Sep 21 2009
Word of mouth. For all the money that’s spent on ad campaigns, guerrilla marketing, or the ever elusive viral marketing, word of mouth is king of all marketing tools. Most people use products or services based upon the recommendation of others.
Those in most need of marketing are start-ups, entrepreneurs, and inventors. These are people who came up with a great idea, built the product, and now need an avenue to tell the world about their creation. Yak About It is a new website that specializes in just that- providing the venue for inventors to present and promote their inspiration, to the world. YAI, (pronouced, “Yaaaaiiiiy!” with a Japanese like hysterics tone), also serves to connect inventors with retailers. Most retailers, according to YAI’s site, are reluctant to take on new products, and thus inventors find it hard to find locations to store and in turn ship their products. YAI caters to any retailer interested in placing new products in their warehouse and makes the introduction for the inventors.
The basics of YAI include two product promotions a day. They have a daily Yak competition, or a Yak Off, as I like to call it. Whichever one sells the most wins the competition. The previous day’s winner is given coveted front page exposure listed as the Most Yakable. Those that rise the ranks and sell the most in a month are given the prized Monthly Featured position.
Each product is paired with another, and except for the Most Yakable and Monthly Featured slots, they’re inseparable. These are codependent Yaks. The yakking itself comes in the form of extensive product descriptions, history, and bios of the inventors. Beneath this people can click the Yak Now button, which is a fancy term for commenting. My favorite bio so far was the ex telcom worker who invented the Mow Buddy. I guess that’s a step up from a former coworker of mine who backpacked aimlessly across the United States. Going from telcom to Mow Buddies seems like a step down, somehow. It’s kind of a useful product though, if you’re in a riding mower for a long time. My personal experience with that particular line of work is that grass, dirt and grim gets on everything. Tough to have a drink around, even if it has a lid. The entire bottle will be coated in residue. My favorite product history incidentally was from the Monthly Featured, the Fit & Fold. It begins with, “The idea of Fit & Fold came to me (Cooper Hipp) late one night after I had come home rather intoxicated.” That’s great Cooper. I hope you weren’t driving.
To be sure, YAI is a downright good looking and welcoming site. The products pop off the page and user experience is for the most part, slick. In particular, when you elect to purchase an item it whisks you away Web 2.0 style with dynamic drop down boxes, good navigation, and a live sales rep that actually shows up at your door. (Sales rep not included…) It’s a fun place to navigate around and explore new products. Like all start-ups, lurking in the shadows are a few eccentricities that may need a bit more massaging. Imagine you arrive at an upscale boutique garage sale. Upon arriving you’re prompted to fill out a guest registrar. In order to be admitted you’re required to provide an exorbitant amount of information, and you’re awarded an electronic name tag, presumably with all your info on it. Then throughout the entire night you use it to check in at various stations, and they keep asking you for the same information, or ask you to confirm the information you already told them. Finally, you find a fancy Don’t Fit & Don’t Fold hamper helpful for bedsheets that have shrunk so much they don’t fit on your bed. Upon purchasing, you notice that you didn’t even need to register in order to make the purchase. Befuddled you confirm your information one last time, and move on slightly miffed.
YAI handles registration and user information in much the same way. The registration page requires entering one’s full street address, which is enough to prevent many users from choosing to register. Once you get over putting your personal information in, or come up with fake info, you’re awarded a login address. What does this address give you? If you’d like to sign up for the news letter, you get to enter your name and email address again. If you decide to use one of the many many contact forms (more on those in a second) then all your information will be auto populated, but editable, as if something’s amiss with it. Finally, if you happened to not register at all and choose to purchase a product, there’s no requirement to register in order to do so. Just fill out your billing, shipping and credit card info and some alcohol inspired stroke of genius, is yours.
