Guru - Web Site Design, Features, Interfaces and Ease of Use
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Guru’s help system is the best I have seen among the major sites, hands down. It is fantastic both in terms of content and usability.
Like the website itself, the help system comes in separate versions for employers and freelancers. Even though there is a lot in common between the two, it’s nice to not have to wade through contractor-specific information when you’re a client, and vice-versa.
The content of the help system is extensive. Guru has packed the help system with pretty much everything you need as either a freelancer or an employer. All site functions are explained, and there are lots of tips and suggestions for getting the most from the site. Guru even explains important policies like how it handles arbitration and chargebacks, information that many other sites don’t specify.
The design of the help system is also excellent. It’s an actual system, not just a collection of web pages. There’s a hierarchical, collapsible/expandable menu of topics on the left side, an index, a capable search feature with highlighting, and highly usable navigation links.
Overall, a very nice job here.
I think Guru does pretty well in this area. While it’s clear that some focus in designing the site was geared towards making it look nice, I do not get the sense that the usability of the site has been made to suffer just for the sake of appearances, as I do when using the sites of some of its competitors.
It’s true that I do find some parts of the site a little hard to understand, as I mentioned above. I also think that some of Guru’s project setup and invoicing systems are more complex than they should be. But these seem to be a result of trying to provide more features and functionality, as opposed to web developers who have fallen in love with the latest gizmos, or simply have no idea how actual users navigate their site.
I give Guru middling grades for site speed. It is pretty quick in most respects, but the delay of up to five seconds when navigating project search results is too long. The site could use a bit more horsepower, or perhaps some sort of caching of project listings could be considered.
I have always find Guru’s site quite reliable, and I can’t think of any significant bugs I’ve encountered when using the site.
The only complaint I have in this area is that Guru seems to take its site down for testing and maintenance for much longer periods of time than other sites. Where its competitors will have the site offline for an hour or two, I can recall Guru being inaccessible for many hours or even much of a day. This is usually done on weekends, but hey, some of us work on Sundays!
I’m not aware of any past security breaches or other issues associated with Guru’s site.
And yes, I realize that the lack of an auto-login feature that I mentioned earlier is arguably a security feature to prevent users from having their accounts hijacked if they log in from shared computers. But I think that, like its competitors, Guru should let users decide if they put a higher priority on security or convenience in this regard. Many freelancers, if not most, do not share computers.
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Last Site Update: October 21, 2011
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