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I am in the classifieds website business. I am struggling to find general consensus about the best way to design a user experience for being able to post ads on a classifieds site. Specifically, the site is http://www.buyagainbaby.com. But, this site follows the same pattern and architecture as the others I design, so ironing this out will help moving forward.

In order to both post and ad as well as contact an individual about their ads, should a user be made to sign up first?

There seem to be two schools of thought.

1) If I force the user to sign up you put security in place that maintains a certain level of integrity for content as well as accounts. Also, having a person sign up to contact a user allows for one to hide (or protect) the poster from receiving spam, which, is more prevalent when there is unfettered access to the 'contact this poster' form.

or

2) Allow anonymous users not only post but more importantly contact users about posts. I am finding that it is most annoying for authentic users to have to go through the extra steps to sign up just to be able to access the 'contact this user' form. If you have ever used craigslist, you may know how easy it is to interact with the site. At the same time, you know how frustrating it is to get so much spam.

The signup process is fill out name and email, and then verify via a link sent to your email address to activate the account - pretty standard stuff.

Thoughts? Thoughts on even a better way to find a balance here between ease of use and content / user integrity?

Any other thoughts on how the website could be more user friendly are greatly appreciated.

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4 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Assumptions:

  • You care for UX and collecting email addresses is not key for your business
  • Users should be active on the site, i.e. post ads, get in touch with each other
  • Content quality and privacy matters
  • 'Administration' of the users' ads can be done without an account/login

I looked up buyagainbaby and having to register an account before getting in touch or posting really feels like a hurdle. The following workflow seems much easier to me but still addresses the assumptions above.

a) As a seller I want to list an item

  1. Seller enters item title, description etc. into a form, adds pictures
  2. Seller also enters email address
  3. Let them know the site won't disclose the email but email would be used by the site to send the buyer mails to the seller
  4. Let them also know they need to click the link in the email you will send them in order to verify the address and activate the ad
  5. Send the email with a link and activate the ad when link is clicked

b) As a buyer I want get in touch with a seller

  1. Buyer clicks a link in a certain ad to get in touch with the seller
  2. Buyer enters the message and his email address
  3. Let them know the email address will be anonymized by the site, hence the email is kept private
  4. Send the message with email to the seller

Key to both use cases is that the system would anonymize both email addresses to a random but unique email in your system which your system then would map to each users' email.

Clearly the advantage here is that users can focus on their task/goal, which is listing the ad and getting in touch with the seller without having to worry about another account to maintain.

Of course you can still ask your users to create an account by entering a password if there is added value, e.g. easier administration of their ads.

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I know what you mean about the hurdle, and I want to try to remove that feeling. This gave me a good idea. The steps you describe for verification are the same as creating an account, if I boil it down to its most basic. No reason that I cannot silently integrate that into the background so that when the user clicks to verify his or her post the account creation can happen simultaneously for when they want to come back. The con of this would be a new account, even by the same user, per item they posted. not really a problem, I can purge unused accounts. what do you think? –  blue928 Mar 26 '12 at 23:49
    
@blue928 Sounds good. The email would be the unique identifier for the account which you can maintain in your backend. So one user would only create multiple accounts if (s)he used different email addresses. Question is if you want to show the history once they decided to sign up. I'd say this depends on the target group and market. –  greenforest Mar 27 '12 at 7:56
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I am not sure if you are pre-populating the form fields with the user details while filling up the form (provided the user is registered). However I'll go with that assumption and going by that thought process, I would suggest this process :

Allow users to send messages to those who posted the ads without signing up but remind them that they would not have to fill in the form fields every time if they signed up as the data would get pre populated if they had an account and they were signed in.Also tell them that registered posts are more likely to get a response as opposed to those just sent as anonymous or as a guest.

With regards to the posting of content,you should get users to sign in so that there is some level of authentication involved and secondly they can keep track of what messages have come in from whom and they can access/edit their content when they want to.

With regards to signing up and validation,if you think its a major pain,have you considered open authentication using google or facebook or twitter?

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Do what Wikipedia does(used to do atleast): Have a captcha and a maybe a not-too-annoying process("enter email id so that we can get back to you, real name, blah") for the contact form. Next to the captcha write "tired of writing your name/captcha every time? Create an account!" with a convenient link.

For posting stuff, it's really your choice, and it depends if you even want an anon to post. Since its just classifieds, I think it's OK to allow anons to post, as long as they provide an email id. But lock half the features; and say "want to use this? Create an account! It's fast sand free!" or something along those lines (hopefully less obnoxious). Kind of like WolframAlpha and other sites, except you don't have to pay.

You may also consider adding OpenID logins (like stackexchange) useful. That makes it extremely easy to create an account.

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No. Craigslist does not.See how well they have done! Email is hidden behind a randomly generated email. They just require you to input your email so it will go to the right place, but there is no real registration. Classifieds have a degree of privacy to them inherently anyways, the faster the better for them, IMO.

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Jordan, welcome to UX Stack Exchange. A good answer around here needs to have either a thorough explanation of the process or cite some 3rd party sources. –  dnbrv Mar 14 '12 at 4:46
    
While his answer is terse, it does cite a 3rd party source, perhaps the best available for the subject matter: Craigslist. I believe any answer to this question that does not cite Craigslist is the incomplete one. –  Myrddin Emrys Mar 22 '12 at 23:10
    
Thanks Myrddin. A thorough answer is usually poorly written. This question doesn't require an essay for an answer. –  Jordan Reiser Jun 5 '12 at 20:03
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