In a nutshell NeonMob is a web community for artists and collectors. Below is my personal user experience (UX) review.
When I was a kid I used to collect cards. To this day I still collect things but when I was in the fifth grade my big thing was Marvel comic cards. You’ve seen the movies: X-men, Spiderman, Ghost Rider, Hulk, Ironman, etc. I vividly remember riding my orange-spackled Huffy bike down the sunny streets of San Diego past apartment buildings and swaying palm trees to buy a pack of these cards at the local shopping center.
Anybody who’s a collector knows collecting is fun, but every collector also knows it’s not so much the collecting that’s fun; it’s the acquiring of the rare pieces that is most thrilling. And hot damn, when I opened a pack of Marvel comic cards and found a silvery, shiny, colorful holographic Gambit or Hulk, I went nuts.
I imagine this story is familiar to many kids. Baseball cards, DC cards, Marvel cards, Magic the Gathering cards–they all had a central concept that made them so fun to collect: the surprise that each pack had to offer. This concept is what NeonMob is replicating online and they’re doing a pretty damn good job. I recently stumbled across the community and was blown away, firstly because the design and user experience is really nice and secondly (and more importantly) because they’re focusing on the concept in my story – They’re tapping into that common childhood experience that many of us share in collecting art.
But, like all websites, applications and ideas, there is always room for improvement and iteration. So, without further adeu, here is my unofficial UX review of NeonMob…
##My First Impressions
I love the personal touches! There are random, pithy messages in the footer. The footer! Who puts personality there? And the instructions, explanations, and overall tone is really fun and welcoming.
The registration/signup process is really cool. You go through the experience of opening your first pack, building excitement, and then NeonMob asks for credentials – An easy sell for me.
- The interface is clean, very colorful, exciting, inviting and really intuitive for the most part. But there are a few hurdles to jump over:
First, it took a while to understand the terms to describe a print’s rarity. What is variant and chase?; Second, I didn’t understand how an artist was able to add their own collection to the community; Lastly, and this one is kind of embarassing because it seems to obvious now, but I thought that the submission section was the gateway to get my own collection approved. In other words, I thought artists’ collections had to be voted in.
It’s not initially clear how rewards and credits work and how they’re deducted when opening a pack. Some packs can be opened with credits, some with rewards. You get free packs every day, but some packs can only be opened through reward points. Makes sense I suppose but seems like an extra feature that isn’t very valuable. I think this could be simplified.
The search is really great. Things are categorized, things and numbered – it’s really inviting.
Trading is really intuitive. They’ve nailed it here.
##My Second Impressions
I’ve been on NeonMob for several days now and I have learned my way around a bit more, collected several pieces of art from various collections and have continued to enjoy the experience. The reward system is fun, opening packs is still the best part of the experience (finding those rare cards). The only thing I’ve noticed that I hadn’t in previous days is that the mobile experience is a lot slower and more buggy than on desktop. I’m on my phone a lot and the site seems to need a few mobile adjustments. For example: trading and opening packs can be a bit sluggish, buggy, or unusable.
##Critical Feedback * The user (aka: Mobster) profile. The section at the very top shows the user’s collected cards which can be visually appealing but it feels disconnected from the content. I’m wanting to see information about the person, not necessarily their collection, not yet anyway. Also, you can pull down the collection space to view a few more cards but I don’t feel like it’s worth it.
I think a better experience would be to be able to scroll that section horizontally, bringing the user’s profile up more, or just removing it altogether. I find myself asking: “who is this person?”, “have they made any collections?”, “what does he/she look like?” and the top section seems to push me away from finding those things out.
“What’s Happening” section in the profile seems unrelated. I suppose the idea here is to playfully tease the user and show what other people are collecting and what they’re doing but I don’t feel like it’s a good place for it.
When viewing a mobster’s profile I think it would be helpful to see if he/she hasn’t created any collections. (i.e. “no collections created yet”). It seems unnecessary but this actually quickly lets me know if the person is a creator or not and where I’d find that information on others’ profiles.
- Trading is really intuitive except for one thing: I found myself offering a trade and then having to check to see the rarity of my offer (mainly on a small screen). I had to jump out of the modal and then back in. Not a huge deal, but it’s worth a mention.
NeonMob is a fun place to collect and trade art. They’ve really done a good job recreating that childhood experience I mentioned earlier. The interface is beautiful, engaging, and fun. The personality, interaction, and animation is close to perfect. I haven’t created my own collection yet but I’ve dabbled in that area and that’s intuitive and fun as well. I once heard the phrase: “heroine content” used to describe sites/apps that had content that kept users coming back again and again, like a drug. It’s a bit of an edgy analogy but NeonMob definitely has this going for them. I find myself checking for new trades, new likes on submissions, etc.
On the flip side there are two areas that I think have a lot of room for improvement:
I think there is a critical piece missing to this community and that is the lack of tangiblity of the art. I don’t feel like I truly own these digital prints. I can’t have a deck sitting on my desk or hanging on my wall. In my opinion the art that I think is the most successful are the ones that feel physical (e.g. Biotop) because it sort of addresses this issue. I think it would be really cool if NeonMob offered a way to print a collection. Maybe a deck could come in various sizes, maybe collectors had the ability to print a couple for free? NeonMob could have branded packaging and artist’s biography to make it even more special to own, to have a story behind the work. I realize that NeonMob is a digital art collecting community but it’s a big sticking point for me.
Lastly, I think the social part of the community could be improved as well. NeonMob feels like it’s close-nit, a place that’s separated from Twitter and Facebook for a small niche group. I think there’s room to amplify this aspect, to bring people together more and encourage more interaction.
Even if NeonMob doesn’t continue to iterate (which I’m sure they will) it’s a fun place to be and the heart (or meat and potatoes if you prefer) is solid.
That’s all I’ve got… Thanks for reading and come join me on NeonMob!