Usability Review: www.flashden.net

Flashden.net provides a comprehensive and compelling marketplace for flash component designers. The experience was refreshing; devoid of most of the pitfalls we've encountered in past reviews. However, our panel still managed to generate a few suggestions.

FlashDen is a marketplace where you can buy and sell royalty-free stock files for Adobe Flash projects and general websites.FlashDen is a marketplace for buying and selling stock files for Adobe Flash Projects

Flashden.net provides a comprehensive and compelling marketplace for flash component designers. The experience was refreshing; devoid of most of the pitfalls we’ve encountered in past reviews. However, our panel still managed to generate a few suggestions.

Initial Impressions

Getting started with FlashDen in four easy to understand stepsGetting started with FlashDen in four easy to understand steps

The first thing I notice is the giant “Get Started!” text, and then the content rotator. I imagine these are different flash elements I can purchase. I immediately glance at the orange navigation in the top left, because it’s so colorful compared to everything else. I’m a bit confused as to what these options mean—I don’t know what the difference is between a flash file and a flash template, for example.

I mouse over the menu below the first menu. I’m curious why there are two menus. I click ‘make money’ (after all, who isn’t curious about a button that says make money?). The options look a bit technical, so I close that menu up quickly. I then look back to the middle of the page and read: (1) Create an Account, (2) Deposit Cash, (3) Find the Items You Want, and (4) Purchase. I imagine I have to start with step one—but I’m not ready quite yet. I look down the page to make sure I haven’t missed anything too cool.

This is a very well thought out site. From my initial glance I can see exactly what it does. This is a stock Flash site. The layout is simple and not too cluttered.

As I land on FlashDen.net my eyes scan the page and are naturally drawn from the FlashDen logo in the top left corner, down to ‘Get Started!’, then to ‘What Is FlashDen?’. It is interesting how the headers create a diagonal direction across the page and lead to each other. These three headers inform me of all the basics I’d normally look for when visiting a site for the first time.

My eye flows from the top left corner diagonally across the page to the right.

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.

What Confuses Us

My mental model is closer to iStockPhoto.

The layout here looks a lot like iStockPhoto. I’m not quite sure when the content was published, and who is was authored by. I long to see some kind of indicator to tell me how popular the content is. No matter. I scroll further down the page to the footer. It looks like there are 6,570 Flash files and 67 fonts available for download. Wait, what? Why does this site offer fonts? Very strange. Maybe some kind of sIFR-ready fonts? I wonder what that means.

The Forums are very clean cut and well organized. The categories are just as they should be, and the sidebar that allows you to see the newest threads is a nice touch for a regular visitor. My only criticism of that sidebar is that thy layout reminds me a Google AdSense bar. I might automatically tune it out.

The whole concept of the bargain bin is left to the user to figure out. I wonder what the two small images are linking to. Bargain Bin and Video Hive. I would like it if there was some sort of header to introduce these two features, it feels like these were slapped on afterward without much attempt to incorporate them.

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.

The navigation isn't immediately intuitive for first time users once they've landed on a top level category pageThe navigation isn’t immediately intuitive for first time users once they’ve landed on a top level category page.

What We Like

I close the window and go back to the page. The component author has been very thorough, documenting the features of his image gallery as well as related works he has done. It’s all very well-presented. I feel very confident about the level of quality on this site. There’s even a link that says “Need Support?” That makes me feel confident about a potential purchase. I eagerly scroll down the page to read the comments. I want to see if other users of this site agree with me. While most of the comments are from users that haven’t purchased the component, other people are equally as impressed. Cool.

The blog has a really clean and pretty design, as does the rest of the site. I really feel as though this site was built with the user in mind. I love the navigation, the cute messages, and the easy navigation.

Feedback is provided through notification such as this throughout the site.

The site is filled with confirmation notices that are very human like. Orange boxes tell users when they have completed an action. This feature adds feedback for users actions, making them feel more comfortable with the site.

It is easy to always tell where you are using the breadcrumb navigation located along the top of the page. I think breadcrumbs are an easy and effective way to increase a user’s experience in navigation!

I like that the blog easily links back to FlashDen. The layout is different, therefor users may feel as if they were sent to a new site entirely but with the logo linking back to FlashDen this is prevented.

Purchasing is easy and downloading is even easier. There is even an option to redownload the item if you need, which I really like!

The header changes once signed in for easy access to important user areas.The header changes once signed in for easy access to important user areas.

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.

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.

Suggestions

Overall the site is very logically laid out. Things are were I’d expect them to be and there were little questions as to why the user-experience designer made certain choices. With that said, there were a couple of things I found that made me scratch my head. I would suggest the following changes:

  • Don’t break your users trust — Make sure that links that are available on pages with forms link to new windows, so they don’t destroy a user’s work.
  • Reduce cognitive load — Reduce the number of different navigation elements on the page. The orange navigation, tabs, subnavigation, and in-page navigation offer a lot of possibilities.
  • Avoid dead ends — The default collection of bookmarks shouldn’t link to an empty page. Also, when a user previews a flash file, provide a simple way to close the popup (other than their browser controls).
  • Provide Blank Slates and/or Calls-to-action — For example, after I create an account I’m greeted with a simple “Hello.” Change this to something that gets me involved.
  • Create familiarity — Consider a redesign of the blog so that it aligns more closely with flashden.net.

