Archive for the ‘design’ Category

The Notorious Craigslist Interface

Friday, January 25th, 2008

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?

The New Web 2.0 Design

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

We can all spot a web 2.0 design when we see one. If it isn’t the rounded corners or faded backgrounds, it’s the bright colours, huge fonts, or BETA tag. These flashy, tacky designed used to have VCs at their mercy, but not any more. This era of design is on its way out.

Enter a new era. Sites like Digg and Facebook are pioneering a new wave of design. How are these sites different? They have a very clean, yet subtle, approach. They do incorporate some of the elements of a stereotypical web 2.0 design, but in a less blatant manner. You may see rounded corners, for example, but they won’t be as pronounced.

A focus on usability is key. Elements such as AJAX and overlays increase functionality by decreasing page loads. Clear messaging and notification of previous actions also seem to be a trend. In addition, we are still seeing that “open feel”, but space is being used more strategically. The days of huge white space are numbered.

Other sites that leverage this new design philosophy include LinkedIn and Yelp. Furthermore, sites that traditionally capitalized that “hugely open, white background” feel, like YouTube and, are moving toward this new design mindset.

I think we will continue to see this trend continue as usability remains the focus. Intuitive designs and common sense will prevail.

Note: I am not a designer, nor a usability expert. I am simply providing my perspective on the situation based on my observations.

Is Ruby on Rails The Future?

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

Ruby on Rails logoFirst, let me say that I am not a programmer. Apart from basic HTML and CSS, I’m useless when it comes to coding. For this reason, my discussion around Ruby on Rails will take place at a high level.

Ruby on Rails is a web application framework written in the Ruby programming language. It was designed to decrease the time and effort needed to launch a database-driven website. Today we find more and more start-ups taking advantage of the platform. These companies recognize the value in such a framework. It provides an immediate jump-start.

Extracted from 37signals’ Basecamp, Ruby on Rails is exploding in popularity. Although hype and buzz are abound, the framework seems to be backing up all claims and continues to impress. Popular sites and services that are built off Ruby on Rails include Twitter, Revolution Health and

Downfalls and issues surrounding the framework seem to be few. Having said that, I keep hearing about potential scalability problems. My lack of insight in the area prevents me from providing an opinion. Obviously there are opportunity costs with every decision - but perhaps there are the fewest with respect to Ruby on Rails.

So I ask all the web developers, programmers, and coders out there: Is Ruby on Rails the future of the web? Or are there other superior frameworks out there that either haven’t caught on yet or failed to generate as much press?

If You Like Pandora or, Check Out Jango

Friday, January 18th, 2008

Jango logoJango hit the scene in mid 2007 and has soared ever since. The company describes itself as “Social Internet Radio”. Similar to Pandora and, Jango allows users to create customized radio stations and discover new artists.

The beauty of the system lies in the social network component. Some of the social features that Jango has integrated include:

  • Adding friends and listening to their stations
  • Viewing artist suggestions
  • Rating artists’ songs
  • Discovering “Like-Minds”, i.e. users who have very similar music taste to you

The service is completely free and no dowload is required. The New York-based startup is a legal service and has been licensed by ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and SoundExchange.

Revenues are generated via affiliate music sales. Jango has agreements with both Amazon and iTunes. I would imagine that an advertising model may emerge as well.

I tried out the service and I really enjoyed it. It was a nice, refreshing touch. The interface is slick and intuitive. Creating a station and discovering new music is simple. I would encourage everyone to try it out - especially those outside the US. After all, Jango may take over where Pandora stumbled… seems like good timing.