I was just raving to some people in my Aikido class about the website iKnow.co.jp which for weeks now has been one of my favorite places. It looked good, worked great, the people were wonderful, and best of all the programs really did help me learn Japanese!
Well, iKnow.co.jp has just finished re-launching, it seems to be out of beta and wants to expand its horizons a little bit. It did languages great, and now it want’s a foot-hold in ‘everything learning’ or at least that is the impression I got when I clicked my link and found myself landing on “Smart.fm”.
My first impression was appauled, that is, it was my first impression after the shock and confusion. I can certainly understand ditching the .co.jp which for american-users and the rest of the world might have been a bit confusing.
I know that changing that could mean a name-change and thus re-branding of the website. Which it obviously did.
iKnow! —-> Smart.fm?
I did not expect, that the previously warm-fun-inviting website that won my heart could get so cold so fast. It took a bit of digging but thankfully some smart people on the web have screen-shots of what iKnow used to look like. So, I will share them with you, as well as comparisions to the screen-shots I just took.
[click the ‘read more’]
First off, their new “logo” is thin text, and rather bland. In comparison the old logo design [which was also rather simple] was eye-catching, had a bit of polish, and more over it was fun!
Well lets start this step by step comparison.
1: Landing Page
I was unable to find a full-screenshot, but this previously dominated the page that people first wound up on. It was bright, eye-catching, and fun. It welcomed you in to learn, in a not-so-dull atmosphere.
This is the new screen-shot. It’s simple, and very plain-jane with just a dash of color. It’s not terrible, but, it lacks the polish the previous landing page had. Perhaps it isn’t finished yet? One can only hope.
This screen-shot minus the japanese-text and the icons at the top, was exactally what I saw on my “home” page. Where I would see who was doing what in the center, what courses I was studying at the top, with a shoutbox up to the right.
The new smart.fm home page is similar with a few rather marked changes. It is now almost over-whelmingly white, with a blue so light I almost miss it on my laptop screen. Most of the layout is fine, but if you will notice the old courses previously had 3 icons, “study”, “dictation”, and brainspeed. With the corresponding progress bars. Now it is a not-as-easy to access drop-down. So if I want to know that a course lacks a dictation, I have to click it… the new progresss bar’s are lined up below title-headers.
Let’s Recap… Old:
I’m not 100% thrilled with the visual changes, I have heard from other users that the new “lists” page shown above, is much nicer. I’d have to agree it has better sorting. However it seems the new site lacks, spunk, personality, and any warmth. With it’s very pale icy blue that can almost go un-noticed, and its bright overwhelming white everywhere.
The navigation seems to have changed a bit, and with some things now on the right that were on the left it’s a bit strange. The functions are mostly un-changed and still work, if a bit slow. The key feature of the site, the “iKnow” learning software is still intact. It seems someone changed the japanese-fonts inside of it, so they are really thin stick figures [making it harder for us that aren’t familiar with it to look at] but, it works.
I know they are working very hard, and I will continue to use the site for as long as my eyes hold out. Even so, I’m visually dissapointed. I feel like I lost a good friend, and second home. In fact, I somehow feel like I’ve moved into a doctors office waiting room… >.>