Every time the topic of craigslist’s design comes up I’m always surprised that some people defend it. I recently posted a computer for sale and had a typically awful experience trying to use their site.
First, I go to craigslist.org and it asks me to tell them which country I’m in:
Are you serious? IP geolocation is extremely simple and much more accurate than your large metro areas. It’d be one thing if they asked me if I was in San Francisco vs Sacramento, but there’s no reason to ask me if I’m in China.
Well, let’s just ignore this for a second. They’re saving my choice in a cookie, so let’s pretend that my cookies never get deleted and this is the only computer/browser I will ever use, which makes this only a one-time problem. Let’s get to more common things like posting. I find my way to the San Francisco computers section and notice a large “post” button in the upper right:
I think it’s pretty reasonable to assume a person browsing the computers section who clicks on “post” wants to post something in the computers section. So what page do I see?
Oh how nice, a list of 60+ sections to choose from. To be fair, people do sell a pretty wide variety of items on craigslist. Oh but wait, these are almost all duplicates! You could list only 30 items and then (separately) ask if I was an owner or a dealer, but that’d be too easy. Instead I have to scroll down to read a list that is twice as long. I’m not talking about doing any fancy machine learning where you try to suggest my category for me (very doable!), I’m just asking you to not blatantly waste my time.
So what happens when I slog through this to finish my posting on the site? A page full of bright red, green, blue and black text! My favorite would have to be the bolded and capitalized red letters that end in 3 exclamation points:
I’m just cherrypicking easy examples from my usage today, there are dozens more and they’re all equally laughable.
If you want to have a terrible website, that’s none of my business. What’s so bad is that while craigslist refuses to innovate, they’re extremely agressive in attacking other people who do. They hide behind lawyers and refuse to open a dialogue with prominent members of the startup community.
They’re losing ground in all their verticals and it’s only a matter of time until nothing is left. Once their natural monopoly on classifieds is sufficiently eroded, competition and choice will improve millions of (former) craigslist users’ quality of life. Personally, I can’t wait. The internet will be a much better place for us all.
Side note: it’s common in the startup community for people to talk about all the terrible things that investors will do to your company, and there certainly are some horror stories. craigslist is an important reminder of the opposite: when you’re not beholden to investors you have less incentive to build something people want.