FlashDen is a marketplace where you can buy and sell royalty-free stock files for Adobe Flash projects and general websites.
This Review will be conducted in a slightly different manner from my ordinary style. Since I am familiar with this website/service already, I will instead highlight the areas that I believe could pose usability problems, and will also make note of where this site does things very well.
The Front Page
Right from the start, FlashDen.net makes a positive impression on me as a viewer with it’s professional look. While this is by no means a design review, design does play an important role in connecting with users and establishing trust.
The front page puts a lot of emphasis on how to get started with FlashDen through a numbered list. This is an excellent example of a well-crafted call to action — condensing the entire purpose of the site into 4 easy to swallow steps allows the user to understand immediately how they are supposed to use the site.
A new viewer of this page who has never heard of FlashDen before will quickly try to understand what the site does. They may skip the steps (Since instructions are followed after purpose is established) and look for a tag line or other ways to infer the sites intent. While there is a great blurb placed prominently on the front page about what FlashDen is, the site does lack a tagline that explains the purpose of the site.
This really isn’t a usability issue for most viewers. Without beating around the bush, FlashDen is an authority site where most people will instantly know a lot about the site already on their first visit (much like Amazon, on a much smaller scale for a specific niche). However, a tagline couldn’t hurt, and might serve well to that occasional offbeat-viewer who hasn’t heard of the marketplace before.
When a user lands on a site, they will typically look for (a) A way to browse the site through a structured navigation system or (b) A way to search the site. FlashDen’s front page is tailored for your typical navigation-browser, but doesn’t satisfy the needs of someone who would rather search as well as it could. Someone looking to search the site will first look for a way to search near the top of the page (typically at the top right). There is a way to search FlashDen on the front page, and it’s even made somewhat apparent through the use of a magnifying glass icon, but it requires one additional click to make the search bar visible.
Frequent visitors of FlashDen will have no trouble at all signing in, and newcomers should have an easy time signing up. There is a sign in form at the top of the page with a “Sign Up” call to action right next to it, and several calls to action for signing up around the page (“Create an Account”, “Make Money”, “Deposit Cash”, “Purchase & Download”).
Singing up for FlashDen is very simple. The form and process for registration is all as would be expected.
Once logged in, several elements on FlashDen change to make the site more useful for a registered user. The header of the site becomes a user navigation area for quickly jumping to special user areas of the site such as account details, favorite items on the site, earnings (for publishers convienence), quick link for depositing more cash into your account, etc. The big call to action is transformed into a dashboard for depositing cash and uploading new items.
The primary navigation for FlashDen leaves something to be desired. The navigation does work nicely, but it’s not immediately intuitive past the top level of the site (and even the top level navigation could be improved). For Example: The top level categories in the primary navigation are “Flash Files“, “Flash Templates“, “Pixel Fonts“, and “Stock Video“. However, if you dig deeper by looking for a map of all the categories to browse through, you’ll see that there are really more top level categories to browse through.
Once you’re on a top level category, the second level navigation appears on the opposite side of the page. This works, but may not be expected from a first time user.
Once you notice the “Categories” navigation on the right of the page, everything is very easy to browse. Ideally, this shouldn’t take any time to notice, and should be visible on almost every page (Only showing the Top Level categories until actually on a specific category page of course). Also, it would be much more useful if all of the top level categories were visible on the homepage rather than only the four shown in the top left orange box.
Once again, I’ll reference Amazon’s navigation since they do it so well. On their front page, they have quick access to all of the primary categories. On a specific category page, secondary levels are made abundantly clear and use the same placement that the primary navigation used. Amazon make’s good use of rollovers to actually access the secondary level categories right from the homepage as well.
In short, while browsing is by no means difficult, bringing the entire primary category navigation as well as the secondary navigation (when a category is selected) over to the left menu would probably make browsing easier.
I also wanted to quickly add that the “Browse Categories” page is very well set up. It’s a great starting point for browsing, and FlashDen has a prominent link in the navigation menu on almost every page shown by default.
Purchasing Items on FlashDen
When it comes to actually purchasing an item on FlashDen, the process couldn’t be much easier. First you deposit cash into your account via a deposit link that is on every page once you’re signed in. You can pay via PayPal and Moneybookers. After you have cash to spend, you browse to the product you wish to purchase, click the big purchase button, confirm and you’re finished.
It’s worth mentioning that one other thing FlashDen does well is documenting how to use the site. While a website should be intuitive from the get go (as FlashDen is for the most part), site documentation, FAQ’s, and support are especially helpful for finding answers to specific questions.
Purchasing an item redirects you to a downloads page where not only are you able to download your latest purchase, but also every previous purchase you’ve made. This is a wonderful feature of the FlashDen marketplace that comes in handy if you lose a previous purchase.
After an item is purchased, landing on that product page will notify you that you’ve already purchased the item before. It is the small things like this that enhance the overall user experience of this marketplace. The whole process just feels like it’s been well thought out and tested.
One of the other nice things FlashDen includes for customers is something called bookmarks. Users can set up multiple collections, and add items to these collections for quick access to them in the future. On a site that offers so much, this is especially useful.
Users who sell items on FlashDen are given a nice summary of total sales, earnings, referral earnings, and can also cash out.
Uploading items is more of a process than purchasing though. While it’s setup as a means of quality control, the process for uploading items is probably more difficult than it has to be. Publishers must mannually add a Title, Description, Thumbnail, Preview Image, Main Files, Preview Source, and categorize the item. It’s not hard, it just requires a lot more effort and time than purchasing items.
FlashDen is a part of the Envato Network. Envato owns several online marketplaces for different kinds of products. If you leave FlashDen to visit a different member of the network, you’re user information, account balance, and other details carry over. This is much nicer than the alternative of needing to register and deposit separately on each site.
That said, someone unfamiliar with “Envato” might not understand this group of networked marketplaces. There is a dropdown in the top right of FlashDen that says “Envato Network” that is especially useful for jumping between sites, but only if you’re familiar with the concept. What might make this much more easy to understand is actually labeling this dropdown menu with explanations of what each site does (That is, without clicking the dropdown menu).
In other words, this space could be used to explain what the current marketplace offers, and could also make viewers aware that there are additional marketplaces (and other sites) with different kinds of content.
Page Load Time
We have a great write up for how to Minimize Load Time for Fast User Experiences.
FlashDen is a great example of a Marketplace that offers a positive user experience, especially for consumers. Sure, there are ways it could be improved upon, and I’m sure I’ve missed some more technical problems along the way, but I am going to have to give FlashDen my first 5-star rating on UX Booth. Here are the suggestions I would make to possibly improve this already very usable website:
- Add a tagline to the banner or header of the site. While this is an authority site, a quick description about what it’s purpose is certainly wouldn’t hurt.
- Add a search bar to the top right of the homepage. The current location of the search isn’t hard to find, but it’s not the first place I look either.
- Move all of the primary and secondary navigation menus to the left on all pages on FlashDen. As a browser, that’s the first place I look. Maybe use the right side to show off featured items, best-sellers, or special deals.
- If it’s possible to simplify the upload process for publishers without compromising FlashDen’s quality, consider doing so as the current method is a bit complex.
- Consider rebranding the Envato Marketplace dropdown menu to give a brief explanation of the current marketplace, and make it obvious that there are other marketplaces with different kinds of products for newcomers.
- Merge the JS and CSS files into single documents, and minimize their footprint for faster load time.