The Mythical User

Taking the mystery out of User-Centered Design

Review: Facebook App – GroupCard

on 1 October, 2009

About the app:

GroupCard (www.groupcard.com) is a Facebook app that allows you to create an e-card, sign it, and then send it around to all your friends so that they can sign before the scheduled delivery date.

What you can learn from this review:

What to do for fun, flexible personalization interfaces.
What not to do for signup workflow.
What not to do for post-task workflow.
What not to do for primary page information architecture.

The workflow:

After the typical (clunky) Facebook app installation flow, you are presented with a list of card designs.  There is a dire warning at the top in bright yellow that tells you they don’t have your email address, and to fix the problem.  I suspect that this would worry some, and it would distract them from the main task flow.

If the user does get distracted and clicks that link, there’s an intimidating popup that asks you to authorize GroupCards to email you.  It says that you can receive GroupCards in Facebook, but not via email.  If you cancel out, it actually shows you a JavaScript alert that says you CANNOT receive GroupCards.  Not very friendly at all!  You have to acknowledge this to close the alert.

Once you refocus your attention on the card designs, there are a lot of great designs.  They’re laid out in a grid that feels a little overwhelming, but also makes it very clear there are plenty of options.  You can use an easy-to-find dropdown at the top to choose occasion, to narrow down your selection.

Text instructs you to “click a cover to view it”, but when you do so, you actually can only see half the cover.  The other half is obscured and there’s nothing to click to see it.  The left side of the page, which could be used to show the card, is dominated by what I call the “give us money screen” – you choose your option of free, basic, premium or ridiculously overpriced.

There’s an interesting contrast between a Free Card, which expires 7 days after creation, and a Freebie GroupCard, which expires 10 days after creation.  Having gone through both flows, I can’t tell what the difference is, and nothing on the page indicates this.

After you choose your pricing option, you’re asked to enter the card information – who to send it to, when to send it, and whether or not to share it.  This was pretty easy and user-friendly, though I very much wanted to pick and choose the peopel to send the card to for signing, rather than just email-blasting all of my friend’s friends.

The button for this step is called “Sign the Card”, which leaves me with a brief question of “Is this me signing the card, or am I about to be taken to the sign the card step?”  However, clicking it plays a neat animation that slides the card cover left, and shows you the inside of the card.  There’s a great splat graphic which follows your mouse around, and wherever you click, it inserts your picture and a blank message.

This is GroupCards’ a-ha moment.  This is the piece of interface that makes their entire app worthwhile.  This is the one piece of their entire interface that they got right.  However, it was buried behind “give us money” and “fill out forms” and a lot of other steps that were way less exciting.

You see a help bubble right above the blank message that tells you you can drag your text around.  Indeed, you can type to edit the text, you can drag it anywhere you like, you can change the font, change the color and even rotate it left or right.  Fantastic!  Discovery of features was great, and although it’s slightly buggy, it was honestly fun to use.

After this step, you are nagged about your email.  I dismissed the nag, and was immediately presented with my entire list of facebook friends, and urged to share the card with them.  I would have liked to have this pick-and-choose functionality earlier, and now that I’ve shared the card I’m kind of done with it.  I’m unlikely to share it with people who don’t know my recipient.  I skipped the step.

Then you are presented with a “share this card on your profile”.  You’ve been through so many screens at this point, that you’re starting to feel fatigued, and I had no interest in sharing the card on my profile.  It would just ruin the surprise for my recipient.  I closed that window and was immediately presented with another.

This one is GroupCards’ shame-on-you moment.  It showed me a card for Daniel X.  It looked like it was a design that someone had chosen.  It said at the top “sign Daniel X’s GroupCard”.  Everything about the screen made it look like my friends already used GroupCards and that someone had already created this GroupCard for Daniel.  I signed it.

The next screen presented me with another one, for Stephanie Y.  I signed it.

The next screen presented me with someone I don’t know, who just friended me randomly.  I bailed out of the endless screens, by closing the window.

Curious to explore their interface further, I clicked the My Cards tab at the top of the page.  You are shown a list of upcoming GroupCards, but no information about who created them.  Clicking on a card shows you the full-size cover of the card (for the first time!) and information about who created it.  the information and action links are all combined in one clump of data on the left hand side, dominated by two buttons of equal prominence that urge you to sign again and print the card.  Sign again allows you to edit your signature, but Print This Card is an upsell.  Overall, this page shows no cohesive information architecture thought.

