The Notorious Craigslist Interface

January 25th, 2008 | Categories: design, markets, networks, strategy

Craigslist logoThe Craigslist interface is the epitome of “ugly design”. Keep in mind that “ugly design” doesn’t necessarily mean “bad design” or “unattractive design”. Many people, including myself, love the design and are against any changes. Thank God the company has the same philosophy. With the exception of a few small, necessary tweaks, the interface hasn’t changed much since inception.

Many have begged Craigslist to modernize the interface - even just a bit. At SXSW 2006, a six-person panel of leading designers and interface experts did a basic redesign of the layout. A more sophisticated look and feel was the goal. Here is the design they came up with: Craigslist redesign. It is actually quite nice. Although, as expected, the company never implemented any of the changes.

I think the lesson to be learned is that simplicity and utility cannot be over-emphasized. Though aesthetics do play a role, users most often favour efficiency, which leads in to my next point.

Usability remains number one. How do we know this? Any destination page is only two clicks away. First, click your city. Then, click your link of interest. Add to that familiarity with the navigation. Since the layout hasn’t changed for so long, people have become accustomed to it. If changes were to occur, there would be a learning curve involved.

At this point, Craigslist can do no wrong. Though the company is structured as a for-profit corporation, most perceive the company as a non-profit due to its unconventional approach to business. The .org domain also helps. The combination of free listings and a constant focus on the user are two main drivers that have kept Craigslist at the top and disallowed any competitors from making in-roads.

What do you think of the Craigslist interface? Do you think it’s great? Do you think it’s ugly and should be changed?


  1. J Phillips Says:

    I definitely think the interface could use a touchup. The SXSW panel that redesigned it was perfect. I actually used the Firefox greasemonkey script that made your Craigslist look like that in the browser.

    I can’t say that I completely hate the current look of craigslist, because I get around on the site decently, but it can use a touchup.

  2. Mark Evans Says:

    The proposed re-design is excellent - still very sparse yet far more pleasing than than current design. Then again, Craigslist is a, well, different kind of company that doesn’t dance to the same beat of other companies.

  3. Oliver Dueck Says:

    Craigslist is easy to navigate and very efficient due to the complete lack of images. It also works on probably every web browser known to man. But, the same results can be easily be achieved with the use of some elegant CSS and it’s quite surprising that the site hasn’t made use of that.

    It’s interesting to make the comparison to Kijiji, which here in Eastern Canada is infinitely more popular than Craigslist. Kijiji’s interface isn’t bad but it is a lot more “commercial” than Craigslist.

  4. How Important is Web Design? | Mark Evans Says:

    […] The other question is whether Web design matters at all. At the end of the day, a Web site is going to be successful if it offers a product/service that people want. Aidan Henry had a good post recently looking at Craigslist, which features one of the worst designs in the world - yet people love the service. Even with a minor makeover - provided by a panel at SXSW 2006 - Craigslist would be a lot more user-friendly but would it really make a difference in its popularity? […]

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