  • Check into Internal Server Errors and Pictures that don’t load
  • Make the Newest Thread Sidebar in the Forum look less like ads
  • Add a Subscribe option on the top right of the blog

  • Better incorporate the Bargain Bin and Video Hive graphics. As I stated earlier, it looks like these badges are slapped on the site with no consideration of how they would fit in. I have to click these things to find out what they are, I should have a good idea from headers describing them instead.
  • Describe the author’s comments with headings. The first comment on each item for sale is orange and seems to be comments from the authors. Why not have a header introducing it as notes from the author?
  • Seperate links to Video Hive. Make links that take us to a new market place easy to distinguish.

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.

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19 Comments

  • Fire G Reply

    Exactly my feelings guys. While I don’t agree COMPLETELY with David’s 5-stars, FlashDen is certainly a 4-1/2 star site.

    Not much I can add to the review as I agreed with all of your points!

  • Dmitry Reply

    Don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but there’s something inelegant about the navigation on the left — especially the click to expand behavior. When you have something like “About” or “Make Money” you know that this is the section you want — it’s very broad and general and if you’re looking for some info about the site you know it’s going to be in About. But then you click on this menu and you get a bunch more options. You’re forcing me to think now. I prefer when the navigation stays really top level, and then you have sub-navigation on the page itself to guide you further. E.g. I click on “Make Money”… I know I wanna make some money… but what’s this… I have to select from two different programs, and there’s a couple more options, too. I don’t know what program I want, I want a new page to tell me what I want. Maybe I just have something against expanding menus :)

    That orange navigation also gets lost to me for some reason, so much so it’s almost invisible. My eye assumes it’s a banner or some kind of tagline because the navigation below looks the most like a navigation. I’d stick to one format.

  • Matthew Kammerer Reply

    @Dmitry: Great points about the navigation I also thought of but I wasn’t sure how deep it effected me, or if anyone would agree. I guess I need to just start saying it and not fear. Thanks so much for your feedback on the site!

  • Lee Munroe Reply

    Nice review guys, I like your style.

    There was something about the ‘Files’ dropdown I didn’t like. Maybe if it was automatically expanded on page load, that would make all the difference.

  • insic Reply

    great read. very nice review.

  • myows Reply

    Congatulations to Collis for designing such an acclaimed layout and UX.

    He managed to make sense out of the chaos and this review is really stellar and spot on !

    Another thing that hasn’t been too much remarked on is the sense of community that comes out of Flashden, I think it’s a big part of their success.

    ( i’m an avid buyer on Flashden )

  • Fire G Reply

    @Myows: The FD community wasn’t mentioned because it’s a usability review only. The UXPanel works hard to make sure it doesn’t turn into a design or service critique.

  • David Leggett Reply

    @myows: I’m actually surprised none of us focused much on the community aspect of FlashDen myself to be honest. It is true that we only test usability, rather than say quality of content or design, but there is a lot to say about what makes a community more or less cohesive and usable. I guess for me at least, the most important aspect of FlashDen was the marketplace, so that is where I focused most of my energy.

  • myows Reply

    ok…

    I do think that a lot of elements have been put into place to give easy access to the community appeal of Flashden. Forum and blog posts on all pages ( exept the homepage ), featured users and file, number of members…

    a lot of people who log onto Flashden do so not only to buy files, but also to meet up with fellow community members, or get the latest news.

    And in terms of usability, Flashden makes it quick and simple.

    That’s a big reason why i don’t really frequent FD’s competition.

    But the line between service, design and usability is easily crossed.

  • LanceSnider Reply

    This is a really helpful review. I think you guys make some great points and great suggestions. Thanks! This is a really cool site, by the way.

  • D Reply

    No one mentioned that the placement of the search bar is lacking. Sure it’s nice to have a call to action, but what if I have already visited the site before and all I want to do is download flash files because I am not interested in submitting files. As far as I can tell, it seems flashden has two different audiences which they have not fully addressed yet in their design. If I am already registered and come back to the site, I don’t want to see the same call-to-action message, instead I am more interested in the content below the fold. Everytime I want to do a quick search for a specific type of flash or file, I have to scroll to the bottom, find the hidden tab, and then type in my search? Why can’t the search be put at the top of the bar, where it belongs.

  • D Reply

    Another overlooked feature which no one mentioned is that, when you are not logged in and run across a certain file you want to purchase and download, you can’t continue from that page, instead you are taken to a registration page, and then there is no way to return to the previous page. If you do, the website doesn’t register that you just signed up and logged in, you have to refresh in order to show that you are logged in, sometimes you have to do the entire search over after you’ve logged in. This is a huge overlook on the developers part which I would like to see addressed. As clean looking as the site may look, it lacks some huge functionality aspects to make it a user-friendly website for people who want to download and purchase files. Keep in mind that most of those people, are not very web-savvy, and so it’s important to make things work more intuitively.

  • Matthew Kammerer Reply

    @D: Thanks for your very insightful feedback! Those are some great points we may have looked over if you had not stopped by.

  • David Leggett Reply

    @D: Actually D, the search bar was one of the big things I pointed out in my review. I think that’s something that absolutely needs to be addressed in their design.

    That second thing is something I don’t think any of us caught. Great job pointing it out :)

    Thanks for your feedback!

  • Nick Reply

    I thought this was great — thanks.

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