oDesk - Web Site Design, Features, Interfaces and Ease of Use
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Form Versus Function
oDesk mostly does a good job in this regard, but it could do with some improvement in certain areas.
Most of the routine functions on the site are reasonably simple and easy to understand. The site-wide header and footer contain useful entries and menus that a new user can figure out pretty quickly. As I just mentioned, there’s a clear and obvious link to get help, and the site-wide search box is useful.
I am not a big fan of oDesk’s project search results page, though. I think that ten results per page is too few, and the designers have engaged in “form over function” indulgences with the silly pop-ups containing critical information that should just be in plain text within the project summary.
It’s fairly simple to figure out how to search for jobs and submit applications, the two most common tasks undertaken by contractors. And my guess is that most other routine functions, such as editing profile information, would be pretty easy for most users to figure out as well.
On the other hand, the more complex functions on oDesk can quickly become rather byzantine. The worst culprit here is the system for managing hourly work, which involves dealing with work diaries and team rooms. Trying to get anything accomplished here can be an exercise in frustration, often for both contractors and clients.
The best example of this is offline hours, which are hours billed to an hourly project manually. This option is provided by oDesk for those who don’t want to use their Team application, but trying to figure out how to actually enter offline hours in a way the system will accept can be extremely confusing. Even once you do figure it out, the client then must navigate a maze of menus and pages to find the place where he or she can approve these offline hours. As a contractor, I have on more than one occasion had clients ask me how to do this, and of course I had no idea. Sometimes the client will just cancel the hourly project and list a new fixed rate, invite-only project for the amount we agreed upon, because it’s easier than figuring out the work diary.
I’m sure that clients who use oDesk a great deal manage to figure out all of these hour management features, and eventually it becomes second nature. But let me tell you, intuitive it is not.
oDesk’s site is pretty snappy, especially given the volume of users it handles.
I don’t have any recollections of stability or bug issues when using oDesk, so their QA department is doing a pretty good job.
oDesk maintains very high uptime overall, even including upgrades. This is more important here than for some other sites, because of the reliance on the Team application, which routinely sends data to oDesk’s servers. The company does not seem to change the site around very often—a good thing!—and it manages to do routine maintenance with only very short offline periods, typically under an hour.
I have not heard of there being any security issues related to oDesk in the past, and I’ve never felt any cause for concern while using their system.
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