Here’s how I’d like registration to be handled. First, each of these registration and contact pages ever so slightly draws a distinction between required and optional fields. By ever so slightly I mean they use off white, and slightly more yellow off white. When you glance at one, the others seem yellow, and then back to the first it goes to whiter again. It’s kind of like these optical illusions. There needs to be a clearer visual distinction between required fields and optional. Once the difference between optional and required fields is established, we need to improve upon how much info is actually required. In my opinion the only requirements should be email address, password, and name. Anything else will scare users away. The address can be added when it’s needed. Incidentally, one of the coolest parts of YAI is that you don’t have to register at all in order to purchase a product. This is my favorite design feature by YAI and I encourage anyone to follow suit.
There are a couple other observations regarding login and registration. I’m a big fan of sites that auto log you in directly after registration. Especially in this case since there’s no email confirmation link. I’m always a proponent of sites that use email addresses, as opposed to user names, for registration. YAI does this well. The next step is to allow people to log in with their Facebook account, and Yak about their favorite products there. That could be the explosion YAI and its inventors are waiting for.
Once the user is logged in, if they click on the email club link it currently asked them for their name and email address. But YAI already knows their name and email address. It should show one big button saying, sign up. If they are already signed up then there should be text saying, “Congratulations, you’re in the email club”, and a button giving them the option to opt out. A different way to handle this is during registration, giving them a check box by which they can join the email club. It can be checked by default. Then under account settings give them the option to opt out. YAI will have more users in their email club if it’s an option during registration. Using both methods would be fine as well.
When a user chooses to leave a comment, or Yak Now, it too shows another form with their name and email address filled in. If the user is logged in, why give them the option to comment as someone else? Just assume that the logged in user is commenting and prompt them for their thoughts.
The other place where user information could be handled better is in any of the forms on the site. There are many contact forms, and then the purchase form. These currently display information from the user account as editable text within the form. This is usually the address information. It should be plain text with an edit link next to it, in the event they’d like to update it. If the person has not filled out their address yet then it should be required. It’s unsettling to redisplay address information as editable if the user already entered it.
Let’s say you’d like to Contact YAI for any reason. There currently are the following options to do so:
- The Contact form.
- The physical mailing address on the Contact Us page.
- The retailers form to express interest in being a retailer.
- The connect email address on the retailers page to express interest in connecting with inventors.
- The Media relations form.
- The interview email address on the Media relations page.
- The Privacy email address on the Policies page.
- The Resource email address on the Resource page.
- The Submit your product form.
- The Submit email address on the Submit your product page.
- Noname email address on the Gift Cards and Swag page.
- Smoke Signal.
- Tell their Mom.
The exorbitant variety of ways to contact YAI could be condensed to two paths: a contact form and a physical mailing address. The contact form would have two more fields. First a drop down list of the major categories of communication. Second a field to accept an attachment. This will circumvent having to list email addresses on the website, which in turn will prevent bots from picking them up. Also, listing email addresses generally makes you look like a person, rather than a business. Some of the options within the drop down require different information, so whichever one is selected will display the required fields. Then, instead of having all these forms and email addresses all over the place, each page will have a link back to the contact page, indicating it’s the best way to contact YAI. The last three communication options can be omitted. Telepathy is only required for dating relationships, smoke signals are exclusively patented by former employers of mine, and nepotism is endemic and implied.
Slapback: Overall I love candid feedback and I think you made some good points.. of which I have already fwd to the programming team for discussion. Other points though I felt you were not being fair or logical. My beef comes with discussing all the forms. .. if you are a retailer you won’t be completing the ‘media’ form or the ‘inventor’ form… Each form is specialized and thus far has attracted the exact group it was meant to attract. If one person was meant to use all the forms then you are absolutely correct.. it would be odd. You almost have to do 4 different reviews. Depending who you are changes how you view and come to the site. If you are an inventor you only see the site’s inventor form because that is what you are cued up for, for example.
Also I have found that in today’s society where emails ‘magically do not get through’ that have a specific area for you makes you feel that you will be heard. A generic form or a drop down doesn’t have the same effect. Lastly most people from a human nature standpoint would not be upset by seeing forms.
Slapstart Response: My experience is that the more email addresses and forms I see the less likely any of them will be responded to. Hence I was pushing away from that. Unless they all forward to the same inbox, no one has time to check multiple email addresses a day. One form is much preferred in my opinion. I think we agree to disagree on this. The good news is that the current form and email address system is perfectly functional and not a major issue. It is just kind of funny, to which I did take some liberties with.