This is the first point where a user can  learn that they were tricked into creating cards for their friends.  I had a moment of panic, worried that my friends would get spammed by something I was just exploring.  I wasn’t able to find any way to cancel a card, so I emailed them feedback.  At the end of feedback, you are presented with a link to help.  Clicking this shows an FAQ, and in the FAQ I was able to uncover the steps for cancelling a card.

To cancel a card, you have to go into Edit This Card’s Information, a link buried in the paragraph of links under the dominant buttons on the left hand side of the page.  Then you have to scroll down and click what looks like an input field, which then gives you a confirmation screen – are you sure you want to cancel?  You click the very easy to find Cancel button on this screen, and it refreshes to show you a message that your card has been cancelled.

There is a “undo this cancellation” link that is buried in a long sentence of text – it looks like that’s what you’re supposed to do next.  It even uses the text “clicking here” to hide what it will do.  In reality what you want to do next is Close the window.  Then the page refreshes, with a light text message very low on the page that says Card Cancelled.  It has no icon to draw the eye, and no background color or border, and it’s the exact same as all the other text on the page, so I suspect some users will be worried their card wasn’t actually cancelled.

Summary and recommendations:

GroupCard buries its a-ha moment behind a long workflow, and then follows it up with a long workflow.  This is probably fantastic for viral spread in theory, but can’t do much for user retention.   The bait-and-switch of the followup is unacceptable from a privacy standpoint, and will lose them a lot of users after the fact.

  • GroupCard should switch their flow – ask for less info upfront and get users to the a-ha moment sooner.
  • Ask users to choose a pricing option after the card is created and sent out, not before.
  • DON’T ever trick users into creating cards.  Sure, present them with the option.  The way it’s done is clever, simple and works fantastically with the flow.  But make it clear that the user is creating a card for someone, not signing an already-created card.
  • The My Cards page is fine, but the Card Details page seriously needs some information architecture work.  This is a page where a lot of info and actions are presented, but there’s no hierarchy, no guidance and a common action like Cancel is buried behind a link that doesn’t give any scent of cancellation.
  • Speaking of guidance, there should be far more topical help, on just about every page.
  • Add a progress bar to the creation process, so users aren’t constantly wondering what will happen next.
  • Allow users to preview the entire card before sending.  Few people are willing to send a card they haven’t seen yet.
  • Skip the viral step of  “share on your profile”.  Instead, make this a checkbox somewhere, or let them do it when they’re viewing the card after it has been sent.  It’s unlikely to be something many people do.
My review of GroupCard does not in any way reflect my opinion about whether or not you should use this app/website.  I was not paid by this company, nor am I affiliated with them in any way.  Please learn from the mistakes and successes of this app/website and use these learnings to make your own apps/websites more usable.
If you would like me to review your app/website, feel free to email me at krys at swankster dot com.  Reviews are at my discretion and are not subject to editing or moderation.
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4 responses to “Review: Facebook App – GroupCard

  1. Bob says:

    Dear Krys

    I’m one of the founders of GroupCard and wanted to thank you for the really thoughtful and insightful review. I agree with just about everything you wrote.

    We’ve recently made some big changes to our standalone website (www.groupcard.com), that focus on simplifying the experience of creating and signing cards. Our facebook application is frankly lagging a little behind in that area. But we are working on streamlining the application, and we will certainly keep your feedback in mind. If you have the time to try it out, I would love to read your impressions about creating a card on http://www.GroupCard.com.

    Thanks!

    Bob Ralian
    GroupCard CTO

    • gabi says:

      Hello,

      I have a question in regards to your services.
      Is there any way to store/archive multiple signatures on groupcard.com? Our office frequently sends out Thank You cards, and it would be a convenient way to apply multiple signatures at once to each Thank you/Brithday card.
      Thank you for your reply and advice,

      Sincerely,
      Gabriela Callender

      • Krys says:

        Hi Gabriela,

        I am not associated with groupcard.com at all, but I know someone monitors buzz about them, so hopefully they will respond to you. If they don’t get ahold of you, I’d recommend looking for a feedback link somewhere on groupcard.com.

        Best of luck!

  2. Krys says:

    Bob,
    Glad to hear your organization is making a push for usability! It’s crucial for conversion and retention.
    I’ll check out your website sometime soon. And I look forward to seeing your facebook app mature!
    -Krys

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