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Website Review of Like.com

This is a quick usabilty review of Like.com which strives to deliver shoppers to the promised land of visual search. In other words, you can find a pair of shoes by choosing colors, fabrics, and other aesthetic elements. On the right is a screen capture of the site as we reviewed it. This is a challenging one. My content-centric checklist (the main body of this page) has been showing its irrelevance to web apps for quite some time and I haven't been able to spend time to refactor it. Like.com certainly busts it wide open at the seams. So read the checklist for a few morsels, but now let's start the real game.

 

Twenty years ago I bought a pair of shoes from a real stylish store, Ronald Philip in Philly. They were Italian loafers and I constantly got comments, "those are nice shoes." I drew a picture, Dr. Frankenstein style from some images on Like.com:

picture of shoe I liked

Low tongue, thin, dark brown rope around the back, penny-loafer front, with a unique reddish-brown inlaid fabric in front. Since they wore out, I've been looking for them, but only about 10 years now... I'm not obsessive or anything. So could Like find my shoes? Uh, no. But they push the envelope as far as can be, and my findings are below. After the checklist are the important results... just stream-of-interaction notes and ideas. Remember, it's just a few minutes of poking around, on a site that could justify many, many hours of study.

 

Now that I've been inspired to draw those shoes, though, I'm off to the brick-and-mortars with my printout, before visual search sites put them out of business.

thumbnail of like.com

 

 


 

Congratulations! This is a free usability review from UsabilityInstitute.com. "Usability" refers to how easy and effective it is to use a Web site. Although it involves how a site looks (graphic artwork), it is primarily concerned with how a site works, what you click on, what happens, and whether the site does its job. Perhaps this review is all you need to improve your site. If that's the case, great. Please mention UsabilityInstitute.com if you talk with others who need help with their site.


The following three sections provide a general analysis of your website from a relatively quick review. Although Web design is still perceived as a highly creative endeavor, there are many aspects of it that call for standardization and compliance with widely established conventions. Implementing even a few of the ideas below can really improve a site.

 

  Part 1: Content Basics
    This first section is intended for typical public web sites (for products and corporate information), but also applies for the most part to intranets and software applications that run in a browser. We've been advocating many of these ideas—in the context of general software—since our 1997 book, Computers Stink, but they've been beautifully enumerated for WWW purposes in Steve Krug's book, "Don't Make Me Think."
      Click for explanation State of the Art, a Model for OthersGreat Work!Does the JobI Can HelpUndetermined/Not ExactlyNot Applicable
Hover for explanation
Comments
  1. Logo in top left, linked to home Does the Job  
  2. Tagline Does the Job Visual shopping
  3. Welcome blurb Does the Job "Find like things that look similar..." In the competition between "what is this site" and "how to use a new paradigm immediately," the latter wins. I'll have to reword my checklist for "category breakers."
  4. Plain wording Does the Job  
  5. No 'happy talk' Does the Job  
  6. Concise wording Does the Job  
  7. Visited pages are distinguished by link color-coding I Can Help Implement this on your site map.
  8. "Utilities" are easy to find Undetermined/Not Exactly Despite being a category-breaking app, I think that Site Map, and possibly Login should be top-right most. They can still stay in the bottom band, but I think that the bottom band is a vestige of days gone by when it appeared as text adjunct to sites that became 100% graphical links. Bottom links will probably persist for eternity, but they're not the primary design solution.
  9. Search on all pages, with box and button Does the Job  
  10. "You Are Here" indicator Does the Job The main nav highlight.
  11. Breadcrumbs' as links I Can Help I understand that this might be percieved as antethetical to the concept of the site, but remember, that's your concept, not the visitor's concept. If every breadcrumb stops at Home>Likeness Search, maybe you have to reinvent breadcrumbs? "Home>Likeness Search (Handbags... Blue... Transparent)
       

 

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Part 2: Visual Design: Fonts, Colors, Layout, Basic Interaction Design, and Accessibility
As we read in a graphic artist's ad, "Technology makes it work but art makes it sell," and you should take heed. We're not graphic artists here at Uinst, but we know good art when we see it and the common denominators that separate good pages from bad are clear. Look at the top sites and you'll see they spell out the following criteria.
  Click for explanation State of the Art, a Model for OthersGreat Work!Does the JobI Can HelpUndetermined/Not ExactlyNot Applicable
Hover for explanation
Comments
1.

Sans-serif fonts

Does the Job  
2.

Appropriate background color

Does the Job  
3.
Appropriate color hues Does the Job  
4.
Visual representation of the information hierarchy Does the Job This is where most of the minor tweaks might be.
5.
Conservative quantity of colors Does the Job  
6.
Text sizes are "relative" I Can Help No.
7.
Anti-aliased graphics Does the Job  
8.
Graphics' file size doesn't slow navigation Undetermined/Not Exactly Possibly, not sure whether speed will deter users, and whether it's actually the issue.
9.
"Alt tags" used well I Can Help Interesting question... do text alternatives, which are a tool for the sight-impaired, apply to a site for the sighted. My brain hurts.
10.
Links don't just say "Click Here" Does the Job Lots of links are correctly nouns and verbs.
11.
A style sheet (CSS) is used Undetermined/Not Exactly A possible consideration for the visually impaired, but I'm not sure it's a factor anymore compared to browser features.

 

Do your hands ache after a day at the keyboard??? This review sponsored by RSIRescue.com ...

