The website my group chose for our final project is http://www.craigslist.com. For those of you who have never heard of the site it is basically an online classifieds type site offering places for people to both search and post for goods,services, and even jobs. It has local classifieds and forums for over 450 cities worldwide which are community moderated and mostly free. Through research we found that this site was hugely popular receiving over 30 million new classified ads and 9 billion page views each month. For having this much traffic and popularity you could never guess it from the sites homepage.
The site has a very simple homepage design with no graphics and only links to the different locations in a unattractive grid pattern as well as a column on the far left side with a few other options to choose. This website basically looks like it could have been created by anyone who just learned how to insert hyperlinks into an html document. It is only after a user navigates and clicks their state and then their local area that the functionality of the website becomes apparent as the classified categories appear, once again in a giant table of links. Our group discussed this fact that the navigation through this entire process is tedious and finding the correct links were both time consuming due to the quantity and strenuous on the eyes, due to the formatting. These are two problems that a website wishing to provide users with a quick way to view classifieds for their area most definitely would not want their users to experience.
Not only is the design of the website extremely poor in our opinion, but there are many well known sites offering similar services(amazon,ebay,monster) that a user could simply use instead. Why then do you feel that millions of people utilize this service every month instead of other, more specialized services such as ebay? Does the underlying parallel to print classifieds and user’s clear understanding of how those work lead them to prefer this method of searching/posting ? Where is the line ever drawn between usability and presentation; will strong underlying functionality carry a poorly designed product/website, or is it always doomed to eventually fail?