Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, MySpace and Google+ are very much in the social network limelight. As the five biggest social networks in the world respectively, they command the attention of consumers and businesses and have proved themselves as a fantastic method of communication.

Websites like Digg, Delicious, Slashdot and Stumbleupon have found themselves over the past 5 years fighting a losing battle against these modern social networks.

Digg is the perfect example of a social website which failed to adapt; in 2008, Digg was said to be worth around $160 million with a full $45 million funnelled in to the company by investors. They had the world excited about just how big they could become, and Google themselves expressed interest in buying the company for around $200 million. Over the space of 4 years, however, Digg’s web traffic plummeted and they were ultimately acquired by Betaworks for a fraction of their 2008 valuation.

During this time, a very similar website to Digg, called Reddit, flourished.

Reddit was launched in mid-2005 with the goal of aggregating online news and content, recommended and shared by its users. Unlike Digg whose web traffic has plummeted since 2010, Reddit’s has grown to an all time high and in May 2010, they had 9.2 million unique visitors.

Alexa Reddit vs Digg

Imaged above: vs. traffic August, 2013

So where did Reddit succeed where Digg failed?

As news aggregators, both Digg and Reddit appeal to mainstream internet users, whom are interested in a variety of topics. Due to this user base both websites needed to be designed in such a way that they allowed users to share stories and their opinions freely. Sadly, only Reddit did this.

In 2010 Digg implemented a huge redesign to their website, a redesign which will go down in history as one of the worst ever.

The first problems arose on the very first day of launch, where the website was completely inaccessible for millions of users and for those that could access it, it crashed randomly. This put a sour taste in the mouths of Digg users, who want to share stories every single day; news is covered at an alarmingly fast rate, and over night, Digg became outdated.

When the website was finally made stable – although not so much as before the redesign – users complained about the navigation, and it quickly became clear that sub categories were nigh on impossible to find. One Digg user summed up the design of new Digg perfectly:

“Worst. Facebook clone. Ever.”

By contrast, Reddit was as easy to use as it ever was; all categories were easy to access via the top of the page, all stories were listed to the left of the page, and advertisements were not intrusive.

Digg redesigned their website in 2010. Digg’s traffic went in to freefall slightly after this. To give a generic answer as to why Digg failed and Reddit didn’t, it all came down to website design and user experience. Digg users felt alienated and unable to do the things that they enjoyed doing for over 3 years.

If there was ever a perfect example as to why webmasters should take the time to understand their users, Digg is it.