If Flashcard Exchange (see my review here) is ugly but offers (at least to its $20 one-time fee premium users) access to interval study and export features as well as a huge database of cards, Cramberry seems to be the attractive new kid in town. Several people have contacted me asking me to post a review. Well, here it is, but to be honest, there isn’t much there to review. I hope to return to the site in a few months time and hope to see some progress.
Cramberry is like a beautiful little statue of a young cupid with cute little wings and a bow. It is pleasant to look at but it can’t do anything. The website has a beautiful clean design but almost no functionality so far.
However, Cramberry developers would be quick to point out they are still in the early stages of getting the project off the ground. Cramberry has its own twitter feed, its own blog, and a still very basic but promising $4 iPhone application, Flash-Me that connects directly with Cramberry.
Cramberry has a rating system built in for publicly available sets, which is probably better than the favorites count of Flashcard Exchange, and it offers a simple way to share sets between friends or make them publicly available.
Cards can be added quickly and easily with the use of the keyboard alone (pressing return after filling the back of the card saves the card and presents a new blank card). More advanced users can make use of its supported metalanguage textile to add formatting and images to the cards. This is a nice feature, but really not necessary now that there are great libraries for creating rich text input within webpages. Why force the user to memorize a metalanguage when you can provide buttons directly on the page for things like “bold” and “italic” etc.? Adding such buttons does clutter the interface but this is a case where functionality boost outweighs the decrease of a clean look (one could also simply add a link to “show/hide advanced editing tools”).
The website is clearly in its infancy and still has very far to go though before it can really be worthy of a full review but I hope to see it address some of these issues in future:
-Cramberry supports only two fields, which is very disappointing for students of Asian languages.
-Cramberry has No Support for Interval Study of any kind. The home page claims that “Cramberry records your progress on each card, and shows you cards you’re having trouble with more often, letting you study more effectively, faster.” which suggests that there is some kind of spaced repetition at work but users are left at the mercy of a “black box” approach without any inkling of how this process works. I hope the developers will describe there system in greater detail and offer ways of viewing the progress of individual words. It might be worth looking into some of the most powerful interval study implementations out there, such as those used in Anki, SuperMemo, or VTrain or simpler but clearly described ones such as those found in Flaschard Exchange with a simple static TTF schedule (See terms page).
-Cramberry has No Data Portability, cards cannot be downloaded in any format.
-Cramberry has almost no options for flashcard study and I can’t find any information on keyboard shortcuts.
-Cramberry seems to be connecting to Google Analytics between every card. Whatever else it might be doing, moving between cards is way too slow. There is a nice color coding of the sides of the card.
-There is no cycle elimination. The cards just continue to flip indefinitely. Basically this means it is guilty of the insatiability flaw.
-There are no statistics whatsoever.
-The website is beautiful but overly minimalist. Eliminating distractions when doing flashcard study is important, as I suggested when criticizing Flashcard Exchange, but surely someone on the design team could spare 15 minutes to put something on their help page other than “Contact us with your questions by twitter or email.” You can search for sets and show “more sets” but you have no way of going back through earlier pages in the search results, know how many total sets were found, etc.
-Many links are not universally available. The help link is not visible on the home page, the home page (which is the only page with any explanation of the site) is completely inaccessible to users who are logged in, etc.
I look forward to seeing Cramberry grow, but for now, I would recommend users consider other online and offline alternatives until it develops a basic feature set.
UPDATE: Cramberry posted an entry on their blog about the review. It is promising to see them acknowledging some of the issues and announcing some upcoming features on the site. Among them are a commitment to incorporating full interval study features, data portability, and statistics. I hope they will also strongly consider adding support for three fields, which is useful for students of many languages, especially Chinese and Japanese. Again, as I mentioned in the review, it is still an early stage for them so I look forward to revisiting the site and reviewing them when they follow through on some of their development goals.