I have raved a lot over the last year about the changes that StumbleUpon has made since it launched it’s 3rd version of the site in November 2008.

The new design brought in a more content focused StumbleUpon, with category pages, recommended content on the review pages, easier discovery of content, share features, increase friends cap, and many other changes that allowed users a better opportunity to see more quality content.

With all the changes, we saw the number of StumbleUpon users jump drastically (up to over 8 million) and the amount of traffic sent to submitted content was so large that I ended up publishing an article calling it the Stumble Effect, since it dropped one of my servers.

Since they decided to purchase their company back from Ebay, we are now looking at a complete redesign again, but is it all that it is cracked up to be? Lets take a look at StumbleUpon V4: The Friend Maker.

If you read the announcement they posted last week about the coming change, here is what they indicated as the basic coming changes:

  • Redesign more simple, searchable, and social
  • Easier to use
  • Improved site and user profile navigation
  • Improved search based on user ratings and reviews
  • Increased ability to find real-life friends or people living around you

The coming changes in StumbleUpon V4 really focus on connecting with friends and seeing what things they like.

It is almost as if StumbleUpon wants to use content as a way of helping us to all make more real-life friends… which is kind of cool of them in a way, but… lets dive into the changes.

Navigation and Front Page:

The first thing I noticed after viewing the site in V4, was the category navigation was gone and the front page no longer showcased the most popular content anymore.

New:

stumbleupon-v4

Old:

In almost every social community, a large number of their visits come from people who are not registered or logged in users, so this change really limits the use of the site for anyone not a StumbleUpon user by making them complete 2 or more clicks to see categories and popular content.

If you are logged in and attempt to visit http://www.stumbleupon.com, then you are automatically taken to your subscription’s recent activity – http://www.stumbleupon.com/discover/activity/.

From the ‘Discover’ area you can find the categories again by selecting from the ‘Topics’ menu or your favorite topics, listed on the right-hand side.

The focus on users is dominant on the category pages as well and for some reason the option to view the content below in ‘Grid’ format is not available.

SUv4-category

Friends:

I think it got overly complicated for people to understand what the difference was for a friend and a subscribers, because in this new version friends are gone and replaced completely by subscribers.

Share feature:

Share feature got a nice little redesign, now popping up on the top of your screen, instead of on the side.

share-su

For some reason, it is not available when viewing content in ‘grid’ mode, but that may just be a bug.

There is a ‘start a conversation’ option included in the share feature and I am not sure what that does really. Maybe someone can comment below if they know what it does.

One big change I noticed is the lack of any Twitter or Facebook share options, which used to be integrated throughout the site. Maybe they feel that it is in competition to what they are trying to become?

Popular Content:

It appears that StumbleUpon has decided to change the way it rates the popularity of content as well. If you don’t remember, they actually used to rate the popularity of the content based on the traffic it received. It was not until V3 that they changed to the Star and Featured rating system.

Well in V4 it is back to views again, and actually there is no real indication of a specific submission being popular or not.

Review / Submission Pages:

There are two note-worthy changes to this section.

First, in keeping with the theme of making friends, they moved the list of people who stumbled the content from the sidebar on the right to the main content area of the page.

This change pushes the reviews and comments on the content almost below the fold on the page.

review-page

Second, and more importantly, the moved the recommended content box from the main area, and stuck it in the sidebar. They also removed the thumbnail view, which was much more grabbing than the white views button, which blends right into the new simplistic site design.

share-this

Search:

@brianchappell commented below about one nice new feature that search adds to StumbleUpon: The ability to search by domain, which you could not do before.

search-site

However, as he also points out, you have to associate a tag with it, so you are left guessing a little.

search-site-error

Overall StumbleUpon V4 has quite a few interesting changes, but I am a little concerned about the direction being so much about making friends and not as much about finding new content anymore.

I believe a big part of their success over the last year has been due to the introduction of more content through easy to navigate category sections, as well as the recommended content on each review page.

Maybe they just saw the success Twitter and Facebook have had and want some of that glory… But do we really need another site for our friends to connect with us and share content they find?

Want to decide if you like the new StumbleUpon V4 for yourself? Head over to their Try Now page to give it a test run.