 


Part 3: Genuine Value: Useful Content & Critical Interaction Design


And now for the hard part. If all of good Web design were as clear-cut as parts 1 & 2, above, you wouldn't need much judgment and there would be a lot more good sites. But the easier the decisions are, the less significant the thinking and effort behind them... and the easier it would be to provide useful content. This section is where you make or break your rapport with the visitor. If you provide real value and give folks enough tools to get to it, they will push past the basic omissions and ignore even the most amateurish art.
  Click for explanation State of the Art, a Model for OthersGreat Work!Does the JobI Can HelpUndetermined/Not ExactlyNot Applicable
Hover for explanation
Comments
1. Questions are answered Not Applicable  
2. Search results get the job done Undetermined/Not Exactly Not merely a checklist item, but the whole business proposition.
3. Effective 'click tree' Does the Job  
4. Conceptual flow from upper left to lower right Does the Job  
5. Simple, outline-like site map State of the Art, a Model for Others Aha! The site map appears to give some insight into the mental model. Maybe. The visitor can't tell how much of the facets are indexed or if it's deeper than the site map, but any ability to visualize the dataset helps.
6. Primary navigation is obvious Great Work!  
7. Secondary navigation is obvious Does the Job  
8. Contact information easily accessible Great Work!  
9. Links are clear Does the Job  
10. Intro panel or animation not excessive Does the Job  
11. Graphics used only for core message Does the Job  

 

JUST PRINTED, February 9th, 2007! For kids with smart mouths everywhere PoopyPhonics(.com) ...

Summation & Next Steps

Overall Rating: Strives / Survives / Great Work! Thrives

Despite any and all areas for improvement, software will eventually conquer this valuable domain.

Combined Notes and Recommendations:

  1. Oops, in attempting to prove that visited pages are indicated by color-coded links---never mind that it's an irrelevant heuristic from content-centric sites, bear with me---I repeatedly clicked Mens Shirts in the dropdown and clicked Search to no avail. Ahhhhh... it works with a required search term.
  2. The delay waiting for the Details panels when rolling over an item proved challenging (on reasonably fast cable modem connection).
  3. The search results caption, "Your search for men's mocassin in shoes generated 3469 results" doesn't quite stand out as a heading of search criteria.
  4. Need more oblique photos, possibly better contrast. The quality of images in shopping sites is always a challenge, and of course not owned by sites like like.
  5. What's the difference between clicking a picture and clicking the Likeness Search button?
  6. One rollover showed a series of angles. I waited to see the same thing on another and there were none.
  7. When getting an empty search (Your Likeness Search for Tommy Bahama Men's Lakeshore Blvd. in shoes generated 0 results ) the fact was not announced in the results area, only in the routine results heading area. Yes, I stared at the empty page for 8 seconds, waiting for data to fill in, partly because it said "Showing [20] Results per page," and partly because I expect pages to take time to load.
  8. After a search, the Price Range said 55-144 (apparently constrained based on the hits) but I thought it might constrain my search. I thought Reset should be Clear and not constrain the value, but I can imagine your dilemma... (what's the ceiling?).
  9. As I use it more, I want more space for thumbnails. I set my browser to Full Screen.
  10. The graphical (not text) control headings are fuzzy in IE7. I'd like them to be text.
  11. The graphical headings along with the ever-present "Like finds things... Learn How" seems to take up space. Of course the initial appearance must retain whitespace so as not to look to techy and crowded. Maybe that line should go away once off the home page. Maybe "Find things that look similar" should go where "Alpha" is, and Learn How or "See Demo" should be moved right into the Likeness tools toolbar?
  12. Change the Apply/Reset buttons to text links, to stop competing visually with the other buttons.
  13. The powerful criteria tools are obviously a layout challenge, and it feels like they're everywhere. Obviously they have to be all over the place, but how does the designer minimize the clutter and sense of sprawl/invasion? Possibly the top bar needs to be in a graphical container of some sort to say "look I'm just your eyeball tools, this is where we are." As I experiment with my monitor settings, I see there's a very light gray background. Could be my monitor, I've seen the same washout even on my own pages. Maybe I'm saying, visually promote the top toolbar and downplay the left (faceted criteria) better. Perhaps the site as a whole must attempt to emply more staging of tools based on visitation. Show the faceted checkboxes only after some usage or show just a few and a More button?
  14. I suggest putting Sort By in the results area. Consult eBay as a sample, not that they're any sort of an aesthetic model, but on this one count, I suspect their location is right. This will move a control closer to what it acts on, and simplify the "Likeness Tools" (Eyebar ?) better.
  15. The search box didn't retain previous typing. Perhaps you don't want to (or my computer is preventing it?).
  16. Couldn't tell if the slider bar for Color applied its effect immediately (the Ajax feedback issue?). This is an industry wide issue. I assume the solution is popup progress indicators whenever an Ajax retrieve is in action, right? Users need to know when the computer is trying to help them and they really should wait. I personally think this is a biggie, sitewide.
  17. Couldn't tell how to get details (zoom/rollover) window on Your Search Item. Hovering on other shoes showed the detail window.
  18. Saving likelist confused me for a few seconds... why are the Login/Register links there? Ahhh... because saving requires registering.
  19. The Save to My Linklist popup should include the branding and not look so much like a 'chromeless' window... it's very atypical.
  20. Even thought I like using emails as acct IDs, I actually stumbled at the Password/Confirm Password fields, starting to put in my email acct's password (!). Perhaps studying other sites will explain how they break that association. Maybe they have a more lengthy field caption, "Enter a password for your account." Not sure if it was just my problem.

Hope this helps and let me know what you think,
Jack Bellis, UsabilityInstitute.com


"My interest in usability arose from the pain and tears of patching the wounds of suffering interface designs with the inadequate bandages of help files and user guides." — Daniel Cohen
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