Regarding the product pages. It’s a little unnerving to me that there isn’t a unique product page for any of the products. There are only unique product widgets, which come in pairs depending on which they were Yak’d off with. People often like to share, or email links to products. I’ve linked a few in this article which also include the irrelevant item that was paired with it. It looks unprofessional. Having unique product pages which people could link to would be great. Along with that, these product widgets lend themselves to various sharing options, including being emailed, (once the product page is created), and even more so being embeded. They’d snap into websites very well. These widgets, and the entire site design for that matter, are extremely good looking and one of my favorite parts of the site. They would make excellent advertisements both for the products as well as the site itself. Setting up an associates program would be a great step as well. If I embed your product on my website, then I get a percentage of the profits that come from the sale. These are fairly ambitious features, but as the site grows it’s a direction YAI could take.
SlapBack: To change logic would be to add cost, (in regards to the product page).
There are a few anomalies with the product widgets. One is if you click on any of the links within it you can’t get the original display pic back. There should be a home button or function that will set it back to the original. This will appease the OCD users who come to the site, check out a product, and want to set the display back to its original state. The next observation is when putting a product in the shopping cart for purchase the options were a little weird. If there are multiple options, such as color and size, it prompts you for the first one, then once selected, shows the second option available. For all the ranting I did about forms, this is a place I’d like to see all the options right there. As it is now, it’s a non intuitive interface. I wasn’t expecting a series of questions one after the next.
SlapBack: The main picture does come back. It is set on a timer and returns… on this I have actually been requested to make the timer longer.
Here’s a bullet point list of other improvements or observations:
- Fork Fed section starts with, “This is a blog.” This could be replaced with , “Here you’ll find useful discussions…” Anything but, “This is a blog”, lest the masses turn and run.
- Resources page is thoughtful and helpful. It is kind of goofy that all the links end up under the Fork Fed path though.
- When purchasing an item, the update quantity should be done away with. If someone changes the quantity then the pricing info should update automatically.
- FAQ section should have the standard list of questions at the top which hyperlink to the answer below.
- Search functionality is pretty rudimentary. When looking for my Mow Buddy product I search with “Mow.” I had to use the full “Mow Buddy” to find it.
- There are different search boxes, one for the Fork Fed section, and one for the Yak Nation Button. Confusing them is easy to do. Having an Amazon like drop down box along with the search field would prevent this. Or having one search box that searches everything, and has two pages of results. One with the product results, the second with the Fork Fed results. These would be on the same physical page and could be accessed by tabs at the top of the search results.
- Yak Nation is a great name, but not overly clear that it’s a display of the Yakoffs, by date.
- Gift Cards and Swag are paired together as Yakoff products as well. Putting all the widgets on a single page would be more logical.
- When ordering, once you’ve selected the options and click on the next page, you can’t change them without removing the item and starting again.
All in all, Yak About It accomplishes what it set out to do. They connect inventors with retailers, and they give the invented products increased visibility. It’s a curious place to explore odds and ins that some drunk guy or ex white collar worker, dreamt up. Although there’s the risk that some of its products will to end up in upscale (or otherwise) garage sales, it’s always fun to check out people’s dreams and see if their inspirations will take flight. YAI gives them the opportunity and is a great place to look for new and unique products.
SlapBack: My advice is you make some VERY good points. However in the humor and attempt to make something worse or a bigger deal than it is they get lost. I could really see your business model being a professional site reviewer but I think you need to stick with what’s really a problem or an area to fix. You also have to flow with what is logical or human nature.
SlapStart Response: I’ll definitely consider this. When I see multiple email addresses and forms I freak out. But perhaps the masses feel otherwise and more comfortable since there’s an email address waiting just for them. It received undue attention in part since, yes, I did glop the user experiences together. I appreciate the feedback and will do some more research on the one form verses multiple forms issue. Also, I’m continually weighing humor vs feedback levels. Thanks!