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Patrick McKenzie
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Looking for feedback on education site ...

For the past few years I've been working diligently on growing my first business - an online education site called Test Designer (www.testdesigner.com).  Recently, my two partners and I began advertising with Google AdWords.  The influx of new users has spurred our motivation and we're pushing to add new features and improve usability.  Unfortunately, we don't have a background in UI design and thus continually struggle to deliver a strong visual experience.  For example, some days I love the wealth of information on our front page and other days I find it cluttered, in particular the Browse Questions module.  We've come a long way in three years, but we certainly could use your feedback in helping us make the product better.

I've noticed several people asking for feedback on their site and the replies they have received have been excellent.  I was hoping several of you could take a few minutes to critique Test Designer.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
Michael
Michael Bacarella Send private email
Thursday, December 06, 2007
 
 
First off, I like your logo/favicon and the bright colors you are using on your site.  They are quite friendly and seem like they would work well for your market segment.

However, the key thing about the web:  People browse, they don't read.  You need to capture their attention pretty quickly, or else they're on to another site.

So, I open your home page, and my eye finds nowhere to rest.  There are bright colors everywhere, the text is all about the same size, the top navigation seems to be not about your product/service I need, but about you.  Probably the most distinct button is the "sites for teachers" -- and that click takes them AWAY from your site.  Remove that from the home page and put it into a "resources" tab somewhere else on your site.

If I can find it, your selling proposition is:  "Test Designer is an online tool to share and manage questions, tests and worksheets."

What I think you mean to say (nay, SHOUT) is, "Easily design tests, save them for future school years and share questions with other faculty."  Or "Test Designer is the best way ever to create tests and not have to worry about storing them for next year." (or something along those lines).

Basically, you need to use colors and text size to your advantage -- what is is that you want people to see immediately and what path do you want them to go down.  Maybe something like:

1.  Big text at the top:  Selling proposition/Main Benefit.
2.  Smaller text below:  blah blah blah problem blah blah we're the best solution blah blah
3.  Button:  Take a quick tour!  Check out a 5 minute screencast of test creation, test saving, test printing.
4.  Big button:  Try creating a sample test now! or "See how easy it is to create tests!"  Click. Off to easily create a test in 2 minutes.

I'd recommend going with only 2 columns on the home page -- a body area (where the focus should be) and a sidebar area, where you may want to put handy stuff (login, stuff you want to highlight).  Move your question machinery to the page they click on when they want to try creating a test.

I'd probably take a look at what Patrick has been doing with BingoCardCreator since you are selling the same "thing" (efficiencies for teachers).  I'm referring more to his sales pitch/benefits/call to action, rather than the actual graphic design of his site.

I'd also highly recommend taking a read through this site to get some more ideas about how to design:

http://www.webdesignfromscratch.com/
Ken Kaczmarek Send private email
Thursday, December 06, 2007
 
 
personally, i hate websites that look like they use phpnuke for the back end. i like websites that have the layout like riatest.com is using.  you could have most of the same content on the front page, just have it arranged better so it doesn't hurt your eyes.
Zach M. Send private email
Thursday, December 06, 2007
 
 
+1 for Ken. I don't like 3 column product sites, they are too confusing and as ken said you don't where to look. The animated gif's and ad's for iPod Shuffle & iTunes Gift Cards are a big distraction as well.

The bottom line is if I landed on your site I'd be gone before you knew it. But I'm not your target audience.
Neville Franks Send private email
Thursday, December 06, 2007
 
 
Whenever I see ads for other products on a website (like the ipod ad on yours) I immediately worry about the legitimacy of the website. 

There is way too much going on also. I didn't know what to look at or read.  You need some big pretty pictures.
ScottK
Thursday, December 06, 2007
 
 
SitesForTeachers and several similar sites are epidemic in our niche for some reason.  I think the main reason is that folks do not trust their own ability to market.  They're essentially rigged against you, particularly if you're not one of the sites sending them the most amount of traffic.  I'd suggest not wasting a pixel of screen real estate on them, to say nothing of sending away users or linkjuice.

If you want to get teachers to visit your site, start writing about stuff they care about.  They'll show up.  Trust me.  (You can accelerate "they'll show up" in a few ways.)
Patrick McKenzie (Bingo Card Creator) Send private email
Thursday, December 06, 2007
 
 
Thank you all for your feedback.  It was difficult to read that our hard work is less than stellar, but your comments are honest.  Thank you for your feedback.

Layout - I believe it is possible to move to a two column layout by shuffling some modules around.  The login module can be moved to to a separate page with a sign-in link upper right (something like Netflix).  The content in the remaining modules (Test Designer Pro) can be highlighted in the center column on our homepage. The Browse Question module will show top-level subjects so that the My Content module (when signed in) can fit above it.

Advertising - I'll be removing both iPod ads.  Frankly, they generate no revenue anyway and if they hurt the legitimacy of our site, then removing them seems like the correct thing to do.  We'll likely keep the education ads in the header.  Our inbound and outbound traffic is fairly balanced on the sites for teachers page.  We'll likely keep this button, though it does stand out a bit too much perhaps.

Clutter - There is a lot of clutter on the homepage and I want to implement Ken's suggestions of highlighting some of the features we offer on our homepage using variable text sizes and color.

Our motto has always been "Write and share questions. Create tests and worksheets" and somehow the message on the homepage doesn't reflect that.  The copy will take some time to work on, but I'll be back with something more impressing, hopefully.

Once again, thank you all for your feedback.

Sincerely,
Michael
Michael Bacarella Send private email
Friday, December 07, 2007
 
 

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