Searching All of Craigslist: An Exercise in Usability

May 11 2016, 8:24pm

Most people look at Craigslist in isolation—that is just as at the region or even just city that one is located in. Depending on what one is looking for, searching within a specific city can make sense (a floor lamp with only public transit to retrieve it). For things that are more digital or location independent, however, reducing one's search on the site to one's home region can be limiting.

Looking for mobile development help recently, I took this to heart and began to cast a wider net by searching more of Craigslist. I could have just gone location by location and searched but who's got time for that?

cactus looking at a book

I searched online and found 10 suitable options. I could have just chosen the first one and gone with that but I was actually curious to see what the best tool out there was. What I discovered are mostly inadequate sites capitalizing on people's penchant for clicking results, not knowing or caring that they are simply ads.

Specifically, there are a couple of issues I found with these sites:

  • Screen of ads above the fold
  • Too much white space
  • Functionality overload
  • Poor design
  • No gigs
  • Same results
  • Wrong results

Screen of Ads

screen of ads

Someone searching Craigslist doesn't seem like the type of person who would want immediately want to explore other products and services via ads. These sites are probably preying on behavior where users aren't able to easily differentiate between the two.

Too Much White Space

too much white space

White space is good, but there can also be too much of a good thing. In these sites, there's much to be desired in terms of content that's missing—content missing in favor of space with nothing in it.

Functionality Overload

functionality overload

Too much functionality can cause a problem similar to people ordering food at places with many choices. Many people will leave on move onto the next service if they encounter a significantly large enough pool of functionalities that they cannot figure out what to do next, let alone first.

Poor Design

Is this software or a puzzle?

No Gigs

It should go without saying that an aggregator with no gigs, when there actually are, is not a very good site to use.

Same Results

same results

Duplicate results can happen for a variety of different reasons. Bad sites will not care. Good services will take care to sort and filter out these results to better help users find what they are searching for.

Wrong Results

wrong results

When a user searches for something, they have an expectation for what will result. If that result isn't in line with what they're looking for, then it might be better to skip showing other results, unless it's specifically stated that no results were found and that said results are related.

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In the end, there was only one tool that I liked and would recommend, Search Tempest. It offers sophisticated functionality in a way that is not overbearing. It provides exactly what you need, when you need it. It also has ads, but doesn't present them in a way that is too obtrusive.

Just goes to show that in design, you can strike a nice balance and maximize your bottom-line.

What are nicely designed tools that you use?