Ponoko Design Study

13th February 2012
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Ponoko website header

Ponoko is:

A Personal Factory, where you can buy, sell & create custom products. Use the world’s easiest making system to create real products, on a short run for optimal cost.

I love Ponoko’s concept. So when I went through the website I couldn’t help but think the Make section of the website needed some attention because it is the primary purpose for the company and the website itself. The website since has been redesigned, but I wanted to share my thoughts on what I would have done to update its usability.

My thoughts below, and be sure to check out the video below, I walk through the wireframes step by step. Gotta love Balsamiq! It makes these wireframes a breeze to create and in clickable format for presentations too.

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Click here if you can’t see the video above.

The Make page becomes the focus

Ponoko Make page wireframe design

I noticed equal bearing was being given to all pages of the website, but I considered the Make section to be primary, so I put it first in the nav line and also in the main content area. I then added Commission (request a product) and Marketplace next; of course they are important, but Ponoko’s mission is to be a Personal Factory first and foremost.

Make page additional features

Ponoko Make additional features

I had some other ideas: Top right needed to show if a user was logged in or not, and give the opportunity for new, tech-savvy users to set up an account without further ado. Below, instructional videos are always available to help users find their way and get ideas on how things are Made. Just Made features other users’ products, and Marketplace is where someone so inclined can shop for merchandise.

I decided on a deep footer that would be carried through to all pages so all areas of the website are always accessible, and to keep the social links and newsletter signup available but out of the way. Deep footers are also good for SEO since they reaffirm the sitemap and content.

Make section is selected

Ponoko Make section is selected

Next, choose Make to arrive at the Make start screen. Several options here: Login and start making, choose a tutorial from the drop down menu top right, and then Sign up to start making. All easy to follow steps with no clutter.

The two kids are explained below, with big download buttons to keep the user engaged. She doesn’t want to have to search far to find out what she wants; if this process takes too long she’ll do a quick web search and find another site to become her Personal Factory. Not good!

Make section, step one: Imagine It

Ponoko Make section step one: Imagine it

Large icons showing “breadcrumbs” helps the user go from this step through the rest. This first step shows the title of the project (Jeff’s Table) and what to do next: Design It.

Make section, step two: Design It

Ponoko Make section step two: Design it

This second steps allows Jeff to choose Materials from the right hand column, materials sourced are based on location so that must be selected first. This section reminds the user how to use the Starter Kit to create a Ponoko Template from his favourite digital drawing application.

Make section, step three: Make It

Ponoko Make section step three: Make it

The third “Make It” page lets Jeff upload his template, he adds his parts and materials and a final price is built from this information. When he accepts all information is correct he goes to the Refine It page.

Make section, step four: Refine It

Ponoko Make section step four: Refine it

The “Refine It” page, page 4, sees Jeff refining his design based on recommendations given by the FAQ and Materials Catalogue pages. Information is filtered based on what the system knows this item to be. Tables will have different overall specs than chairs, for example, and we want to show that relevant information.

Make section, step five: Sell It

Ponoko Make section step five: Sell it

This fifth and final stage sees the Ponoko system recommending Jeff sell his product on the online store, after first reminding him of the Selling Tips. He can click Sell It to go to the Marketplace to sell his product.

Ponoko is an amazing company, and I think Personal Factories are the future. They eliminate waste, every product built has a known, specific customer instead of just pumping out volume as current mass production does. I’m excited to see Ponoko get the attention Xero is getting in the news, long live Kiwi DIY!


Nathaniel Flick

I'm a Front End Web Developer passionate about usability. My primary specialties are HTML5, CSS3, SCSS, LESS, and jQuery and I am very familiar with Foundation and Bootstrap frameworks. I've worked on top of and with WordPress, Shopify, Rails, Python, and ASP.net/Umbraco frameworks.

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