More software vs. Less software 01 Sep 2005

30 comments Latest by Tate

LESS SOFTWARE: Angie’s List’s single-pulldown menu lets you search for specific-job contractors in your area. Matches are returned on the next screen with ratings and phone numbers so you can give them a call on your own. It’s an instant process. I’ve found 5 contractors I like using Angie’s List.

MORE SOFTWARE: ServiceMagic makes you fill out about 4-5 pages of fields to find a contractor match. You’d think after such a long process you’d get the perfect match. Well, no. You don’t get any matches. The system takes your data, looks for matches, and then emails you the results within 48 hours. And then you use their system to get in touch with the contractors they matched. So far I’ve found no matches on ServiceMagic.

30 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Stephen Collins 01 Sep 05

Well, isn’t the real difference here that Service Magic is a site that is paid for and therefore caters to the contractor. Whereas Angies List caters to the customer.

They actually do the same thng but for different markets. Service Magic tries to weed out potential customers who arent serious where Angies List tries to weed out contractors.

pwb 01 Sep 05


Catering to contractors means not delivering leads?? Trying to weed out potential customers is of value??

dmr 01 Sep 05

Does this mean you fired yer lame painters yet?

Wesley Walser 01 Sep 05

Sounds more like an example of bad software vs good software. Not particularly because of how much there is to fill out, but because they don’t have any people in their index because everyone who goes there knows it sucks and doesn’t want to be in the index.

Brad 01 Sep 05

Stephen: Well said. I always think audience has everything to do with the results. Like David said in his interview with OReilly on RoRs, be built it for himself to solve his own problems and because he has high standards, he build a great tool. I haven’t seen either of these two contractor projects, but one seems to be built to solve one persons problem with finding a contractor (Angie�s List�s), the other seems to have been built to make money (Whoever the other one is).

Peter 01 Sep 05

Actually, I found ServiceMagic to work flawlessy numerous times for me. And Angie’s List is a big fat failure because they don’t even cover my major U.S. City (NYC).

Rabbit 01 Sep 05

I checked out Angie’s site. I have to say, I don’t like it. I saw:

1. Marketing-type material on the left-hand side.
2. A list of cities that I initially thought were links but are not on the right-hand side.
3. A mildly visible link to “Click here for a quick tour,” and another to “Click here to read more.”
4. “Too many” navigation options on the website’s header, none of which gave me any immediate indication of where I might like to go.

I don’t want to take a tour, I don’t want to read more, and I certainly don’t care about all the marketing stuff.

So after about 3-4 seconds, my impression was: “What the fuck?”

So I gave the header navigation a second chance, and saw “Test the list.”

What the hell does that mean? I don’t want to test the list. What list?

*THEN* I saw the “Join!” link. Ah… they want me to register with them. Sorry, no thanks…

Dunno what Angie’s List is like on the inside, but the outside stinks.

This is primarily a dissentful response to Jason’s and Brad’s seemingly positive attitude toward Angie’s List. Basically just another perspective…

8500 01 Sep 05

My experience matches that of Rabbit. The first page presented to a non-member is a mess.

JF 01 Sep 05

Yes, Angie’s could use a complete design overhaul, no doubt.

Dan Boland 01 Sep 05

I’ll hop on that dogpile, too. I was pretty confused when the list of cities didn’t light up and reveal themselves as links. But mainly, I was thinking “so are you going to let me search or what?”

Aaron Blohowiak 01 Sep 05

Somewhat along the lines to what Wesley said, I don’t think the complexity of the software is so much the issue as much as the ammount of investment to even see the contractors is way out of line. I want instant satisfaction & then when I am overwhelmed, I want to narrow my results. Don’t make me put in a $100 deposit when I order an ice cream cone.

Absconditus 01 Sep 05

I know a contractor that has used ServiceMagic. They are presented with possible leads and have to decide if they want to pay to get all of the information. A large number of the leads are people who are not sure they even want to have the work done. While it may seem harsh, you can’t have your sales staff spending a lot of time on people that are just considering having some work done in the distant future. This contractor does very large residential remodeling jobs. There is probably much less time spent negotiating a painting job.

web designer 02 Sep 05

very well said Stephen

Boris 02 Sep 05

I fully agreed with Rabit. Angie’s first look UI definiteily sucks.

