Do you remember the time when searching the web for something specific meant spending hours and hours in unsuccessful search? When trying to buy something from the web too often meant miserable failure? When web browsing was inextricably associated with that physical feeling of defeat, frustration, dizziness, hopelessness, and alienation? That was before God created Information Architects.
Well, it’s not over yet. Today I tried to buy sheet music from the web (the first violin part of Beethoven 6th Symphony, possibly Kalmus edition) and I couldn’t. In my quest, I encountered sites that were so bad I can’t believe they actually exist. I visited the Julliard bookstore online (try it if you’re brave enough). You search for your music, are inundated with hundreds of results that are not sortable in any way and cannot be filtered, and this obnoxious blue box on the side sardonically blinks at you:
“Can’t find it?”
“We’ve got it”
“Contact us at…”
… and if you cannot write the phone number plus three-digit extension in two seconds, you have to wait for the freaking blue thing to cycle back to the contact information.
One by one, I visited a stream of horror sites that left me more and more frustrated (do you want names? Here are names: Shar Music, SheetMusicPlus, Theodore Presser, the Sheet Music Company). One after the other, these sites with tens of thousands of music items, welcomed me with browser incompatibility, malfunctioning search engines, inability to sort or filter results, and no category structure to browse. For some reason, a lot of these sites have a similar search engine that allows you only to search for one parameter at the time (the artist OR the name of the piece) and does not order the results by any type of relevance criterion; then you are on your own. Do you have any idea how many results you get when you search for Beethoven?
So, I wasted an inordinate amount of time and I am without my music. The good news is: information architects and usability engineers–as well as the people at the Julliard bookstore who know where the music hides–won’t be without work any time soon.