Time Magazine posted its list of the 50 Best Websites 2008, and as evidenced by the string of suggested sites that visitors left, there are thousands more out there that people are passionate about.
Aside from some handy resources and cool features, what does the average business owner have to learn from Time’s list? Plenty. These sites have been designed not just to be cool, but to have the user’s experience as the site’s primary focus. It’s this attention to the user that has prompted over 150,000 people to visit Time and vote for their favorite site.
When planning for your site, take a cue from the creative ones that made Time’s list this year.
- Keep the navigation simple. While you may be tempted to try out funky link graphics or titles, remember that most of your users will be new to the site and if they find it difficult to get around the first time, they probably won’t be back for more. The easier it is for a user to navigate, the better they’ll feel about the experience. The better the experience, the more likely they’ll be to take action – whether it’s as simple as signing up for a mailing list or a full-out e-commerce transaction.
- Make your products interactive. Not all sites need to be as extensive as Lookybook.com, but one visit to Lookybook’s library makes it easy to understand why the site made the 50 best list. The flip-through technology takes the guess work out of picking out a children’s book for your favorite little one. Not all e-commerce sites need to offer such extensive detail. Depending on what you’re selling, simple features such as alternate views, 360° rotation, or just a solid, creative description will be enough to move the user to action. However you choose to do it, make your products come alive. It’s the best way to move the user from a shopper to a buyer.
- Instant gratification. Internet users are a fickle bunch, so don’t make them jump through hoops. Offer up the most pertinent information early in their visit, like the search engine SearchMe.com. One visit to this innovative, graphic-driven site and you’ll see how users don’t even have to bother clicking to visit a site to make sure it’s the right one. When developing your site, brainstorm with your programmers about ways to give your users an easy feeling of accomplishment.
- Make your site a place to hangout. You don’t need to create the next Myspace or Facebook, but in today’s internetland, people like to make their presence known. Sites like iliketotallyloveit.com let users lead the way. On this site, guests get to submit products for review by fellow visitors as well as comment on items posted by friends or strangers. As Time notes, it’s a good way to watch trends “bubble” up to the top of the shopping charts, but by allowing the user to track his or her product responses, you’ve also created incentive for users to visit more frequently.
Time’s list is far from exhaustive, but strolling through it will offer up more than a few creative ideas for designing a site of your own. Once you’ve got a list of features that interest you, talk to your web designer about the best way to incorporate these ideas. Working with a designer that has your site’s best interest at heart will help ensure that your site is as functional and intriguing as it is informative.