User experience (UX) is subjective. It’s all about how a specific user experiences a particular website, the content it contains, how easy it is to navigate, how fast it loads and generally how enjoyable and satisfying it is to use. One man’s dream site is another man’s nightmare, so please forgive me if the 20 sites I highlight below are at odds with your perception of superlative UX.
The sites I have chosen, some that you’ll know, others that you won’t, all look great, perform a specific function better than any of their competitors, and do so with style and technical finesse. Shops, browser-based apps, social networking tools, search engines, online magazines and much more, I’ve covered all the bases here. If you’ve got any more suggestions, leave a comment and let me know.
The 100th most popular site on the web, Digg is a wonder of user experience and perhaps the best place on the internet to kill an hour or two. As users will already know well, the site’s based around a much-copied ‘digging’ and ‘burying’ voting system, which gives users complete power and control, putting the most fascinating stories in the world at their fingertips.
Apple seems to hit the nail on the head with just about every product it releases, from the iMac to the iPod and the iPhone. Unsurprisingly, Apple’s website is every inch as slick and well designed as its consumer electronics. It boasts a unique layout; large, high-res images; and seamlessly embedded videos. It really comes into its own, however, when you actually try to buy something: it’s as pleasant and efficient an experience as visiting a real-life Apple Store.
Basecamp is a browser-based project-management tool used by Warner Bros, Adidas, National Geographic and thousands of small businesses. Basecamp has managed to reflect the simplicity of its tool in its website, which lets you get to grips with Basecamp’s features and pricing, and sign-up, in a matter of minutes.
Safari, Firefox and Chrome users will love Mockingbird, a website which lets users create mockups of websites and applications quickly and easily, before previewing and sharing them with other people. Drag-and-drop and snap-to-grid functionality make this site a real pleasure to use and very addictive!
Flickr’s an image and video hosting site with over 4 billion images on its system, all of which you can view and many of which you can use (depending on the type of license). Free account holders can upload a very satisfactory 100MB of images per month, while Pro account holders have no limits whatsoever. Users can even edit their images on the site, for free, using Picnik.
Since its creation in 2006, the ubiquitous Twitter has changed the way millions of people interact with one another. No more long-winded letters or emails, we now converse in phrases of 140 characters or less! Ease of use makes up a huge part of user experience and Twitter could not be simpler: tweet, follow and search to find out what your friends and favorite celebs are up to. You can even discover breaking news way before it’s announced in the media.
The world’s most popular website, Google is our window to the worldwide web. The fact that its brand name is now synonymous with the word ‘search’ proves just how central Google is to the lives of tens of millions of internet users. As a search engine, Google offers more than any other: it’s uncomplicated, unfussy and straightforward, but still manages to remain cool. With Chrome, Mail, Docs, Maps, Sites, Finance etc etc, you can do pretty much everything you’d ever want to do online, thanks to Google.
There are a number of free, online image editors out there, Picnik being one of the most famous, but for me, Pixlr is the best when it comes to user experience. You can get started in a matter of seconds and edit, paint and enhance to your hearts content without delay. Its controls are highly intuitive, easy to get to grips with for both novices and those used to Photoshop.
The BBC puts a lot of effort into its website, so much, in fact, that newspaper publishers in the UK are calling out for a cap on the amount of information it’s allowed to give out, as it’s negatively affecting their sales. The content, which covers everything from news to weather, music, radio and TV, is really top notch, but it’s the way that it’s presented that’s really special. By clicking the ‘Add more to this page’ button, users can customize their BBC homepage by instantly adding and removing elements.
Dictionary, thesaurus, encyclopedia and translator in one, this is one of those sites that you stumble upon one day and then use forever. Its tabbed interface makes for a thoroughly agreeable user experience, letting you switch, at the touch of a button, between its major functions. Not only is it quick, it’s highly accurate and its information can be trusted.
