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Table Of Contents  The Online Freelancing Guide
 >  An Analysis and Review of Popular Online Freelancing Marketplace Sites
      >  Elance - Freelance Marketplace Site Analysis and Review

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Elance - Dispute Resolution and Arbitration
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Elance - Feedback System
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Elance - Web Site Design, Features, Interfaces and Ease of Use
(Page 2 of 3)

Help System

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 current information.

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 use:

  • 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 question.

  • 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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Elance - Dispute Resolution and Arbitration
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Elance - Feedback System
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Last Site Update: December 13, 2011

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