Monday, January 08, 2007

The Frustrations of Craigslist

Craigslist is an Internet dinosaur. It's been around since the early days of the web and its simple, non-nonsense interface shows it. The site has thrived because it focuses on giving users information they need - whether it's getting a date, buying furniture or, in my case, finding an apartment.

I recently moved from New York to San Francisco and I've been relying exclusively on Craigslist to find apartment listings. In a place like SF - the birthplace of Craigslist - there is no more comprehensive site for apartments to rent. As a user, the comprehensiveness is what keeps me coming back, but the interface for Craigslist could be so much better with just a few small tweaks.

Here are just a couple of ideas to make the site better for renters:
  • Allow users to create a page to save listings. There is no way of saving a listing other than bookmarking the page, which is extremely cumbersome when you want to save a lot of listings.
  • Mapping! mashed up Craigslist listings with Google maps so a user can see where each listing is on a map. The only problem is that Housingmaps doesn't seem to be in synch with Craigslist. I see lots of listings on Craigslist that never make it to Housingmaps, which as a user who values comprehensiveness, is disturbing. Craigslist should either develop this functionality in house (which is not difficult) or buy Housingmaps for a few hundred thousand dollars.
It's fascinating to see a site like Craigslist that succeeds not because of its interface, but in spite of it. So many sites spend countless hours perfecting their user interface, while Craigslist apparently spends not one minute on it. Don't get me wrong - Craigslist is an indispensable website. But as someone who has used and enjoyed Craigslist for nearly 10 years it's frustrating to see the site not be all it could be.