oDesk - Web Site Design, Features, Interfaces and Ease of Use
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oDesk scores pretty well in my book when it comes to site design, features and ease of use. The site’s strong suits include good menus, a nice help system, fairly comprehensive account profiles, and good speed and stability. On the downside, some of its more advanced features—especially time management in work diaries—can be very confusing.
oDesk scores better on accessibility than many of its competitors. Like other sites, it works well across a variety of graphical browsers, but it also seems to work in a text-only browser as well. I usually test this by browsing project listings, and I was able to do this using the Lynx browser on a UNIX account. I cannot verify if other functions work properly, but even if not, scanning new projects is the most commonly-used function of a freelancing site for contractors, and being able to do this in Lynx means it probably also works on handheld mobile devices.
The only quirk I’ve found in using the project search function is that it seems to use a cookie or some other function to track which page of results you’ve last viewed, as opposed to this being controlled directly by the page URL. This system works properly most of the time, but sometimes yields odd results when using the browser back button. I also experienced periodic problems with this when browsing using Lynx. It doesn’t prevent browsing the listings, though, especially if you do this in the normal page sequence.
As an alternative to its regular site, oDesk provides an RSS feed of project listings, just like all project sites do. This is a pretty good feed, showing a good portion of the project description and also general information such as date, category and so forth. Oddly, though, it shows the client’s budget for fixed rate projects, but doesn’t tell you the duration, workload or requested hourly rate range for hourly jobs—kinda strange given oDesk’s preference for hourly over flat rate! The “click to apply” link is a nice touch.
oDesk’s RSS feed is actually customizable: you can define a search using whatever parameters or filters you want, and then click the RSS icon to get an RSS feed for that search. The problem here is that this isn’t obvious to most users; I only discovered this myself by specifically searching in the help files as part of writing this topic.
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Last Site Update: October 21, 2011
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