123exchanges.com – A usability analysis

123exchanges.com is an eBay type listing site based on the concept of selling through videos instead of written descriptions. The site provides a way for sellers to register and upload videos of things for sale, and it provides browsing and searching functionality for potential buyers. They are a startup based in the Washington DC area that is approximately 6 months old.

Home Page

Homepage screenshotThe site has a coherent and appropriate color scheme, a good layout, and feels generally friendly, if a bit unpolished. The large promotional area in the center left is a good idea, and the limited browse functionality in the bottom half of the screen works well for users who aren’t sure what they’re looking for. I was able to find out very quickly what the site was about and what things I can do as a buyer or seller.

For the purpose of this analysis, I will be focusing only on areas of needed improvement:

  • URL – The address bar shows the homepage address as being /default.aspx. The homepage should show only the domain name.
  • Logo – The main sans serif font is good, but the points on the two arrows are too sharp, and I would worry that the green (the color of tension) is not the right color for them. The font for the smaller tagline looks as though the text has been resized imperfectly (see the S in sell).
  • The blue text at the top in the header bar (Sell Your Used Stuff Today! It’s Free) is unnecessary and only serves to clutter the interface. The blue text on blue background lacks contrast, and the exclamation point is unnecessary.
  • Removing it and moving the search box up and to the right would improve the visibility of this important feature.
  • In the top right, the main call to action is “Upload Video”. I understand that the emphasis of the site is on video, but what the user is actually trying to do is sell an item, and the button label should perhaps reflect this.
  • The location drop-down at the very top of the site gets lost in the page. This feature should be moved down with the search.
  • As this is a fairly standard layout for this type of site, box labels like “promotion”, “what’s new”, etc. are unnecessary and clutter up the interface. “Sell your stuff in three easy steps” is important, but perhaps should be placed inside of the box instead of as a box header.
  • The social media buttons seem to have been placed arbitrarily. There is also some confusion about whether the like button and the tweet button apply to the video above or to the site itself. A better solution would be to group these together with the invite friends buttons.
  • The Starbucks coffee promotion looks like an advertisement instead of a promotion, and I would question the effectiveness of a free coffee on getting new users signed up (what do your numbers say?). Ads cheapen the look of your site, and I would try to avoid the appearance of them if possible.
  • Throughout the site, you use red text to emphasize prices. Red text is associated with danger or error, and I would highly recommend that you use a combination of font size and font weight (or use the color green) instead of the color red to point out prices.
  • There are a lot of social media buttons at the bottom, but some appear to be duplicates (even though they have different functions). The purpose of these buttons should be made more clear.
  • The community box at the bottom of the front page is confusing and ineffective. All of the posts are by “admin” which makes the section appear like an announcement section. Further, as a user I am not clear as to what I would use a community section for. For example, I just want to sell an iPod, and I have nothing in common with someone trying to sell a pair of jeans. It appears that there may be two different startups here: a marketplace and a general topic message board. Best to focus on the former.

Search Listing Pages

Search listingscreenshot

  • It is unnecessary to repeat the category for each result. Either the user got this page by clicking on a category (in which case they will all be the same) or the user got here with a custom search in which case the category is irrelevant.
  • The item ID is also unnecessary.
  • The time format should be “X days ago” instead of the full timestamp. At minimum, there is no need for seconds to be listed.

Item Listing Page

Item  listing screenshot

  • Again, box headings are unnecessary. It is obvious what information appears in the “posting information box” and the “more info box”. Better to remove these and cleanup the interface.
  • The posting information box is cluttered with too much information. Cleanup the date and remove the item ID. The “view times” should also be removed. At this early stage, it only serves to work against you.
  • The condition rating system is confusing. I have no idea what “used 70%” means.
  • The blue text style for links and the styling for the item title are too similar, making the item title appear clickable.
  • Avatars in comments make the site appear MySpace-y.
  • Clicking on the respond button gave me a pop-up box. Better to just redirect the user to the login page with an explanation as to why they have been sent there.

Login Page

Login screenshot

  • The phrase “welcome to 123 exchanges” is unnecessary.
  • The phrase “join our community now” appears to be a link to join the community, not a lead in to the sign-up link.
  • “Sign-up here” should be a button instead of a link with arrows on each side.

Sign-up Page

Sign up screenshotThis page is very important because it is the barrier between an interested user and a registered user. Every attempt should be made to make this page appear and be as simple and effortless as possible.

