In a recent issue of Wired Magazine, Mathew Honan lead a call for submissions to redesign the world’s most popular classifieds site. Invited to the party were a slew of great designers including Khoi Vinh, Design Director of NYTimes.com and Scott Thomas aka SimpleScott, Director of Design for Obama for America.
Wired also opened up the submissions to the general public. Given our love for Craigslist, we wanted to take a stab at what we believe the next version should look like.
Going in we admit we had a great advantage in leveraging the thinking these great designers had to put into their respective redesigns. Analysing them, a few principles emerged that guided our design.
Please, don’t touch
First, any redesign of Craigslist has to respect the existing site. Technically, it must be accessible and maintain it’s fast loading time. As well, it’s vocal following wouldn’t stand for anything that takes the aesthetic in a dramatically different direction. To many people, Craigslist isn’t broke, so why fix it? To us, there are ways to improve it without taking away from what was inherent to it’s success.
Like most of the submissions, our design continues to use a simple, HTML-based interface. A mix of browser-standard serif (Georgia) and sans (Arial/Helvetica) type is used to separate titles and content, respectively. The palette is more muted than the original but uses a white background to preserve contrast and readability.
It’s no surprise the redesign had to consider mobile browsers. Some of the commissioned designers took steps to design an iPhone app, which is a great step, but still not as ubiquitous as it could be. Instead of designing versions for every platform (something we’re sure will happen in the future) we felt the basic site itself needed to be mobile-friendly without impeding the desktop experience.
The grid we used segments the interface into three equal columns, optimized for the major mobile browser platforms. Until a more sophisticated, platform specific solution can be built, this design preserves the desktop design without limiting mobile users and vise-versa.
What are you here for?
Last, we found the front-door experience needed to accommodate the focused behaviors of users. When you’re looking for a vintage lamp, you’re not trying to sell your iPod. In other words, browsing Craigslist is like using a multi-headed screw driver — you might need a flat head now, a Robertson next week, but rarely both at the same time — and we wanted our design to reflect that adaptability in the interface.
In our approach, the design obfuscates unneeded information that you only set once, like region and language. It also remembers your last selected category and subcategory between visits while pushing recent results up to the front. We admit this is one decision that would take a hit on performance at the cost of design, but given reasonable assumptions about client and server bandwidth, it’s one that would be nominal compared to the pay-off in user experience .
Events are also given special treatment to accommodate the many users that turn to Craigslist for social planning. For some reason this was something we noticed was left alone in the other designs.
The disclaimer with these designs of course is that they are a first pass. There are more than a few details that would have to be covered in a real re-design, from the layout of listings to social media integration to treatments of specialized sections like ‘best-of-craigslist’. The fun of challenges like this are to see what comes out of the wood works when you’re dealing with a limited timeframe. And after all, though we had fun with this exploration, we do have paid work to attend to.
We suggest taking a look at the other submissions to contrast and compare the interesting designs that have been submitted. Comments and opinions are more than welcome.