Andrew’s Review of www.psdtolife.com

The first thing that I notice is the color scheme; it’s quite inviting. I do think that it’s very subtle and yet effective. It’s monochromatic, which isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when I think of design, but it’s effective. I think that the site is clean and playful.

Because I am a developer/designer myself, I immediately wonder “what technologies are being used to get from comp to code?” There’s no mention on the first page of what code-base/CMS will be generated from the designs submitted.

Secondly, I notice the portfolio up top. I begin to click through the carousel of images and notice that after about three clicks I’m back to where I started: this is a bit disappointing. Again, I’m not certain of what technologies were used to develop these sites: they look pretty simple.

Exploring the Site

I start at the beginning.

The repetition of the macbook image gives the portfolio a cheap feel. I try and learn more. I click on an image and a popup takes over my browser window. Because I am familiar with a javascript lightbox, I’m not too perplexed. If someone didn’t know what was going on this would most definitely initiate a click of the back button: something that should be avoided. I would much rather see a dedicated portfolio page.

The portfolio at the top of the page is a bit cumbersome and repetitive.

Next, I read through the copy on the front page. I mouse over the signup button—it has a very nice hover state, so I’m immediately drawn to click on it. I decide to continue a bit further before getting past the home page. I scan through the three steps. These are very straightforward and tell me exactly how to get from A to B. I wonder how much of this will be apparent to a web-design novice: because I know how to design a site, the first step is clear.

However, I would hesitate to say that this is perfectly usable. What if someone doesn’t know how to design a website? Does this leave them high and dry? Consider linking to other designers so that a person who wants a website doesn’t have to stop before they start. Maybe form a network of designers you guys like to work with and go from there. The key thing here is to enable your customers. Make them feel like you have answers to all of their questions—and even if you don’t, you can help by pointing them in the right direction.

A section of the footer on psdtolife

The Footer

I finish the front page by looking at the footer. There are a myriad of links available to me. Because I’m familiar with a site map, I immediately orient myself and feel at ease. I would consider labelling this as a site map, something like: “Feeling lost? Here’s a map of our site!”

I like the repition of the logo at the bottom right. I notice that the page is ‘valid xhtml’. I hover over this text and click. Incidentally, this takes me to another page entirely: the W3C. Not only is the page actually not valid xhtml, but I’m now at a domain from which I can’t really return.

Links to contact the psdtolife staff…or are they?

The Sidebar

I next move to the top of the page and read through the process. I notice that the sidebar is the same as the front page, which makes me feel like the site is a bit incomplete, or that the design was thought of before the content. In either case, I don’t particularly care to read the sidebar again, so I’m apt to ignore it on subsequent pages.

At this, I give the sidebar one last glance: it contains two prominent “links”: email and skype. I feel like this company makes a great effort to be available for their customers. That’s potentially a great benefit to working with them. My only question is: “are these links obvious enough?” I can’t tell unless I hover over them, so this may present a usability problem.

The Client Area

I read about the “Client Area,” which I find intriguing. What’s going on behind closed doors? I click on the link and it says that this area is under development. I don’t think it would be hard to have this linking to their basecamp install. But then again, maybe they’re doing something differently that how things normally work. Because I’ve changed pages, I scan the headers to get an idea of what the “About Us” page is all about. It looks like the company is open for business and gives a 100% satisfaction guarantee, which is very appealing.

Pricing

I next visit pricing. Because I’m a potential customer from the United States, the fact that the prices listed here are in pounds is a point of confusion. I know 90 dollars is pretty cheap for a website, but what about 90 pounds? At any rate, I don’t think this is a deal-breaker but it still requires me to think before I buy.

To their credit, psdtolife uses ‘checks’ and ‘crosses’ to indicate “yes” vs. “no”. While the difference is subtle, it results in a table that is much easier to scan. Our eyes pick up on a difference in icons/colors much more quickly than a difference in words.

Next I see that the markup will be either xhtml transitional or xhtml strict. While I laud the approach, I think that people making a business decision may not entirely understand why one is better than another. As a organization who can potentially bring my small business into the 21st century, I’d like to know the answers to many more questions that the handful this chart answers.

The Contact Form

Lastly I move on to the contact form. In Apple’s Safari, it appears that the last field is leaving the fieldset container. I also notice that the submit button appears to be greyed out. I hover over the button to see if it will change states or give me a cursor to let me know if I can click it. no such luck. I click it in a last-ditch effort to see if it’s functional. The page reloads. I’m pretty sure I’ve returned to the home page. No. It’s the same contact page, but there is a tiny error message which is hardly noticable. I don’t have to mention that I tried all possible entries in the form and noticed that, which the error-catching is superb, the feedback is not.

Conclusions/Suggestions

In conclusion I think that the site has immediate appeal. I see this business as the beginning of a journey for many of my friends who are business-owners or designers and just don’t have the time to learn about how to bring a website to life. With that said, I’m left feeling kind of empty. My lasting impression of psdtolife is one of great potential that has yet to be realized, and for a number of reasons: The portfolio is omnipresent (and the images yielded are much too large), the details of development/site maintenance are missing, and the contact form is not friendly. I have great faith that psdtolife will receive plenty of business and make many customers happy. What I’m not so sure about is the ability of their website to effectively convince designers and entrepreneurs that it’s worth a try.

  • Remove the portfolio from the top of every page. Consider moving it to the sidebar and then giving it its own page. This way it’s still persistent, but not too repetitive.
  • Make it clear what languages you develop in.
  • Provide resources for potential clients to understand how to design a site, what hosting a site entails, and how to be good content managers after the site is launched. Help them from beginning to end.
  • Make the links in the sidebar more closely resemble links. A good hover state is a start, but consider making them more obvious by underlining them.
  • Make the “valid xhtml” link open a new window with target=”_blank”. That way users can easily close it and get back to your site. Perhaps put an indicator graphic next to this link (like this: ) so users can expect this behavior.
  • Fix the contact form. Provide greater visibility as to what errors occured in processing the form.
  • Consider providing “discovery documents” for your clients, so they can fill out a word document/pdf and fax in their request.
  • Consider adding a FAQ page for questions regarding the process (albeit three steps) that may inhibit your conversion rates.

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