  • According to Jakob Nielsen, a two column layout is less effective than a one column layout. Regardless, there is no reason why the last name field should be the only field in the right column.
  • There is no reason to have a country drop-down if there is only one country.
  • Eliminate the city field and state field, and instead pull those from the zip code.
  • Forcing the user to enter their e-mail twice, while helping to guard against typos, reduces your conversion rate. Furthermore, a great deal of users simply copy and paste what they had just typed. Better to remove the second e-mail address blank.  There is some controversy over this, but the number of people who mistyped their e-mail and do not correct it will be mitigated by the number of people now completing the form who would not have otherwise.
  • User id sounds like it should be a number. Better to label the field “username”, or even better remove it and auto generate a user name (while allowing the user to change it in his preferences).
  • Again, I would recommend the removal of the second password field. Ideally, the password recovery feature should be easy to use for those who mis-type the password initially.
  • Captchas should only be used when absolutely needed. While in such an early-stage, it is better to remove the captcha and either deal with the spam sign-ups or implement either the dummy form elements method, GET request detection, or separate the sign-up process into two steps.
  • Even better to implement a lazy registration process where you allow the user to upload a video and metadata first, and then ask them for e-mail and password as a last step.

Sign-up Confirmation Page

Sign up confirm screenshot

  • There is no confirmation that my registration actually went through.
  • I would be curious to see numbers on whether the social media invite is used on this page or whether some other content would be better.
  • “Next Step” is not prominent enough.
  • There is no option to resend the confirmation e-mail if it was not received.
  • To cut friction, the user could be automatically logged in at this point, and the e-mail confirm could simply be required for the next login.
  • The confirmation e-mail is too wordy, and it leads with red text which says “danger”. There are also several typos. Ideally, this e-mail should contain the activation link in enough text to explain what it is and nothing more.
  • After clicking the activation link, congratulations is unneeded, and the phrase “wishing you the best” is unprofessional.
  • The user should ideally be automatically signed in and redirected to the my account home page, but if not at least the sign-up information should pre-seed.

My Account

my account screenshot

  • There is no link to logout. This link should be located near where the login button was.
  • The search function appears to be duplicated, and the drop-down for search type is unnecessary since it is easy to tell the difference between a product name and ID.
  • In general, there are too many menu items for the amount of things that one can do on this page. Messages should be integrated with the buy and sell list, home is unnecessary. Also, I would be careful about repurposing the main navigation for the my account section, while also having a my account navigation bar at the very top. It appears at first glance, that the new bar at the very top is navigation for the my account section, but in fact it duplicates navigation in the main nav.
  • There are several unnecessary columns, including product ID and view times.
  • The “view top 10 link”, from a user standpoint is useless. Why do I care who the top 10 users are?
  • “Request a Starbucks coffee” should be automatic, without having to request (send the coupon via e-mail)
  • Get rid of the refresh page button, all browsers have a refresh button.
  • Pagination is a little awkward (page count)
  • Upload video functionality is duplicated, but the second button is labeled “post video”.

Upload Page

upload screenshot

  • This page has far too much text, and the red text is jarring. Most of the text refers to troubleshooting steps, which the user should not be bothered with until they’re actually having trouble.
  • The choices on this page should be upload or cancel. “Back to selling list” is awkward phrasing, and there is no reason why the user would need to go to the homepage.
  • Above the video upload area, there is a sentence with buttons explaining that the user can use one of two video converting applications. What is a video converting application? Is it required? How do I know whether I need to use one or not? Best to place this in the troubleshooting section
  • The notice explains that the maximum video duration is 3 min., but a little bit later 3 min. is listed as a recommended length
  • This whole page is really unnecessary, as the video upload area could be fit into a box in the my account area with a small link below labeled “troubleshooting”, or “problems?”. After upload, the my account area would refresh the new video listed in an option to enter metadata.

Video Metadata Page

metadata screenshot

  • Blue is not a good color to use for the confirmation message at the top. It blends in with the background, and the user will skip over it straight to the input fields.
  • Too many fields crammed together, looks daunting. Use some white space to break up the fields.
  • It is unclear what the “call” checkbox does.
  • Again, city and state are not needed.
  • Tags are hard to explain to users, and there is no indication of what format is needed here, whether they should be separated spaces or commas, or whether multiple word tags are accepted. Due to the varied entry by users, this is not likely to be useful for navigation or searching (better to just emphasize a good item description)
  • Other information is deemphasized and would better be called “item description”.