CheckiO is a website that aims to teach programming by providing an online gaming world with some social features heavily emphasized. CheckiO is meant for beginners and experts alike, but all coding challenges must be completed in Python.
The creators have quite a bit of hype behind them. They have received hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding. They have cultivated a thriving community of users. So yeah, my interest was piqued.
Side note: The site doesn’t seem to use secure HTTPS. It lets you log in with your other social media and developer community accounts (Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, GitHub, Stack Exchange, etc) so does that mean it’s safer to log in with a Twitter account rather than with a native CheckiO account?
I did not play with CheckiO for more than a few hours, so that’s why I call this blog post a mini-review.
I think giving it a couple of hours is enough to pass judgement considering that most users will probably give up or continue based on their initial 10 minutes on the site. But my point is that it’s possible that CheckiO is a much deeper, richer website if you’re patient enough to explore it.
What I Thought
It looks like the CheckiO community is quite strong, but the site is designed to attract users with a visual wow factor that is misleading. The visuals don’t really tie into the actual coding experience very well. It reminds me of when I first tried Neopets. I was disappointed to find that interaction with the pets was limited to static interaction rather than real-time, animated interactions.
Although the visuals of the CheckiO world seem to be geared towards attracting a younger crowd, that potential user base will be deterred by the detachment of said world. Try as they might, the creators of CheckiO fail to make the world, the backstory, the characters, etc. feel relevant when facing a coding challenge. It’s kind of like how some action movies and video games have plots that barely exist because the creators focused more on the action than the story. I get the sense that the creators of CheckiO are actually trying hard to make their story feel relevant, but it’s just not working for me.
In other words, CheckiO wants to prevent users from thinking it’s just another site full of coding challenges by showering the experience with cool graphics and a backstory. They want you to think it’s an edutainment experience rather than a purely academic one. They want you to think CheckiO is a game rather than a series of assignment akin to homework, but it just doesn’t feel like a video game.
The bulk of the experience is not something that could be described as “gameplay.” The in-browser IDE screams “boring” when compared to the home screen presented after logging in. This is a big bummer because everything you see leading up to a coding challenge makes you think you’re about to see something really cool and interactive. It actually makes me think I’m about to see a mini-game. Instead, you end up setting your eyes on a very unappealing IDE.
Despite its attempts to the contrary, CheckiO is just another site full of coding challenges. The challenges are fun for people who already enjoy programming, but the site just doesn’t live up to its potential to reach out to a new, bigger, untapped audience. The user experience really needs to be remade to properly engage users quickly. Instead, it leaves you a bit confused because it looks like a site full of features and gamification, but you can’t quite figure out how to enjoy the benefits.
Given the current success earned by CheckiO, I have a feeling more patient yields more rewards when using the site, but I still have a hard time imagining that “coding on CheckiO” could ever be described as “playing CheckiO.” I feel bad to give CheckiO a thumbs down because they’re the type of underdog with the type of good intentions that I want to support.
- Thriving international community
- Fun coding challenges
- Long load times
- Tangled navigation
- Omg bubbly/glassy UI is so 2009 duh
- Solutions not displayed for first few challenges (even after you pass them)
- The weird capitalization in the brand name “CheckiO” bothers me :p