My take on a Craigslist redesign

Aspiring designers are often encouraged to build their portfolio with their own speculative redesigns of existing websites or apps. Craigslist is a frequent target for such redesigns, and it’s easy to see why. The design looks straight out of the 1990s, with basic color and font choices and little custom formatting. There’s a ton of text, none of which is spaced in a user-friendly way. So what would I do differently?

Nothing.

That’s right. I think Craigslist is fine the way it is. Granted, it obviously won’t win any awards or wow people like Virgin America, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

I’m a firm believer that there’s nothing new under the sun; i.e., the things we see today are just different versions of things people have seen before. For instance, Amazon has taken over the role that department store catalogs occupied before the Internet. I remember looking through those catalogs as a kid. We called them “wishbooks,” which I’m pretty sure is exactly how the department stores wanted them to be considered. Most of us don’t browse department store catalogs anymore, but Amazon serves a similar function in many people’s lives today.

Before Craigslist, what did we have? Newspaper classified ads. For a small fee, you could advertise that you were selling your car or looking for counter help at your shop or whatever. I’m not talking about the large, colorful ads from the car dealerships, mind you. I’m talking about the small, plain text ads that were typically placed by individuals or small businesses.

With these ads, there was always an element of “proceed at your own risk,” as there should be. So it is with Craigslist. In the last few years, there have been significant efforts to make this clearer, as well as established places to conduct transactions. But none of these things are substitutes for doing your due diligence and applying critical thinking skills in the first place.

I think if Craigslist had a more attractive website, people might have unrealistic expectations about quality guarantees. Just because something’s on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s legitimate.

To borrow an example from an even less legitimate area, I’m guessing you’ve gotten some sort of spam from someone claiming to be a Nigerian prince or something and offering you a ton of money in exchange for your bank account information. Chances are if you’re reading this, you know instantly that those are scams. They’re riddled with spelling and grammatical errors and contain wild stories that strain belief.

Did you know those errors are there on purpose? The idea is that people who pick up on the grammatical errors and dismiss the stories as ridiculous are unlikely to be profitable targets anyway. If someone is still interested after going through all the stuff in one of those emails, they’re likely to be an easy target. Depressing, I know.

But honestly, even if the grammar is spot on and the typography and color choices are amazing, a healthy dose of skepticism is a good idea. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

So I’d leave Craigslist as it is. If you want convenience and customer service, you’re better off going to an established store or online retailer. Craigslist’s design (or lack thereof) is perfectly targeted for the DIYer who’s willing to sacrifice some time and convenience to save money. Either way is fine; just know what you’re getting.

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