Usability Review: www.sketchplanet.com

Sketchplanet.com is a very simple site that has all the makings of a social community. The site flows really well, but sometimes the interacts weren't for the lighthearted.

Sketchplanet.com is a very simple site that has all the makings of a social community. The site flows really well, but sometimes the interactions weren’t for the lighthearted.

Initial Impressions

SketchplanetSketchplanet.com

I’m initially taken back. 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.

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.

This has to be one of the most unusual sites I’ve ever seen. The design is very bare bones, with images of strange little sketches being the dominant feature below the green banner. Looking around, I instantly see the description of what this site is.

When I first open the website I notice the bold header of Sketch Planet. The colors are calming and flow nicely. As I navigate the home page I find most of the features easy to use. However, some options are not clear at first and require me to test them in order to find what they do. A simple tutorial may help, or offering tool tips!

Overall the site is simple to navigate but some changes need to be made.

Sketchplanet’s front page is very simple. The banner is immediately visible which clearly displays the name of the site (though no tag line is visible to tell me where I am on first glance). In close proximity to the banner is an interface for drawing “sketches”, but it’s placement suggests that it may just be a graphic. Admittedly, it took me less than 3 seconds to figure out what I was supposed to do, so it does work as a call to action.

What Confuses Us

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 for 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.

After drawing an initial sketch I clicked on save and it had me register my username and password. When I had done that, though, I was sad to see that my carefully drawn and artistically brilliant sketch had vanished. I don’t feel like doing it over, so if I wasn’t here for a higher purpose I would probably have exited the site.

SketchplanetThe Sketch Planet blog feels so distanced from the main site.

I see navigation across the top of the page, but as I scroll down the page I find NEW navigation at the bottom. A normal practice is to replicate navigation at the bottom. It is not common to find totally new links at the bottom unless they are just terms of use, etc.

Oh, cool I get to make my own avatar! This is a bit more complicated than I expected it to be! Also, the buttons that are under the sketch box do not have tool-tips on hover. I have to try each button to figure out what they do — this is frustrating.

The red thumbs up that is under each photo confuses me. Why would a thumbs up, a positive gesture, be given a negative color such as red? On sites such as Digg thumbs up are green and thumbs down are red.

For something that seemed like such an easy process, it felt like I slammed into a brick wall when I tried submitting a quick sketch. I predicted some sort of confirmation that my sketch was posted, maybe a quick way to tag it, but instead I was served a registration page.

What We Like

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.

The interface for the little doodle sketch pad works really well, and I do like the fact that the little drawing box is at the top of every page.

SketchplanetRegistration is made simple with auto feedback.

I really like the simple email that is sent when you register at the site. It is elegant and to the point!
Registration on the site is simple and I like the real time feedback I get as I type. I also appreciate how simple the CAPTCHA is. The simple to read CAPTCHA could later lead to spam problems, however.

Once I had a user account, I found the system worked quite well. As soon as I submit a sketch, I am presented with options to title, tag, and share my drawing. It’s all very intuitive, and even entertaining.

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.

So this site has a great concept. It’s a really neat idea and the sketching interface works pretty well. Unfortunately, the rest of the site is a let down. It feels incomplete and unfinished.

  • Strengthen your brand
  • Save sketches that people do initially before they have logged in .
  • Have a more accurate way of determining popular sketches
  • Identify users with a sketch they’ve done, rather than a blank profile picture.
  • Update your blog
  • Fix the stretching of Artist Adverts
  • Make the sitemap look designed, not just a list of links.
  • Implement an actual contact form, not just an email address

  • Moderate tags so that adult terms such as boobs are not visible to younger audiences.
  • Color the thumbs up icons green to initiate a positive feeling.
  • Simply the paint pallet when sketching and don’t require it to be held down to view.
  • Add tool tips to the icons or offer a tutorial on what each button does.
  • Integrate the footer navigation into the header.
  • Integrate the blog into the site more and work on the layout.

  • The registration system works well, but it makes the site very limited to non-registered users. Why not offer a basic service for anonymous users and offer the advanced features (saving your previous sketches, tagging, groups, etc) to registered users?
  • The drawing interface blends in almost too well with the banner. Maybe place it just below the banner or use some graphical element to distinguish it from the rest of the banner. The fact that it’s on every page of the site is a convenient touch.
  • Alphabetize the tag list to make it easier to scan.
  • Explain what the thumbs up icon is for without making the user have to look around the site too much.

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16 Comments

  • Andrea G Reply

    I agree with David when it comes to registering to the site. This is something I want to try out, but not feel committed too. As soon as I saw I had to register to post my pictures, I left.
    I also agree with Matthew… Boobs? Nudity? I would have thought the whole point of registering would be to keep out the immature or at least a way to identify who was doing it and slap them on the wrist.
    In the end, I felt like you were on your own to figure out the site and what exactly it offered. I’ve been on websites like this before that had more options like different colors or pencil sizes, but what I really liked about this site was the play back feature!

  • splatzone Reply

    Hmm.. am I the only one that noticed that the captcha has AJAX confirmation? Doesn’t that sort of ruin the point of it?

  • Matthew Kammerer Reply

    @splatzone: I noticed it, but what do you mean it ruins the point? I think it’s a nice confirmation, but may not be the best way to ward off spam. The good news is that I did not encounter any spam like comments while on the site.

  • Sketchplanet Owner Reply

    Very nice comments, I agree with all of them and just what I needed to develop Sketchplanet! Thanks guys

  • Scorpiono Reply

    Bad contrasting, it’s too bright, way too bright!

  • James Reply

    @splatzone, there’s not Ajax validation being used – Just some basic JavaScript. Don’t confuse Ajax with JavaScript!

    That’s the least of their problems anyway – their registration form doesn’t work without JavaScript enabled! That sucks!

    Plus that Captcha is easily bypassed by clever bots (simple OCR) – actually, since the form doesn’t work without JavaScript bots won’t be able to get in, making the Captcha totally useless.

    Actually, it seems most of the site’s inner workings fail without JavaScript; there’s not excuse for this; why should I need JS enabled just to login/vote or register?

    Additionally the search function uses a POST request instead of a GET request meaning that users can’t bookmark searches!

    Honestly, David, I think you were a little too generous with your rating…

    I’m being honest here, on a count of the fact that the site doesn’t function without JavaScript (a totally unnecessary hindrance) I’d probably give it a one out of five.

  • Lara Reply

    I love your website and your reviews. It’s such a cool idea to submit usability reviews and user feedback, as we can definitely learn from eachother’s work :)

    Best of luck!

  • Matthew Kammerer Reply

    @James: Great points that we missed!

    @Lara: We love to hear feedback like that, I am glad you’re enjoying the booth!

  • RaSh Reply

    Amazing… I found such reviews really helpful!
    Even though I’m no where close to making a “website”, these views will help me review my own blog once a while and try & improve it :)

    Keep up the great work!

  • Sketchplanet Owner Reply

    Yep you’re right about the JS too, I’ll get round to fixing it. Actually this is the best review I’ve had of the site since most people who review it just say it’s nice…

  • vojto Reply

    nice site, good idea … and of course, very helpful review

  • Pieter Reply

    The advertisement is in bold while all the other text is just plain.
    I clicked it two times, both accidentaly. That’s bad. Really.

    Also I think users visit the site and then they’re dropped on the homepage, confused about what to do and what to do first.

  • Sketchplanet Owner Reply

    I think the Sketchplanet site is simple to pick up right?

    You’re right about the ads, they’ll be removed soon – I couldn’t change the look/actual text.

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