*Note: If you don’t know who Edward Tufte is I highly suggest you read up on him and buy all of his books.
Craiglist, like MySpace, is a site many people use because that’s where everyone else is at. The community makes it worth the hype it receives, but besides the community and some viral marketing how did the design play a role in making Craiglist a huge success? With MySpace it was hard to find anything about the design that lead it to fame, but with Craigslist I think we can see that the design played a significant role in making it an online leader for classified ads.
Last week when we looked at Sploid I made the point that although it is a cool design, it’s one that makes you think too much. Looking at Craigslist we see in the same type of clutter, but only with words. I know I shouldn’t use the word “clutter” to describe the design of the site because it’s more organized than cluttered.
From an aesthetics perspective Craigslist is missing the boat. A weird color scheme with different fonts and fontsizes all over the place should spell a recipe for disaster.
The question that we need to ask here is not if they did the design intentionally, because Craig isn’t a designer so we shouldn’t expect anything grandiose from him (same goes for the original designers of eBay, but why haven’t they changed it? There is no need to because the design does two things really well:
- Causes the reader to explore the page
- Does nothing fancy to get in the way
Finding a good deal
Craiglist is an online classifieds system and with any classified ads section you want to find the best bargain. The UI gives you that feeling that you can dig into and maybe after some time you will find a great bargain that nobody else could. You might be looking for just a couch, but since you continue to explore the site you end up with a goldfish and boat.
I think this is what is so key about the design. It leads you to stay on it and explore endlessly. It’s flea market / yard sale design at its best. There are a lot of links, but since it all text with link colors splashed in it is easy to scan.
Two clicks is all I need
Assuming you are on the right city page two clicks is all you need to get to where you need to go. And what’s even better is that those two clicks are so intuitive because they require no thinking on the user’s part. Blue link, click. Blue link, click. Don’t like it, click the Back button. Disgustingly simple.
What can you changes can you make to the design to make it better? I’m not sure there is anything you can do without disupting the community and I am uncertain as to whether that’s a sign of great design or a strong commmunity.
I leave you with these words from Jason Fried in last year’s article at Under the Iron and think about how they relate to Craigslist:
It’s the little things that really make or break the UI. The alignment, the type size, the perfect words, etc. I don’t feel like there was a moment when I “got it” — I’ve always felt this way. And, that’s not to say that I’m right, it’s just my opinion.
To me, UI design is common sense. It’s about respect. It’s the right word, the right color, the right shape, the right control at the right time. It’s about respecting the person who is going to use the UI.
UI design is both an art and a science. And when I say art, I don’t mean pretty happy art project art I mean it’s flexible. It’s ever changing. There’s no always.
Originally posted on September 12, 2005 @ 9:22 am