Why Craigslist should resist a design makeover

Apr 23, 2012   //   by admin   //   Media blog  //  1 Comment

by David Silverberg

If you’ve been using Craigslist for the past few years, you’ve noticed it hasn’t changed. One iota. The same design from 2005 continues unabated on the site in 2012, and the functionality has only been tweaked in a few minor ways to combat spam and include fees. But there’s been a rumour floating around about the online classifieds giant seeking a makeover, based on a job listing from the company looking for someone to “improve the user experience — faster, friendlier and easier” and “develop new products and features that will have CL users swooning.”

I can see Craigslist getting a little bit polished, perhaps nipping and tucking in areas required some functionality boost, but a full makeover would be a bad idea. Craigslist’s popularity has relied on its simplistic design, something we’ve seen in hugely popular sites such as reddit. Go simple or go home, seems to be Craigslist’s motto. The site doesn’t draw our eyes in with arresting design, but that’s not the point of Craigslist: it’s a very function-heavy service, since people visit the site to check out classifieds or post their own.

I’ve been on both ends, and I’ve found the experience to be intuitive: you know where to go and what to click right away. You can find apartment rentals easily, and then can quickly post your own listing without much hassle.

It’s naive to think an online trailblazer like Craigslist won’t be hiring engineers to clean up the UI, but I caution Craig Newmark and co. in going too far. Craigslist fans opt for the service because of its ease of use and uncluttered design; it reminds us of a quieter time when websites weren’t trying to bombard with .jpeg banners and front-page video tutorials. Let the site speak for itself.

We’ll be keeping Future of Media fans posted on any changes to Craigslist, but let’s hope we don’t have to report too much, since this site is fine just the way it is.

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