For those that don’t know, IMDB is the Internet Movie Database, the place to find information about movies, from the actors that star in them to the directors, producers and crew personnel who work on them. It boasts a gargantuan amount of data, but presents it in a way that’s easy to consume. If you’re looking for cast lists, crew lists, plot summaries, quotes and filming locations, you’ll find it, and more, at IMDB.
Monster is the world’s largest employment website, with over one million jobs posted at any one time. Users can upload their resume (over 150 million people have done so far) to let employers come to them, or simply search for the perfect job, making the most of Monster’s career tools and advice. Everyone who’s ever been unemployed knows that job hunting is one of the most tedious activities imaginable. Monster makes it slightly more bearable thanks to its user-friendly site, which offers many time-saving features, such as the ability to store customised job searches for future use.
Allmusic is crammed full of fascinating information about everything musical. Its search feature is second to none, letting users search by Artist/Group, Album, Song, or Classical Work to find exactly what they’re looking for. You’ll be wowed by the level of information on the site, with in-depth biographies, discographies, reviews, album covers, recommendations and even the ability to listen to over 6 million tracks.
14.) Rotten Tomatoes
Rotten Tomatoes is, without doubt, the best website for movie reviews. Click on a movie and you’ll be presented with a synopsis, cast, trailers and pictures, as well as, uniquely, the ‘Tomatometer’, a barometer depicting a film’s popularity based on how many users have rated it as ‘Fresh’ and how many have rated it as ‘Rotten’. This way, you get a snapshot of what the entire movie-going public thinks of a movie, rather than one individual, snooty critic. If professional criticism is your thing, however, you’ll also find reviews from every major movie writer too.
You’ll find movie reviews at Metacritic, but that’s not all, you’ll find reviews of DVDs, TV shows, music and games as well. Each is given a METASCORE, a weighted average of all the scores assigned by all of the most important critics, as well as a User Score, given by visitors to the site. Metacritic is beautifully laid out, fast, responsive and highly intuitive to user needs.
Users in the United States can use Hulu to stream their favorite TV shows and snippets from Fox, NBC, ABC and other stations. Think of Hulu as the stations’ fight back against user-generated video sites. If you’re looking for happy-slapping, drunken debauchery and rapping grannies, head over to YouTube. If you want to access and interact with high-def clips of your favorite shows on an exquisitely designed, speedy site, check out Hulu.
Dopplr is a fantastic social networking tool for those bitten by the traveling bug. Plan your trips, write a journal, locate your favorite places and find out about the best restaurants, nightclubs, bars, museums, art galleries and more from the people who really know- fellow travelers. There’s even a carbon calculator, so you can watch your CO2 consumption, if you’re that way inclined. The site offers so much, but couldn’t be simpler to operate. White with dashes of bright color, it looks superb too.
Based in Chicago, Pitchfork Media, known to the world simply as Pitchfork, churns out daily music news, interviews and criticism for thousands of devoted followers. So powerful has Pitchfork become that its comments can now make or break bands. Its site is an embodiment of all things cool, combining great looking fonts with a superb layout and killer content.
Using Netvibes, you can create your very own personalized start page, adding and removing widgets containing everything from your emails to the weather, news, sport, TV channels, podcasts, to-do lists, calendars and hundreds of other, altogether more original things. You can update your Facebook and Twitter accounts directly from your Netvibes homepage and keep a close ‘watch’ on your favorite subjects. Adding and removing widgets is as easy as checking and unchecking a few boxes.
A social publishing company, Scribd shares 35 billion words with its users. They can upload their own documents, from college theses to short stories, and discover the work of others, subscribing to individuals, publishers or companies. Users can read the most popular documents or search to find something a little more unusual, cataloguing anything of interest for use at a later date. Once users have settled on something to read, they can download it, send it to their phone, print it, or publish it on Facebook or Twitter, at the touch of a button.
Written by Tom Walker, a designer who works for UK-based company offering cartridges for HP PSC printers as well as other design accessories. For his latest work on design and advertising, check out the CreativeCloud.