My first impression of Regator is favorable. Not only is it a familiar three-column layout, it’s clad in my favorite color: green. The load time is really quick. I immediately notice the gator, very cute. Then I see the title of the site, and the text “The Web’s best blog posts from the web’s best blogs.” This gives me a pretty good idea of what Regator is.
I’m looking down the front page to get an idea of what kinds of posts that Regator has. It hasn’t quite dawned on me how Regator works yet. I find that the front page reads very much like Digg.com. I get an immediate sense that Regator is like a meta blog, perhaps covering what other blogs are writing about.
I don’t entirely know why this blog of all blogs is so prolific (they have content spanning many categories). Then it dawns on me Ooooh, this is a blog aggregator. That’s right, they’re displaying content from other blogs around the world. Now it makes sense.
The Home Page
Scanning down the middle column, I see a lot of functionality associated with each “post.” I can view related posts, comments on this post, share this story, and save this post or blog. I’m immediately confused by the “numbers” in front of each of the post. I see that they’re going up as I go down the list but I don’t understand what they’re there for. Again, looking at the header, I see “Top rated posts.” Okay that makes sense now. But, for fun, I don’t hesitate to refresh the page to see if the numbers change. They do. I think it may make more sense to do away with the numbers and simply call this list “Most popular posts,” or something to that effect.
On the right column, I see a number of terms that all sound relevant and familiar. This is a good thing. I feel comforted that this service is able to relate to me on a personal level. I do wonder what the arrows mean next to each of the topics, however. Maybe they’re like stocks: when it’s green there are more stories about “Cell Phones” or the “Housing Plan,” and when it’s red, there’s less stories about things like the “United States.” But just maybe. That’s my guess at least.
Back to the center column. I want to see if Regator has any information regarding Lindsay Lohan. I execute a search in the normal way. The search bar is located at the top of the page, right where I expect it. Except, the layout of the search bar is a touch disorienting. I’m used to seeing a “search” or “go” button directly after the search field. Now, because Regator’s search falls in line with (a little-known webpage like) google.com, I’m a bit confused. You may think that’s sarcasm, but I hardly ever see search buttons below the input field anymore. Maybe it’s just me.
I run a search on Lindsay Lohan and it returns some results…instantly. This application is fast. I look voer the first post and click the title, and I leave regator.com. It’s a little disorienting. I immediately feel a bit duped, and I sort of miss the comraderie I was building with the site. Maybe if you provided a “call back” bar, similar to google images? Or maybe if you just opened the site in a new window, I wouldn’t feel as duped. Oh well, I’m a bit savvy when it comes to the web, so I just hit the back button and get back to my query.
I decide to look through the rest of a post on the site. I look at the comments on the site. This takes me to the page I was expecting to go on my first click. I type a simple comment about how Lindsay rocks my world, and I get a pop-up letting me know I need to create an account. Great, okay. I fill out the form and create an account.
To make sure that my 1Password application got note of my login, I go ahead and click log out, immediately. What’s really disorienting is that the “login” link in the top right hand corner of the site has disappeared. This is really curious. I scan down the page looking for a place to login. Ah ha. At the bottom of the right-hand column is my login form. Very peculiar.
Account and Personalization
After I login, I decide to customize my profile. I immediately start scanning down the preferences page. Most of the options are common-sensical. I’m happy to see an option that allows posts to open in new windows. I think that’s very cool. The next thing I wonder about is “Highlight My Keywords.” What does this section refer to? I haven’t had an area to specify keywords.
I finish looking at this section of the site and decide to see what “My Regator” is all about. I love the starting page, a clear list of delimited text that tells me what this page is about and how to use it. They even include a video. I’m very anxious to get things going. I find the default page for “My Regator” to be very user friendly.
In the midst of my euphoria, I click “personalize My Regator preferences.” I’m presented with a “manage” screen. I fill out some options and I’m ready to return—but I can’t find a way to get back to My Regator. This is very confusing.
When I finally do find my way back to the “My Regator” page, I’m lost again. I can’t find those helpful text boxes or that (what looked to be) swanky video. That’s a pretty big bummer, as I feel like alot of the character and falair of a site comes through when they’re building that relationship. At this point, I’m feeling thrown to the proverbial wolves.
All told, Regator is a joy to use. I don’t find anything incredibly frustrating and I immediately see the utility in this service. What more, the service doesn’t require any significant “learning curve.” I appreciate that greatly.
Regator has plenty of personality to add to the mix. The mascot is friendly and fun, and I think that the color scheme of the site makes it feel like saturated and energetic. I get a great impression based off of the simple UI. I think that no facet of the site looks significantly imposing, or lacking in detail.
In conclusion, I would make the following suggestions:
- Keep Conventions — Because most sites place the “search button” after the input field, I would consider moving in this direction. Also, make buttons have at least a slight bevel with no underlined text.
- Lower the Cognitive Load — Don’t provide extraneous information to users who will not use it. For example, how do the arrows in the right column help the average user? the power user? Keep in mind that “nice to have” doesn’t equal “need to have.” Also, consider renaming “Directory” to “Browse,” as this will consolidate the number of application-specific terms the user needs to know.
- Don’t build broken bridges — As a blog aggregator, your application bridges the experience between a user and their favorite blogs. Consider opening a new window to blog posts by default. For photos linked from Regator, follow the same treatment of videos and audio on the site, loading them inside the page. Lastly, you may consider providing a thin bar across the top of blogs accessed through regator that brings a user back. This way, the user moves along a loop (with your application as a waypoint) and not in a straight line.
- Capitalize on known information — consider having the site load “My Regator” if a user is logged in. This way, a user is more likely to feel catered to, and not like they created their account to be hidden away. Perhaps this is a simple preference. Frankly, I could see using Regator as a way to preprocess my RSS feed.