News aggregator Digg relaunched last week with a new ad-free design that puts more emphasis on big images to lure in readers.

It is a big step away from its previous design that displayed all links in the same way, and now looks more akin to a curated news site, as opposed to an aggregator.

The way stories reach the homepage has also been changed – it no longer relies on diggs from regular users and instead takes into account shares on Facebook and Twitter as well as employing editors to curate the content.

For old users or those familiar with the previous site the new version is almost unrecognisable, so it seems Digg’s new owners have realised that the old way didn’t work and are pitching for a whole new audience.

But in the short term most of its traffic is going to be from previous users who want to see how the new site works. 

So with this in mind, here are several issues that we think will prevent Digg from rekindling its relationship with its old users…

1. The lead image is too big

The homepage is less like a social news site and more like a traditional news agency site, with one massive lead story surrounded by apparently less important articles.

It’s certainly eye-catching, but means there’s no space on the page for other articles, which leads me to my next point…

2. Where’s all the content?

Due to the way the page is laid out the number of stories you can view is extremely limited. On my Macbook Air I can only see three headlines without scrolling down, which isn’t great for a news aggregator site.

In the old days Digg was quite text-heavy but it meant that you could view many more links, thereby making content discovery far easier.

The ‘Upcoming’ section has a layout that is more akin to the old design but it’s hidden right at the bottom of the page.

3. It looks like Pinterest

It looks as if the designers have seen how popular Pinterest is and used it as a template for the new site. Articles are laid out in three columns with loads of white space around each one.

The borders are poorly defined making it difficult to scan the articles for something you might actually want to read.

Again, this makes content discovery extremely difficult and all but negates one of the main reasons for using a site like Digg.

3. They’ve killed all the old URLs

None of the old content exists anymore; instead you see a white page with ‘404: Not Found’ in the top left of the screen. This has led to much headshaking here at Econsultancy.

According to Google Digg has 14m links indexed but all of them now point to nothing. This may just be a short-term issue caused by the redesign, but it seems an odd decision to buy a company only to erase everything that made it a success in the first place.

4. It doesn’t say who posted the links

It’s hard to tell who posted the links that appear on the homepage, probably because most of them have been uploaded by Digg’s own content editors.

When I looked only one of the articles said ‘via xx’, the others simply displayed the URL of the original source.

This is a major problem as it gets rid of Digg’s social element and makes it just like any other news site.

5. Facebook login

Like so many other sites these days, the only way to login to Digg is through a Facebook account. It also publishes all your diggs in your news feed.

If you had an old Digg login, forget it, as it’s no longer valid.

Digg says this is a short-term fix to cut down on spam while it works towards a more lasting solution, but shouldn’t this have been sorted out before the relaunch?

Ultimately it’s going to annoy a lot of legacy users – many of whom leave comments using aliases – and will stop them from logging into the site.

6. It needs to build discussion, fast

What used to be one of the internet’s most popular talking shops is now bereft of users and it needs to do something to quickly entice people to start discussing news on the site again.

Digg’s decline coincided with a steady rise in popularity for other sites such as Reddit and Hacker News, and it’s going to be tricky to entice them back.

A site like Digg relies on discussion and debate to encourage users to return to the site and at the moment this is sorely lacking.

Content marketer Lyndon Antcliff points out that the new redesign is too clean and “plastic” to get social media geeks really excited.

“Sites like this need passion, as the reality is without it they are just lumps of crafted digital data with an advertising banner on top. It needs rabid fans.”

7. It doesn’t seem to have any category pages

As pointed out by marketing consultant Dan Barker, the new Digg apparently doesn’t have any categorisation or ‘hub’ pages.

This is important both for users who want an easy way to find the content that interests them, and also for search engine rankings.

So, what do you think of the new Digg? Tell us in the comments below.