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Table Of Contents  The Online Freelancing Guide
 >  An Analysis and Review of Popular Online Freelancing Marketplace Sites
      >  Criteria for Choosing Online Freelancing Marketplace Sites

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Web Site Design, Features, Interfaces and Ease of Use

Another very important consideration in assessing an online freelance marketplace relates to the characteristics of the site itself: how convenient, efficient and easy it is to use. This category covers issues such as what platforms or devices can be used to access it, how fast the site responds to requests, how well organized project listings are, how good the help system is, and much more.

You may scoff at my calling this “very important”. After all, you probably already use many different websites, and are able to adapt to all of them as needed; you likely can’t imagine yourself making a decision to use or avoid a site over small technicalities. But if you become an active freelancer, you will spend a lot of time dealing with these sites. Proper design and usable interfaces can mean many more hours spent each week earning money rather than fighting with lousy software. And believe me, those small annoyances that seem like no big deal at first can grow to be a real thorn in the side. When I was actively freelancing, there was one big site that I would deliberately avoid whenever possible, just because it was such a pain in the butt to use.

Assessing a web site’s features and interfaces is of necessity subjective; some people like sites that others hate, and even those that agree or disagree on a site’s overall quality often have very divergent reasons for why they feel that way. In my examination of a site’s usability, I am unavoidably colored by my own preferences, but I try to explain why I do or do not like something, to help you decide how you might feel about it. I also try to cover important design choices that I think will matter to some subgroups of freelancers.

Here are some of the relevant factors for consideration:

  • Form Versus Function: Is the site generally designed with ease of use and produc­tivity in mind, or did its designers try to make everything “look pretty” while putting usability in the back seat?

  • General Accessibility: How accessible is the site for users on different computer systems or using various browsers? Are there specific software requirements like Flash or Javascript?

  • Mobile Accessibility: How easy or difficult is it to use the site on a smart phone or other portable device?

  • Portfolio Features: What software is used to help you show off past work and put a good foot forward for prospective clients?

  • Project Search Features: How efficient is it to search for new project listings, or projects in a particular category?

  • Notification Features: Does the site allow you to control how you are notified of events such as relevant new projects being listed, a client/contractor trying to contact you, or receipt of new feedback?

  • Client Communication System: How easy is it to communicate messages and send files to clients?

  • Login Requirements: Will the site remember who you are for a reasonable length of time, or do you constantly have to log back in? (Do not underestimate how much of an annoyance it becomes to have to type your username and password dozens of times a month!)

  • Site Uptime: How often is the site taken down for maintenance, either planned or unplanned?

  • Speed: Does the site respond quickly when you ask it to do something, or are you forced to sit there staring at your browser?

  • Stability: Does the site crash or lock up frequently? How quickly is the problem resolved? Also, how often is the site revamped? All sites make small enhancements over time, but some have an unfortunate tendency to frequently redesign large portions of the site, which can be very disruptive to productivity.

  • Help System: How extensive is the help system on the site? If you need assistance, can you find answers quickly and easily?

  • Security: Are proper technological precautions put into place to secure private infor­mation and avoid identity theft and related problems?

As mentioned above, most sites have development teams that are constantly revamping them, and major redesigns can appear without notice. So this is probably the evaluation factor in this Guide most likely to become outdated over time.

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Last Site Update: October 21, 2011

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