it, the inability to socialize randomly, the poorer than promised response time performance, even, these things can’t be ‘fixed’ within the new framework. It’s a truly hopeless train wreck, in my opinion both as a web developer and a propeller user since netscape days.

  23. This is why you can not expect to do successful web development without including your key stakeholders through a rapid iteration process.

  24. We at Propeller are reading feedback from our members, whether it occurs via e-mail (you can e-mail me with your thoughts at tom at propeller dot com), feedback (at – I man the feedback channel as much as possible), in comments on popular story threads, and on blogs such as these.

    We are paying close attention to the errors (404,500) that have been reported since yesterday’s launch, as well as a number of usability concerns, and features present in the previous Propeller design that did not make the launch. We are adding features and fixing bugs several times a day right now, and we hope that the system will be in good working order very soon.

    We have received a lot of feedback from avid Propeller members who do not need the directional and feature help present in many modules on the site. We’ll be considering modules that better cater to the power user crowd as we proceed.

    I hope that people who were turned off initially by the redesign will consider returning and checking the site out again.

    Tom Drapeau
    Director & General Manager, social news

  25. Nathan Brazil

    I agree, the changes suck big time, if they don’t change it back, I guess I’ll be changing my home page, I mean, seriously, how dumbed down did it have to be for the (sub)average AOL (L)user?? stop screwing with my news guys, wake up and realize not all of us are retarded.

  26. Nathan Brazil

    Also, btw, I’m usually just a lurker, but when you make a mistake THIS big, I HAVE to say something.

  27. Amanda

    New site= BAD BAD BAD

    Old site = Smiles all around….

  28. I don’t like the cartoon character there.

  29. jaspersneed


    Did the Cubicle Monkeys from AOL take over Propeller? Have you people LOST YOUR FREAKIN’ MINDS??

    I sometimes wonder if all of human history can be encapsulated as a continual relearning of the basic maxim, “IF IT AIN’T BROKE, DON’T FIX IT!”

  30. jaspersneed

    Oh,… and, goodbye.

  31. wow, now that was so unexpected. total fail.

  32. I’ve known four year olds that could design a website better & these are supposed to be professionals. What a nasty looking web page.

  33. Whoa… this site is pretty awesome 🙂 your layout is really well designed, and your blogs are (judging from what i’ve read) very interesting. heehee… consider yourself favorited. 😛