Why Craigslist Is Still King And Teaching Us Lessons On User Experience

Recently I have been using Craigslist more often and the other day I just sat back and took a moment to appreciate what the old gray haired “startup” has done.  It has a achieved a virtual monopoly in the classified space all the while still looking like it did the first time it hit my radar back more than a decade ago.

After further thought, it occurred to me I could take away a few lessons as I continue to build Seconds.

1.  Always make your product SUPER SIMPLE to use.  

Today, it’s all about user experience – or how easy and simple a product is to use.  Notice how using Craigslist borderlines on dummy-proof.  That is how your product should work if you want millions of people to use it.

2.  Don’t make your users do more work than necessary.

All the flashy designs and information buried in layers of profiles, accounts, tabs, windows just wastes my time as a user.  With Craigslist, you go to the page and search through listings, clicking on ones you like.  The amount of clicks to get something done has always stayed as minimal as possible.

3.  If it ain’t broke… don’t fix it.

Although I am a proponent of innovation and forward product movement, Craigslist is an instance where they clearly nailed it and haven’t had to ‘expand’ into other markets.  I am convinced staying the course is why they have a natural monopoly in online classifieds.

4.  Create a BRAND.

If you are going to move, what online site do you always check?  Need another job or searching for a side gig?  Looking for someone to build you a website?  Even though there are numerous sites that are arguably ‘better’ than Craigslist, millions of people still trust they will ultimately find what they need with Craigslist.  I don’t see this changing for a while….

So, even as Craigslist is starting to gray a bit, you better believe there are some lessons to be learned on how they have stayed on top.

One Comment

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  1. Well said. It’s something developers are overlooking. They create their sites in ways that would “please” the dev community by applying all sorts of hacks when most of the time, the majority of the people who’ll be using the site don’t know what jQuery or HTML5 is.


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