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