Thoughts.com: Plain As Vanilla or Something More?

On my initial visit to http://www.thoughts.com/, the first thing that stuck out for me was the “floating” search button. This appears to be an issue only with people using Firefox on the Mac, as I investigated it with Safari on the Mac and on IE and Firefox on Windows and it seems to be fine. While this isn’t a major issue and hardly impedes anyone from conducting searches, it does stand out like a sore thumb.

As I continue to explore Thoughts.com, the site design is relatively simple; which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does make for a plain browsing experience. I like how it starts out with the cool, but simple mast head with the logo and the search box is emphasized very nicely with shadowing and a different color background. The site is separated into 6 major parts: Recent Blog Posts, News, Member Log In, Featured Photos, Videos, and Popular Blog Tags. It has a similar conceptual layout to Technorati and MySpace. I also like how the six major parts are separated by boxes that utilize a simple gradient effect to offset what would otherwise look bland with text inside a box. There are few issues that I have with the design. Generally having a lot of white space makes web sites feel uncluttered, but there is also such a thing as too much white space. For example, putting the “Disable Language Filter” looks a bit awkward in its placement an contributes to an uneven amount of white space between the mast head and content versus the content and the footer. There is too much wasted white space in Recent Blog Posts, News, and Member Log In boxes. The content in each of the boxes fill up less than 2/3 of the available space but the bottom content boxes (Featured Photos, Videos, and Popular Blog Tags) either fill up 100% or 95% of the available space making it look more complete. I assume the designer wanted the content boxes to all have the same width and height, which is fine, but then more content for the top content boxes should be added so it doesn’t look too bottom heavy or perhaps consider switching to variable height boxes. I like the use of tabs for the News content box and the auto scrolling of the topics, but perhaps Thoughts.com would consider moving to Dom Tabs or Smooth Gallery or even a combination of the two. The use of pure javascript to do the scrolling tabs is neat at first, but when a visitor clicks to change tabs, there is quite a delay and the visitor is sent to another page, which seems unnecessary unless they wanted to read the entire news article.

While Thoughts.com isn’t a new concept, MySpace, Facebook, and even Youtube all do everything to a certain degree and in some cases better, don’t discount Thoughts.com too quickly. MySpace takes an excruciating amount of time to load and when the page does load, because of all the heavy use of javascripts and codes, it sometimes causes the browser to crash. Thoughts.com’s simpler approach is refreshing and is actually preferred versus blinking ads and huge background images. Thoughts.com has many of the same features that one would expect from a social network such blogging, photo gallery, and videos, it offers one up on the Big 3 with Podcasts.

Signing up is easy, a 3 step process and your off to blogging, uploading pics, uploading videos, etc.

Posting entries to your Blog is quite simple and straight to the point. There is a FCKEditor to easily bold, italic, underline text. You can do text alignment and even change the font and include uploaded videos. You can also put your posts under specific categories and the best part is that you can specify what permissions are set for each blog post such as everyone, Friends & Me, and Only Me, a feature that can be quite useful. Tagging is also supported and to prevent spam posts, there is captacha. There is also a forum community for fellow thoughts members that is fairly active and it’s not spam either. The site works relatively fast. I did receive two spam messages in the two days I’ve been signed up. One making no sense at all and the other telling of a sad sobbing story and $19 million that she needs help transferring out and if I would be so kind as to act as an intermediary, I would be entitled to a cut…

I like the concept and the simplicity. I do think the design needs to be improved upon. Instead of using so many straight edge boxes, perhaps add rounded corners. Also the site is using table layout heavy. The titles from each of the 6 info boxes aren’t even wrapped as headers. You also can’t change the theme, but you can change the background color. I’m not 100% sure yet if this is a good thing or bad, because while it makes load times faster, it doesn’t offer users much of way to stand out from the crowd. Another thing that might interest users and visitors is that Thoughts.com doesn’t run any ads on the site, which is refreshing for a change. It reminds me of back in the days of AsianAvenue.com and Friendster before ads became the next big thing. Check it out.

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