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Website Review: CarConnect.in

I’ve received so many email reminders from IndiBlogger about the CarConnect.in contest that I finally decided to check it out. Well, the content would do my blog some good and if I won one of those vouchers they keep shouting about I’d be happy. Who wouldn’t when the first prize is a Rs.50,000 voucher, second is 2 Rs.25,000 vouchers and then there also are 80 Rs.1,000 vouchers; I’d have preferred cash though 😀

Disclaimer: This is a long post. If you want the quick and dirty, scroll right to the end now. 😛

Ok, onto checking out the site… Here’s what the home page looks like…

Positives:
The layout looks clean and fairly simple with enough social proof on the right to get me interested.

Negatives:
The only way to login is Facebook. Personally I don’t like that, I prefer to keep facebook out of other sites I use. Logging in with facebook requires me to be very careful about permissions, one mistake and the site will be plastering their info all over my facebook stream. There is also the fact that Facebook is not forever, so what happens to my CarConnect login if facebook disappears tomorrow? I would have liked to see another login option apart from Facebook.

Apart from the forced Facebook login, without giving CarConnect.in access to my Facebook details by logging in, I cannot see or do anything on the site. Every click only brings up one prompt.

“Please Login with Facebook to proceed…”

Oops, Wait a moment… All links at the bottom of the site work without login. 😀 So, you can check out the site’s About Us (which has some errors in language), How to Earn Badges, etc. without a Facebook login. But the one that caught my eye was the Contact Us.

The page is just like any other contact us page except for the 200 character limitation. Hey CarConnect.in, this isn’t a twitter status message. If you expect a more than 200 word review of your site, wouldn’t I be entitled to more than 200 characters in a complaint?

Positives:
This pops up when you hit the ‘Login with Facebook’ button, which isn’t so bad since the fine print at the bottom says, CarConnect.in cannot post on my behalf.

Positives:
After login completes the Profile page loads with all *fields populated from Facebook (these are editable though). There is not much information being asked for and I like the fact that I didn’t have to fill a lengthy form about myself.

My profile created and saved, I clicked on view profile to see what it looked like. The my profile page is simple and short with a note in bold asking you to share your experiences. So that’s where I headed next.

The Share Experience page gives you two options at the start. Car Experience and Long Drive Experience. This choice doesn’t change much on the page except for giving you car selection options or destination options.
Once past this selection I filled in the other details – caption, description, keywords/tags. I didn’t have any images or video so I skipped those fields.

Positives:
Simple and user friendly to fill up with the right fields and choices being given.
Options for Photos and Videos make for a nice touch.

Negatives:
The start point and destination drop-downs have very few options. I’d have liked to see more here. As of now there are just the metros, major cities and common holiday destinations.

Clicking the submit option brings up the above message. Moderation of posts isn’t bad and will help make sure random nonsense does not get added to the site, but I would have liked to know what parameters would be used for moderation, ‘appropriate’ isn’t enough to describe it.

Now that all login essentials are done, here’s what the Home Page looks like –

The home page now shows Top Car and Long Drive Experiences and all tags in the clouds lead to pages with more entries from users.

That concluded the login process I guess but before I wind up lets look at the various options in the main menu of CarConnect.in.

‘Home’ is as above, ‘My Profile’ we talked about earlier, ‘My Friends’ as expected is blank right now for me, and ‘Share Experience’ takes me back to the form for travel details.

Then, there is a ‘Leaderboard’ which gives badges and ratings of users. ‘Car News’ which gives news from the automobile industry and ‘New Launches’ which I assume gives info on new car launches.

Aside from all these, there is a ‘Long Drive’ option. The page asks you to select start point to see all route options. At first glance I thought this was a cool system for mapping. What it actually is, is a another tag cloud. A click on the city will take you to entries made by users starting from that city, not a map or route options.

Lastly there is the ‘Compare Cars’ option. This also sounds cool but when you get to the page you realise it isn’t real-time. Results will be emailed, now that just makes for more waiting and processing. There are other sites that do this real-time and would be so much better to use for this feature than what CarConnect.in has to offer.

Overall Thoughts –

Positives:
Most of the site is user friendly and straight forward.

Negatives:
My over all experience was marred by a few things like the Facebook login being the only option, the site layout being too rudimentary (more bells and whistles would have been nice), the reading experience of write-ups and news being more easy on the eye (at the moment it reminds me of Orkut), and other things where they have said one thing and delivered another like in the Long Drive section.

CarConnect.in as a concept is pretty cool since India is right now bursting at the seams with cars. (No point in arguing about there being no road space for these cars in this post) With the right incentives and a lot of clean up, the site would definitely gather more users.

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