FlashDen.net sells Adobe Flash-based plugins, content sliders, animations, preloaders, and menus that web developers can integrate into their designs saving a lot of time.
While the site had a great selection of downloadable products, easy navigation, a strong community, and great aesthetics, I really wished that there were more payment options too. The site also could do a better job of requiring documentation from some contributors.
So why am I detailing my thoughts about FlashDen.net? Well, each month, Practical eCommerce sends me shopping. I make a purchase from a real online merchant. My goal is to report back to you about the overall checkout process, customer service experience, and website aesthetics, etc. This review should provide a consumer’s perspective about the featured merchant in particular, and about online retailing practices in general. To avoid receiving preferential treatment, we do not notify the merchant about the impending review. Think of it as a secret shopper program for the Internet.
A Broad Selection of Adobe Flash
FlashDen.net is really servicing a niche, demonstrating that ecommerce can be very specific and still be very successful.
Essentially, the store is an online marketplace wherein Adobe Flash and Flex developers can post Flash-based image viewers, menus, utilities, preloaders, and even whole site templates. Then professional web designers or advanced do-it-yourself designers can purchase these widgets, integrating them into their sites and saving hours and hours of development time.
When I went shopping at FlashDen, there were more than 7,300 different Flash items to choose from, and many of these will give a real boost to my projects. For example, I found a well written banner/content tool that makes adding a marquis or featured navigation section to your home page a snap. And a versatile and clean looking video player was just want I need for another site.
There are just a lot of great Flash widgets, tools, and animations on FlashDen.
Great Site Aesthetics
I don’t believe that you can ever underestimate how important it is to have a great looking website. Yes, I know that ultimately content is king, but if a site just looks bad, I am not going to wait around to read, listen to, or watch that content. Having a great looking ecommerce site will comfort your visitors and encourage them to pay attention to your products.
FlashDen.net is a great looking site, with clean and consistent style.
I especially like the details of the site design. For example, the FlashDen logo features a fox tail that curves down and rests just on top of the site’s left navigation, the tail (odd as this might sound) ties that navigation to a dark header and, in my opinion, adds a lot of page depth.
There is also a fairly consistent light source.
Thanks to awesome image tools like Adobe Illustrator or Adobe Photoshop, web designers can add very interesting shadows or lighting effects to site graphics, icons, and even some typography. But too often those effects are not done in concert.
FlashDen, however, seems to have a pretty uniform light source with image reflections and shadows generally lining up. Very nice.
Finally, the site includes a personalized dashboard that recognizes returning customers, offering them access to community related forums and blogs, but giving new visitors a description of what FlashDen is and how it works. Again, very nice design.
Better Documentation Required
I did find a couple of areas that I thought FlashDen could improve on and boost its customer service experience. The first of these had to do with documentation associated with the various Flash widgets on the site.
While browsing, I did not find any item that claimed to have poor documentation, rather most of the products were said to be well documented—an assertion that I suspect comes from site contributors. But the scripts I downloaded were very poorly documented at best. You really needed to have a very good understanding of site design and development to get these up and running.
I believe that this lack of good documentation is something of a customer service challenge for FlashDen. I would recommend requiring certain items in the documentation. Authors that do supply the minimum of information should not be able to post. Of course policing that requirement might be hard.
More Payment Choices Please
I would also like to see more payment choices, especially something other than the current prepaid, non-refundable, expiring accounts the site requires.
First, why should my money ever expire? If I have $20 on deposit with FlashDen, how come they get to keep it after a year?
Next, why must a make deposits and prepay rather than just being able to use my credit card to pay for what I buy right now? (I know that this prepay model is something that image repositories have been using for a while, but I don’t like it there either).
Finally, why, if I am forced to make deposits and forced to have my funds expire, can I not at least have a refund?
All of these restrictions make FlashDen something of a hassle to do business with. At some point, I am going to lose money.
What’s more when If I do decide to give in to the site’s payment terms, I am forced to pay either with PayPal or Moneybookers.
I think that FlashDen needs to modify its payment options and choices so that I can pay just for what I buy and pay with a credit card on FlashDen using a payment gateway other than PayPal or the little know Moneybookers.
I really like FlashDen. I want to say that again. I really like FlashDen. I like browsing through the Flash products. It is really inspirational. And I believe that they have a great looking site that serves a smart niche, and is an example for other ecommerce businesses. But unfortunately they need better documentation and better payment choices.