Rumbos 02 Sep 05

Service Villa is definately a nicely designed site - I really like the layout and how the information is presented, but it has almost no content. It seems like the site just launched, so I won’t knock it for that yet.

Dan Boland 02 Sep 05

Yeah, Service Villa is a very clean, polished looking site. The content will come so long as word-of-mouth can do its thing.

But as a “user,” I have two suggestions:

1) Make the “Select your location” link a lot more prominent. This is probably more important than picking a listing category.
2) Once you select your location, some of the main listings for that area should show up in the main content area. Instead, it still shows the same listings as it did before I typed in my zip code. That would make the site a lot more user-friendly.

Take it or leave it… other than that, well done.

Kevin 02 Sep 05

I’m a little upset that Angie�s List doesn’t tell me I have to pay for the service until after I give them my email address. Sure they are perfectly justified in charging for their service, but just let me know before I start the registration process.

Stephen - I can’t believe you linked to this site. I wonder how many email address’s have been harvested since you posted this link?

Kim Siever 02 Sep 05

I am with Rabbit on this one. I was at the site for 30 seconds and still have no idea how to find a contractor. Even the “About” link didn’t tell me anything. I don’t want a chapter, I want to know about the site. And is the “Join” page for contractors or customers? Do I have to join before I search.

Likely the least usable site I have ever visited. Just crap. Less software certainly has not made it better. At least with ServiceMagic I know immediately how to find a contractor.

wallace winfrey 02 Sep 05

Seems like somehow fits in the middle here — I was able to find ratings and testimonials for contractors after selecting what kind of work I needed done, then entering my zip code, then got a listing back complete with how far away from me they were.

Looks like they allow contractors to sign up for memberships for higher placement on their results, and they host websites for them too.

Hugo 02 Sep 05

First of all, thank you very much for your comments and suggestions about Service Villa. My friend and have been working on Service Villa on weekends since January. We went through I don’t know how many database/programming changes because we wanted the site to accomplish one thing: ease of use and allow people to find information fast.

I think the biggest challenge for us so far has been gathering content. It’s funny how we spent countless nights thinking about useability but we forgot (or put aside for the moment) content. We are the type of people that don’t want to steal other people’s data, so we aren’t copying other sites listings or inputting them from the yellow pages. We also refuse to spam e-mails with our site information. So, we are at a loss for how we can reach these companies to get contacts. Without the content, the site is nothing.

A good example is the second comment Dan posted. When he inputs his zip code, the page reloads to the home page. Originally we wanted to show listings 25 miles from the input zip code. The problem was that the page would return no listings because we have none. So, we had to refresh and show random listings all across the United States.

What are some effective ways to get more companies on there? As a two-man team we are swimming upstream against companies like Service Magic and Angies List.

Thanks again :)

Dan Boland 02 Sep 05

Hugo: Yeah, I understood it was due to lack of content, but my point is that it should say that there isn’t anyone within that 25 mile radius instead of just posting random listings. That way there isn’t any confusion.

As far as gathering content, I understand that dilemma. But is it unethical to use the phone book for gathering listings? You’d be doing the contractors a favor.

JSP 02 Sep 05

As far as gathering content, I understand that dilemma. But is it unethical to use the phone book for gathering listings? You�d be doing the contractors a favor.

Dan: This raises an interesting question about copyright. For example, the Supreme Court said that telephone books lack originality and thus are not protected by copyright, so it seems you’d be okay just typing (or scanning) in the white pages. Similarly, you might even be able to enter address/contact (i.e., generic) data from similar online directories into your own database, unless the other site’s Terms of Use prohibited it. But then again, have the courts even decided if generic “Your use of this site constitutes acceptance” agreements (as opposed to “click-wrap”, where you have to affirmatively click an “I agree” button before being provided access) are binding?

Wasn’t I just reading something on this site about how it’s hard to tell if something’s legal or not? They weren’t kidding…

P.S. This form totally needs a preview.

Darrel 06 Sep 05

I tried angie’s list for a while. I found their clumsy interface and complete lack of quality content for our area to make for a rather lame experience.