Craigsly: Automated Craigslist Search

It appears Craigsly did not endure the trials and tribulations of website stardom. The app is now down. Perhaps never to return. Alas, all is lost.

We all know Craigslist cornered the online want ads market. It’s rumored to have eradicated the classifieds section of the newspaper. I vaguely recall what a newspaper actually looks like so can not personally verify this. I do know that I use CL almost exclusively for searching for jobs, apartments, buying and selling various items, and any other odds and ins I’m interested in.

Like all successful websites an assortment of helper sites have sprung up, all with the intention of making the use of Craigslist easier. There are sites to view only the posts that have pics, as well as sites that claim to improve upon the Craigslist search tool. Recently I discovered a tool that gives automated updates per your search criteria- Craigsly.com.

Looks like Craigslist had the last laugh

Looks like Craigslist had the last laugh

This tool comes with similar functions as the others. You enter what you’re looking for, where you’re looking for it, and press search. The extra flavor comes in the form of entering your email address and then having the search results sent to you as future results are returned.

The good is that this is actually helpful. Let’s say you’re an out of work software engineer who wants to be the first to know when a job requiring PHP knowledge is posted. Rather than checking Craigslist every 15 minutes, you can set up a Craigsly search and then get back to playing video games. The bad is that in my first few attempts I failed completely and utterly to have one search page be returned. What I was expecting was for posts matching my criteria to be delivered to my inbox. What happened was an eerie silence. The kind of silence that comes as a stalker creeps in the night seeking his prey. Silence like when a guy finally professes his love to a friend only to be crushed by the pain of unrequited affection. Silence that can only be fully realized when one looks for an email that just doesn’t arrive. I received no emails from any of my search terms, including my final desperate search for the word, “the.”

*Update*, one and only one Craigsly email finally arrived. (Hooray!). It took about an hour to come to my Yahoo account. See below for suggestions.

A possible explanation is that the emails are being blocked by spam filters. I know I’ve had issues with that during previous attempts at setting up my own mail servers. I think it’s likely to be the case. If so, there are ways to work around it to varying degrees of success. My suggestion is to side step the issue altogether. When someone enters their search results, redirect them to a unique page within Craigsly that will display the search results as they are returned. Kind of like Gmail or Yahoo auto refreshing the inbox as new email comes in. This also lowers the bar for people who’d like to give Craigsly a test run. Nobody wants to give out their email to an unknown site. Eliminating the email field, or making it an optional feature would increase the number of people who try the site.

My next observation is regarding the various search criteria. The fields required are search term, location and category, (and email address). The search term is easy and obvious. The location and category require some degree of knowledge of Craigslist to use. If you’re from the San Francisco bay area you can just type that. As you type Craigsly will auto-complete the locale or category. What if you don’t know which you’re looking for? For instance if you’re from the small town of Harmony in central coast California you may not know if the nearest locale is San Luis Obispo or Santa Barbara, or some other place. This is more of an issue with categories in that most of us don’t have all of Craigslist memorized. Autoparts happens to be listed as PTS, but you’d have to go to Craigslist to find that out. The interface is hit or miss depending on whether you know or can guess the keywords of the category you want. A suggestion here is to provide a means to see an exhaustive list of all available cities and categories. This is a tricky design problem that could be tough to pull off without major clutter. Perhaps a small link to the side of the search box that will pop up the exhaustive list of search categories or locations. Even better if you can click the ones you want and have it auto fill the box.

My next revisions are in regards to the design. Craigsly dons the most amazingly large search boxes you’ve seen in your internet life. They’re gaudy, brazen, and in a way, fun. I like the bold move. I’d be tempted to make a few changes though. Namely going with just one humongous search box for the search term, and have the ones for location and category be smaller. Currently it’s a bit intimidating. It’s like that lady on the subway with bug eyed sunglasses and a plastic smile that says F off you bastard, like only she knows how to do. The search criteria is of utmost importance. The Location and Category are bland, finite necessities that help filter the path. So my overall design suggestion has now migrated to as follows. One large gaudy and awesome search box at top. Beneath it are two buttons or links that you click and a javascript popup comes up. From these you select all the categories and locations you want. And then off to the side somewhere have the option to have these results emailed to you. In all cases once you search you’re taken to a search results page that will persist and update while the browser page remains open. Props if the one search box is even bigger and more awesome than it already is.

Other cleanup issues include moving the “What is This” button to the footer, though I was deeply impressed with the screen quake after pressing it. And finally, I just noticed that the Amped Studios link is nailed to the screen. My OCD reaction to things nailed to the screen is to immediately start clawing through the side of my laptop to get the thing off. There’s something about the nailed to the screen effect I disdain like no other. My take is that this design option will eventually go the way of the blink tag or marquees. I’d put the link  in the footer alongside the What is This button.