Short & fat or long & skinny: 37 Signals’ Job Board

I’ll take long and skinny, please. To go. But hold the fries.

37 Signals recently created a job board. For $250, companies posted jobs for RoR programmers, usability experts, web designers, and technical marketers.

There was only one problem: the board was oversubscribed. 37 Signals’ founder Jason Fried had intentionally wanted to limit listings there to about a hundred:

We felt about 100 listings at a time would be the sweet spot. Enough to provide choice to those looking for a job. Not too many to dilute the listings like so many huge job boards do. When your post is 1 of 100 you feel pretty good about having it seen by the target. When your post is 1 of 500 or 1 of 1000 you start to feel like you’re wasting your money. We don’t want anyone to feel like that.

However, lately there’s been – horror of horrors – too many postings. In fact, the job board is now bumping up against 150 simultaneous jobs. So today Jason Fried announced that the price was going up, to $300, in an attempt to regulate the number of postings down to about 100 through natural economics.

Now, a $50 price hike is no big deal … particularly when postings at are $500 each – and a lot less targeted for the kind of employer/employee that would be at 37 Signals. But it’s an interesting response to increased demand.

And if that’s what 37 Signals wants to do, more power to them. But I think there’s better ways to increase usability for both job posters and job seekers.

As one commenter posted:

From my point of view, trying to limit the listings to approximately 100 simply makes the job board less useful. As a job seeker, a job in SF isn’t equal to a job in NY. While 100 may sounds like a lot of jobs, many cities have only one or two listings at most. Not a lot of choice for those seeking jobs. If too many listings is that much of an issue, wouldn’t it be better to provide some mechanism to limit by city, field, etc. and allow users to hone in on what’s relevant to their search?

Excellent point – and one that completely relates to the Long Tail theory of economics. In reply, I posted:

Very, very good point. As the tail gets long, we need filters to manage the data. I’d rather have a long skinny tail with good filters than a short fat tail with no filter at all.

Short and fat is great for a small number of people, but for the majority it just doesn’t have anything to offer.

Exclusivity is great. And simplicity is easier when options and numbers are limited. But actual usability as a job board suffers when 95% of the jobs are not in regions where any specific job seeker is located.

Usability – or, more precisely, usefullness – would be increased by a concurrent increase in the number of postings as long as you also have better sifting, sorting, and filtering mechanisms.

Long and skinny wins every time.

[tags] 37 signals, signal vs noise, long tail, job board, simplicity, usability, filters, john koetsier [/tags]

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