A sort-of-product review of RoboTerra
I came across this education technology company called RoboTerra recently, through a school connection, and have been able to chat with a few people on the team. I wanted to do a quick review of its website and my first impressions of its business. It seems an amazing company (I shall highlight why in a bit!) and I hope my itty-bitty-review scrimmage improves it even more. Let’s get started.
The Great Stuff
1. I adore the mission!
With the Origin Kit and the CastleRock platform, young people from all over the world can learn how to program a robot and take their coding skills to the next level through design and gamification. I come from a science high school, but even then, always thought that that kind of thing was out of my reach. If young people were exposed to the possibilities they could do at an earlier age, oh boy, what an even more innovative place our world can be!
2. Simple, sleek, and easy-to-read designs, also reflected in the interface and creation of the actual products.
The boxes and packaging are designed really well: simply and accessibly, so that kids are attracted to it, but are not overwhelmed with information that puts them off. The website is very simply made (understandable given it is a child of SquareSpace) and will be easy for any young person to use.
3. More than just a tech startup that creates robots.
It’s a social enterprise that teaches kids how to code so they may relay their learnings for the betterment of society. It’s a movement that empowers and educates the youth. It’s an incubator of the next generation of innovators. I can give a laundry list of ways RoboTerra packs more punch than just a startup that manufacturs— because it’s that much more!
4. An Asian woman leader!
Need I say more??? I really admire the CEO Yao Zhang, whose advocacy has led her to become a Young Global Leader in the World Economic Forum, and recognized as a great entrepreneur. Not only is she non-White (Asian!!!), but a woman, too! It’s people like her, with the heart and the mission and the drive and the success, fighting hard against systematic constructs, that I hope to emulate one day.
(Additionally, they support #LeanIn efforts for female empowerment and leadership. You go!)
Some Fixes for the Website
1. I still don’t have a good grasp on the products offered.
In the Origin Kit, there are specs of what goes in which box, with the boxes titled appropriately. But what do these box titles mean? Why am I given all these boxes? Are they all different from one another or can I buy one separately to still make a functioning robot?
Also, I can probably take some time to match the specs of each object to the picture, but the visuals might be more understandable if there were appropriate labels on the pictures themselves.
For the CastleRock platform, the documentation and descriptions look pretty robust on the page. And, because I don’t have the actual product, it’s hard to give product suggestions, because my assumptions about missing things might be answered when I actually have the product at hand. My only suggestion for now is taking out the arrows to each side of the picture on the page, so it doesn’t have the affordance to click right or left.
2. Where can people find more examples of things people have already done with the robots?
This goes in line with understanding the product: what are the possibilities I can explore? What are tried and proven ways to use the robots? What can inspire me to create a robot of my own? I understand that RoboTerra wants to push kids to use their imagination, but it might be fueled with just a tad bit of inspiration from others. If young kids (or parents of the young kids) see these tangible ways of using RoboTerra, chances are people will be more willing to buy one immediately!
3. Copywriting can be improved to cater to the target users.
I assume that the target users are younger people (elementary, middle schoolers, high schoolers). Some language can be made less daunting and put more succinctly so that people don’t just scroll over it. There are also a few grammatical and spelling typos here and there that can be fixed.
In some pages, the opposite is happening: there is not enough information. For the Quantum Robotics 2016 Summer Camp, how do I know the details (where, when, who, how?) to apply? Tightening up language, but also determining what needs to be put up vs. what only sounds flowery is something to look into.
4. Navigation is confusing.
For one, the navigation above, being separate from the navigation below is sometimes confusing, and not intuitive to usual website’s navigations. There are also some important things in the bottom navigation bar (i.e. Impact, FAQ) that can easily be skipped over if they are not placed in the top navigation.
These are the tabs for the navigation bar. I assume the biggest “action step” RoboTerra wants to do is translate views into purchases, and I think Shop should be a link on its own (and maybe changed into the word “Products”), or at least focusing on the things a user can actually buy, so conversions can increase.
The CrowdFunding campaign is another significant “action step” at least at this point in time, so it should have a bigger push on the website overall to drive more traffic into it. I only found out about the IndieGoGo campaign when exploring all tabs, but because it is the biggest need right now, why not highlight it in the front page and everywhere else? So it may not have to be in the permanent navigation bar, but for the time being, it should probably have its separate tab, but also should be promoted everywhere on the site (especially the front!)
(As a side note on the IndieGoGo campaign, I love what’s being shown and written on the campaign website itself, but I think it lacks the “what are we going to do with the money” and “how will this money help us in the long run” part. If that is improved, it might translate to higher conversions!)
The Quantum 2016 Summer Camp and free workshop, should probably be under another category. I notice the company hosts a lot of events in line with their mission, and maybe categorizing this under a separate tab, and having a calendar-esque format will work well.
The two pages for Origin Kit, I would mesh into one page instead, so everything about that product is packed into one. I’d also change “Solutions” to something more like “Products” or “Offers” because, sure it’s solving some sort of problem, but that problem isn’t necessarily highlighted in the copy of the earlier pages. Products or offers seems more an apt word to encompass the Origin Kit, CastleRock and the grant.
For News, categorizing the “For Teachers” and “For Robot Makers” under this seems off. I’d create a separate “Resources” page for these two. I also really like the ideas behind these two pages, as it gives the user more tangible and practical ways to use the robots. I think it’s important to capitalize on the resources to help others onboard on the product better (like what I was highlighting with point #2.)
5. Can I buy parts separately?
If I already have the kit but I lose some parts, what do I do?
Another implication of this last point is that the FAQ needs to be a bit more comprehensive. I can already imagine several sorts of questions kids and parents will have, and it would be best to answer these all in the FAQs. Right now, the FAQs are very ideological, and catered to parents, but what about more technical things that kids might have trouble with? I suppose this comes with more user testing and understanding the recurring questions users will have, but something to keep in mind.
Overall, really enjoy the mission of the startup, and I hope it goes to great lengths in the coming years! For now, maybe I should get a robot myself!