As of May 2, 2010, my thesis “beta” site has eight members now. It was five last week. I am happy that the number has increased even by a bit.
Archive for Thesis
I have set a launch date for the beta version of my thesis project: Monday, April 12, 2010. Yes, that is in two days. I decided that I wanted to have some time for user testing so I can incorporate the user feedback as part of my thesis presentation.
Since last week, I have been spending most of my time adjusting the layout for each page, translating documents from English to Japanese, and adding teaser contents including nail art photos, YouTube videos, and several blog posts about the nail art trends.
My initial visual goal is to establish a site that feels friendly, open, and girly-dreamy (considering 96% of my target audience is females). I presented my half-baked thesis website during my thesis class on Wednesday, and received good feedback I needed to re-adjust the look and feel of the site.
Here is a list of comments received in response to my site’s landing page (see above screen shot):
- Black menu bar is a little bold.
- A lot of text – overwhelming
- Maybe include illustrations of people or faces
- Maybe you need a mascot for your salon? That would be very girly and Japanese.
- The site looks like selling products. Show an image of hands.
- Splash page?
- Simplify the landing page.
- If you simplified the top banner, it might be better.
Redesigning the look
I was especially concerned about a heavy top navigation and text-oriented contents. I also thought it was interesting that one person suggested the site “looks like selling products”, because I used illustrations of nail products (nail polishes and a gel bottle) at the top banner. In response, I decided to use other materials – hands – to replace the old illustrations. I also adjusted the spacing between each section within a page to give more breathing space for users. I changed the background color of top navigation bar from solid black to light pink that matches with the top banner. I reduced the amount of text across the site for easier skimming.
Right now, I am heavily concentrated on debugging. I need to make sure that every step, from signing in and filing up profiles to posting photos and logging out, works smoothly. Tomorrow I will do the browser testing, which is always the trickiest part.
On Monday, I will announce the availability of Nailist Salon via Twitter and Mixi. After the launch, I will be monitoring the site traffic, users behavior, and will ask for their feedback (if I managed to get any users!). To analyze the usability of my site, I am planning to video record how users navigate through my site with a help of my Japanese friend. I will only have two weeks for user testing before summarizing my experience with the site for the final thesis presentation in May, but I hope to get out something tangible as I move forward!
I had to create a favicon for my thesis website, and found this handy “favicon generator”. http://www.favicon.cc
I’ve identified a critical fact today about the ownership of user data. Ning has the 100% ownership of all the data I generate through my social networking site. This is a huge problem, because I cannot have any control over what my users do and post on my site. What if I want to change something (i.e. delete some photos from galleries if they seem inappropriate) or add some features (i.e. create add-ons based on the content type or tags)?
That led me towards JomSocial, which is one of Joomla components I was initially planning to implement. It costs $99 a year, but it’s supposed to really good, according to opinions I got from Joomla user forum. Many users suggested “it’s worth every penny”. The most importantly, I have 100% ownership of all data. That’s a huge difference between JomSocial and Ning. It seems that I can get a full refund within 30 days of purchase, so I will give it a try and see how it goes! I will be developing my Ning site simultaneously though, in case my JomSocial screws up.
It is an exhausting process to grow a potential user base on Twitter for my thesis project. Especially when you’re talking about people live who are on the other side of the planet. After crashing in my bed and waking up early in the morning, like 4am, I went back to my Twitter account to connect with more nail art enthusiasts in Japan. So far, “42 following, 22 followers” in five days. Not so bad. I had to unfollow some of users, who seemed to be tweeting some offensive and sexual messages. At some point, I plan on asking my Twitter followers about possible features they would like to see in my community site.
On March 22, I created a twitter account @nailistsalon specifically for my thesis project to identify other Japanese nail art enthusiasts who are tech savvy or at least comfortable using Twitter. I think the initial adopters of my service/community site will be people who are already using some type of social networking tools, such as Twitter and Mixi. I already have some friends on Mixi who do nail art, so I wanted to create a user base on Twitter as well.
The number of my followers has been growing steady since then. After four days, I’m following 35 users, and have 13 followers. Some users started communicating with me, replying to my tweets about nail art or other random talks. For example, I tweeted about curry soup I cooked last night, and one user replied, saying “手作りカレーは最高ですね♪数日の保存食⁈（笑）にもなりますしd(^_^o)”. A good sign. Whenever I talk about nail art, there is at least one response.
It’s quite a challenge to establish virtual relationships with people I’ve never physically met before. When I start following them, I usually send polite “hello, I’m following you because I think we have common interests in nail art” tweets. I don’t want to be rude and intimidating, you know.
So far I am getting a good vibe though. Some users may be interested in my project when I make an official announcement about beta testing in coming weeks. Until that X-day, I will keep up with my tweets and build a good relationship with my potential users.