THINKGEEK



Organization:

Thinkgeek is unique in that it's surrounded by menus on all four sides of the homepage. The top bar is more basic and random- users can shop by category, shop for gifts, or look at the newest items. It also lists a mysterious link, “OMGWTFUN,” a shortcut to “Geek Points,” and a link to Customer Service.

The left panel is organized into related categories of items. “Toys” and “Gadgets” are separate categories, and “Home and Office”, “Computer Stuff” and “Electronics” are as well. I found this a little confusing. If I wanted a toy helicopter, would I find it in Toys, Gadgets, or Electronics? Would I find a mouse pad in Home and Office, or Computer Stuff? When each category is clicked, a dropdown menu appears with more specific choices. They are occasionally things I didn't except to find, like “Essential Gear” under Home and Office (What does that even mean?) The search bar is surprisingly low on the page, beneath all the categories.

The right bar is dedicated to “New Stuff, with the names and pictures of new items. Unfortunately, the images are too small to catch much attention. All three tables are styled, colored, and shaped differently, giving the site a very chaotic feel.

The final table is located at the very bottom of the page, and requires a lot of scrolling to reach. It contains row after row of organized categories, including some that I wish had been at the top of the page (Gifts under $10, About Us, etc).

Overall, I suspect any future attempt to reorganize the items on this site by type will be flawed. How are they ever going to put lightsabers and robotic potted plants into categories?


Labeling:

ThinkGeek uses a unique labeling system based on their audience-- everything is written in what I can only describe as nerdspeak. The righthand table is titled “NEW STUFF FTW,” the items in my shopping cart are described as “loot,” and the recommended items section proclaims, “Enjoy this stuff, you will!” Audiences who want the site's products will understand all of these references. Non-nerds might not. Even with my dork background, I was not sure what OMGWTFUN was about. Little boxes pop up when I run my mouse over the categories, which is helpful. The box for OMGWTFUN reads, “stuff to waste time on.” Much easier to understand. Unfortunately, only the top table comes with bars, so newcomers will have to decipher the rest of the language on their own. This adds another layer to the inconsistent labeling syntax found throughout the site.



Navigation:

The navigation on the home page is overwhelming. Too many tables, too many small pictures, too many “featured items.” It takes a while to find the search bar, but users who click on Shop For Gifts will be rewarded by a very easy-to-manage menu and an advanced search bar that filters all the items on the site by price range, interest, and item type. The further into the site I go, the more manageable everything becomes. I'm beginning to believe that ThinkGeek's only major flaw is its overzealous homepage. Even the marketing aspects of their page are easy to navigate, once I've scrolled for ten minutes to find them.






The five functions:

Identifying the site, establishing the brand: ThinkGeek does this well. Their header is noticeable, their tagline “stuff for smart masses” is succinct, amusing, and accurate, and there’s no way to miss the fact that this site sells items.

Setting the tone and personality of the site: Again, ThinkGeek is successful. The tagline is laid back, there are nerd jokes everywhere, and the background image features cute robots.

Helping people get a sense of what the site is all about: ThinkGeek is moderately successful at this. The “store” aspect of the site is clear, but the social networking and fanbase aspects are not. There is so much information on the home page, however, that even shoppers can feel overwhelmed.

Letting people start key tasks immediately: If those key people are shoppers, then yes. Otherwise, no.

Sending each person on the right way, effectively and efficiently: ThinkGeek has far too many tables of contents to accomplish this. (See the eight points for elaboration)

The eight points:

Most site visitors are on a hunt –a mission- and the pathway page is just to get them there: Here is ThinkGeek’s greatest failure. They put everything on their home page, extending past the point where no one will bother to scroll.

People don’t want to read a lot while hunting: Too much info on the home page. Can’t say it enough.

A pathway page is like a table of contents: ThinkGeek is on the right track here, but they’ve taken it too far. They have at least four tables of contents, and more information besides.

Sometimes, short descriptions help people: The top third of the home page is great at this. Everything is short, sweet, and to the point. Even the mouseover text is short. However, when I scroll to the bottom 2/3 of the page (the useless parts), the descriptions become longer, and I can’t imagine anyone reads the block quotes in ThinkGeek’s Twitter and blog sections.

Marketing is likely to be ignored on a pathway page: ThinkGeek is bad about this. They market their new products on the home page, even though many of their customers will be looking for something more specific to their interests.

The smoothness of the path is more important than the number of clicks (within reason):
I noticed a problem here! When I clicked through the site hoping to find a gift for my brother, I wandered into “gifts by interest,” only to find that I couldn’t go back to the gift finder without clicking the back button. Even stranger, the sidebars change as I go deeper into the site! http://www.thinkgeek.com/interests/giftsunder20/ It was confusing.

Many people choose the first option that looks plausible: ThinkGeek is OK at this. The top and lefthand tables are among the first things I see when I look at the page, and they reflect the mostly likely goals of site visitors. However, the site is so full of useless links (like advertisements) that I can’t award ThinkGeek full points for their plausible links.

Many site visitors are landing inside your site: In order to test this one, I Googled ThinkGeek and a general description of a toy. Google provided me with a following link, nestled deep within ThinkGeek’s site: http://www.thinkgeek.com/interests/moms/ba8e/ This page was just as understandable, if not more understandable, than Thinkgeek’s home page. The template remains largely the same, and the title, tagline, and table of contents are all accessible.