Musings

Imagine if Craigslist and Path had an app-baby

…or Why great UX can make a simple concept a winsome product.

Bondsy is a new way to buy, give, or trade things with friends. Price items as you want – $20, a hug, lunch, shoes, or just a favor. Only people connected to you can see your things, and you can create a beautiful webpage (just like this one) to share beyond the app.

Bondsy App

For those of you who aren’t already familiar with the semi-social, small network app called Path, you should check out this post, or google it. Even if you haven’t used it, chances are good that you’re familiar with Craigslist, but to sum it up: it’s the Internet’s bulletin board for just about anything, but mostly for selling personal items or looking for a place to stay – it’s also notoriously hideous, but that’s besides the point. I just came across this modest little app with the huge potential of selling to a trusted circle: Bondsy.

Yes, yes, you might be saying that this isn’t the first time someone has tried to make a better Craigslist. It always fails because there isn’t a substantial user-base, and therefore not very useful when looking for the cheapest A/C unit, in June, in New York City. Bondsy, like Path, doesn’t try to take down a giant (i.e. Facebook), but instead carves its own niche. Despite my failings at convincing close friends to join in with me, I still prefer Path to the loud, advertising-riddled, high-school reunion that is Facebook. I believe that — with some convincing of other friends to join in — I can get a lot more out of Bondsy than Craigslist.

Look at it this way:

  • Craigslist has next to zero visual design. Sure, it’s “functional,” but it doesn’t have to look like it’s from 1998.
  • Craigslist has a lot of results to choose from if you look for “sofa” in a big city, but the shopping experience is painfully horrible.
    • You have next to zero confidence or trust in the sellers (and rumors of scams are the first thing that comes to mind)
    • You can’t be sure of the quality of the item until you go see it in person – and that trip isn’t always convenient. Imagine shoe shopping and you had to travel across town just to try on your next pair.
    • It’s almost certainly “Final Sale.” Once money is handed over, there’s no going back.
  • Creating a post is a hassle:
    • You have to craft a title that is descriptive and yet interesting enough to click on.
    • Ditto for the item’s description.
    • You have to take pictures of the item for sale (probably with your phone), and then save it to your computer so you can use the upload button on their site.
    • Since it immediately gets swamped by other posts, you have to refresh or repost it.
    • When you do get a response, it’s from a perfect stranger who you have to decide if you even want to meet, and then arrange a meeting time/place.
  • Craigslist is such an inconvenience that for me at least, it’s often the last option.

What I’m getting at in the above, is that most services have a big usability barrier, and subconscious and actual limitations of trying to buy/sell used items to strangers. Interacting with friends automatically assumes a level of trust in both the quality of product, and personal warrantee. You’ll likely see this person again, so think about what that means.

There is also the huge bonus (possibly taken for granted) that this is on your iPhone! Taking a picture of what you want to sell/give/trade, and writing a personal description for your friends is a lot easier when it’s all on your phone.

At this point, I’m probably selling it too hard, but that’s because I’d love you to give it a try. I wonder what it would be like if more than three of my friends had this. Sure, I can give a book to – or trade with – a friend any day, but having this app in your pocket might spark ideas about cleaning out your closet more often than you expect. Your friend could have a blender just sitting in their basement that you didn’t think to ask for. Your BFF might have an awesome trinket sitting on their fireplace every time you come over, but didn’t know that they’d love to get rid of it. You can have these same interactions with friends in person – you can also talk in person, but someone invented texting – but Bondsy might facility more of that interaction and encourage everyone to spread the love.

As a demo, I posted a copy of Siddhartha, that my friend Jenn gave me. I like the book, and it’s nice to see it on my bookshelf, but I would be happier knowing a friend is reading it; even happier still if I got another good book, or a beer out of it!

Add friends:

You can add friends through social channels, or directly from contacts.
You can add friends through social channels, or directly from contacts.

Photograph the item:

Photograph your item with quick and simple camera view.
bondsy_capture

Write a description:

The fantastic part here is that you’re not making a hard sell to strangers. You’re talking to friends. I don’t need to talk about the condition of the book, the edition, the year; I can talk about what it meant to me, and why you – my friend – would appreciate it too.
writing

Name your price:

Naming your price is very open ended. A familiar customer base means creative compensation! Favors, fair-trade, free love, or cold cash.
Naming your price is very open ended. A familiar customer base means creative compensation!

Preview, and select who can see it:

bondsy_friend_circle

Post It!

This is what it looks like once posted for your friends to see.


That’s all I’ve got for ya! No, I don’t have much experience using the service yet. Yes, I have a feeling there won’t be much adoption. My point here is that this is a great concept; grab on!

P.S. To bridge the gap between people that don’t have the app, you can share an individual web page of your item with anyone. Here’s mine from the example in this post.

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