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Elance - Web Site Design, Features, Interfaces and Ease of Use
(Page 2 of 3)
This is another area of the site that
is pretty well done. Most of the pages on Elance.com have a small help
menu that can be accessed by clicking on “Help” near the
top right corner of the screen. This allows you to access the Elance
Help Center or search the help files. There’s also a link called
“Frequently Asked Questions”, but it doesn’t actually
link to one, rather bringing up a menu of popular help topics.
One complaint I have in this area
is that help files have a “written on” date but not a “last
updated” date. This makes it hard to be sure you are looking at
Form Versus Function
I have to give Elance middling grades
in this department, overall. It’s one of the places where the downside
of having a professional site development staff clearly comes into play.
As I said above, the site is definitely
functional, and the learning curve required to become competent in its
use is not excessive. However, there are a number of areas where Elance’s
developers have clearly made decisions that are more about making the
site look “pretty” or “cool” than about making
it easy to use. And this seems to be happening more frequently of late.
Many of these take the form of minor
irritations that, taken individually, seem like minor issues not even
worth complaining about. However, collectively, they represent an unnecessary
drain on users’ time and energy. Here are a few examples of changes
that were made in October 2010 that actually made the site harder to
- It used to be possible to enter a pre-bid message
right on a project’s summary page, like when you enter a proposal.
Now you must press a button to pop up a dialog box to enter the pre-bid
- The pre-bid question mentioned above covers part
of the project description, so you can’t refer to the question
when composing your question. Even worse, the designers made the box
unmovable. (Note that this was obviated by a change to bidding policy
in a later update.)
- The part of the project description page that
shows the client’s information was redesigned so you have to hover
the mouse over the client’s name to see key information such
as how much money the client has spent, and what their award ratio is.
This despite there being a large unused area on the page right next to
the client’s name.
- The previously clear “Add to Watch List”
button was replaced with a completely unintuitive star, confusing
large numbers of freelancers.
- A change was made that makes it impossible to
display attachments within the user’s browser.
And these were all done just to one
part of the site: the project details page.
What is particularly frustrating about
these classic “form over function” design decisions is that
they indicate a lack of familiarity on the part of the site developers
about how freelancers really use the site. There simply is no reason
for them, other than that the developers valued their own aesthetic
choices above site usability. Many of these issues could be fixed, or
avoided altogether, by soliciting greater input from frequent users,
but Elance management, for whatever reason, doesn’t make this a
priority. And even worse, despite many complaints, most never get fixed.
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Last Site Update: December 13, 2011
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