Andrew’s review of www.sketchplanet.com

I’m initially taken aback. I don’t know where to begin on the page. I see a lot of photos that are untitled. There is nothing that really catches my eye aside from that. I notice a panel in the header with a couple of icons over it, but other than that, I don’t feel like […]

I’m initially taken aback. I don’t know where to begin on the page. I see a lot of photos that are untitled. There is nothing that really catches my eye aside from that. I notice a panel in the header with a couple of icons over it, but other than that, I don’t feel like the site orients me in any direction.

I notice the “What is Sketch Planet” header. Cool. Then I see the “search drawings” header. Hmm, I wonder if this is a contextual search? Maybe the search will check inside images? Perhaps I’m imagining a functionality that doesn’t exist. I hold off on searching for now.

Next, I look over at “Recent Sketches.” I immediately notice that this header is low contrast. Nothing unusable about it other than it doesn’t call too much attention to itself. Looking around I see a bunch of drawings, thumbs and (what I assume are) author names. Nothing unusual, given the idea behind the community.

At the bottom of the page I notice a link to the blog, rss feed, and a contact us link. I do wonder if the RSS feed is for the blog or for the sketches at sketch planet. I don’t click to find out. I want to see what’s going on with that “canvas” I saw back in the header.

Drawing myself into a box

 

The SketchPlanet.com canvas, where the magic happens.

I begin by clicking on the “upside down” pencil icon. I do wonder what that means. Why is the pencil upside down? I can’t seem to figure it out. I hover over the icons, hoping for some kind of tool tip, to no avail. Once I click inside the box, an animation catches my eye. A bar reveals itself at the top of the page that says “User: [blank] Pass: [blank]” I get it. I suppose I have to sign up to save this creation (or, in my case, this non-creation). Indeed, the animation makes this not-so-subtle. Still, I can’t help but wonder if a less savvy user would know that they had to register to continue.

Here’s another problem. If I created a masterpiece on the first page, how do I save it? If I’m not logged in, this image is lost. This immediately breaks my trust in the site. If the interaction designer cannot protect me from his/her own login mechanism, why would I trust this site with any significant time or money? —At any rate, I’m lucky in this case. I figured out that I needed to stop drawing from the get go.

Creating an Account

 

The not-so-visible sketchplanet terms of use.

I click on the register link to create an account. While the form is straightforward, I do notice some peculiarities. Specifically, there are no instructions regarding how to complete the Security Code field. I know from experience that this is a CAPTCHA, but if I did not, I would be very confused. Not only that, but I do wonder about the security implications of allowing robots to register on this site. Maybe we’d get some cool drawings. Lastly, The “agreement” (I’m guessing it’s an agreement because of the “I agree” below the field) is abysmally small. Fortunately, Safari lets me resize this field so I can make sense of what’d being said. When I resize the field, the agreement isn’t as cumbersome as one would immediately expect. Because this field isn’t so long, I would recommend taking it outside of the text area, and presenting it in full.

My Account

 

A blank avatar is a great way to get people to try the site

After creating an account, I’m presented with my “account” page (I presume). What’s interesting is that my face is blank. I think this is a great way to motivate people to try sketching something. I immediately dive in and sketch away. After drawing in some eyes and eyebrows, I go ahead and start adding some hair. This is where the trouble starts. I draw outside the lines a bit and want to undo. Because none of the buttons are labelled, I click the “X” button. My profile picture is gone. Just like that, the site has again broken my trust. I get frustrated.

I click on all sketches to see my own work. Maybe my front-page drawing was saved here. No such luck. I start another drawing up top and click the green checkbox. This starts the saving process. I click save. It says title and tags are mandatory. I type a tag and then click save. Again, it says the title is mandatory. Okay, I change the title to something other than “Untitled.” Finally, my masterpiece is immortalized.

I am taken back to my account page. I notice a thumbs up next to my work. I wonder what that means? My cursor shows a hand, but no tooltip. I’m very curious to see what this does. Because it’s my own work and there’s a thumbs up, what’s the worst that could happen? Maybe my work will get erased? It’s happened before. But, for purposes of this review I decide to be bold. I click the thumb. It’s replaced by a check-mark icon. I have no clue what just happened.

Well, I believe I’m done here. I’m going to go checkout everyone else’s work.

Browsing the Site

Okay, where’s the search? From the “my sketches” page, I’m lost as to where I can search for art. In despair, I click on the logo. Now, on the left-hand side, I see a “search drawings” box. I decide to initiate a search for “face.” A huge expanse of faces greets me. I notice that there’s no way to sort the list. I click on one of the sketches called “eye” to check it out. The page is pretty typical, reminding me of Flickr’s layout. I like that it’s familiar. The sections are clearly laid out.

 

A sea of faces on sketchplanet.com

I notice a “play” icon nearly on top of the sketch. I wonder what it does? Clicking it, the drawing is recreated before my eyes. Very nice. Next, I see a link that says “Add to your site.” After clicking this, I’m presented with a small text box that contains, from what I gather, html. Unfortunately, I think this is only helpful to a developer (like me). Otherwise, it’s probably another point of confusion.

Last thoughts

Overall, I think the site needs work. Many of the interactions points on the site have a high potential of breaking the user’s trust. This trust is essential to converting anonymous users into members of your site’s community. While all the usual suspects exist––groups, tags, and voting––the site fails to make me feel at home. In clicking on “Artists” I am amazed that hardly anyone personalizes their avatar. What’s more, it’s very difficult to parse this page. Who are the most prolific members of the sketchplanet community? No one can tell.

While the site brings a cool concept to market with an adequate design, the interaction here leaves much to be desired.

My Suggestions

  • Familiarize your users — Consider providing a tutorial to teach your users how to use your product.
  • Don’t break your users trust — Do not enable users to destroy their own work unintentionally. Consider providing an undo button, and make deletion a two-step process.
  • Invite your users to participate — Providing a site tour or a”blank slate” will get users excited about the sites features and encourage loyalty.
  • Make search ubiquitous —Make sure search is prominent on every page. Consider moving it to the top, in line with more popular sites.
  • Make advertisements legible — I’m normally not a fan of ads, but I can’t help but notice that the ads on this site are horrible stretched.
  • Make use of tooltips — Providing alt tags on images and title tags on links can go a long way towards helping your users understand what’s you’re trying to tell them with icons.
  • Avoid unnecessary UI elements — Because the usage agreement isn’t so long, I would recommend taking it outside of the text area, and presenting it in full.

About the Author

Andrew Maier

Andrew is a lifelong student of the design community, who co-founded the design publication UX Booth in 2008 to share his journey. He currently serves as its Editor-in-Chief. When he's not heading user-centered design initiatives for clients, Andrew dabbles in civic design. He lives in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood.

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