A successful website includes:
- a solid plan and strategy;
- strong, relevant and up-to-date content;
- user-friendly navigation and is easy to use;
- an enticing and inviting design; and
- employs a layout that is neither cluttered nor vacuous.
These key principals were front and center in highlighting leading
websites and practices presented by myself and my colleague Shel Holtz
at the 2005 IABC International Conference.
In determining “The Best of the Web 2005” three Internet sites in
particular excelled in adhering to best practices and demonstrating
excellence. It is not surprising that two of the names are familiar -
Google.com and Microsoft.com. A third, Canadian retailer Indigo.ca,
receives honorable mention.
Google’s success is well known. It is amongst the top five most
visited websites on the Internet – receiving about 200 million queries
every day, and almost as many media stories. It has a clean design, is
easy to use, and employs a very simple and clean layout.
Its strength though is not in its static content but rather its
interactive tools – namely the search capabilities. Google is arguably
one of the most innovative sites with a myriad of search-based
Unfortunately for Google, the search engine home page is the only
page that the vast majority of visitors ever see or use. In fact,
Google hosts a vast array of fabulous little-known tools to help
Additional services include:
- Advanced Search – specify date, by currency of content, by file
type or by one of 35 languages.
- Froogle – shopping search engine to price compare and locate tens
of thousands of products and stores.
- Google News – gathers news from approximately 4,500 news sources
worldwide and provides continuous updates.
- Google Answers – experienced Internet researchers can be hired to
find answers to almost any question for a fee beginning at $2.50.
- Google Translator – the Translator translates English to seven
other languages and vice versa.
- Calculator – type your numbers into the Google search box and hit
enter and the calculator will perform arithmetic, more complicated
math, units of measure and conversions and physical constants.
- Search By Number – use the Google engine to track your FedEx
package. The search input box recognizes numbers for FedEx, UPS and
USPS (United States Postal Service) tracking numbers, vehicle ID
numbers, U.S. patent numbers, Universal Product Codes, area codes, and
even FCC (Federal Communications Commission) equipment IDs and FAA
(Federal Aviation Administration) airplane reservation numbers.
- GoogleAlert – daily personalized searches that sends e-mail alerts
to the user when new results appear.
Google Labs – The brains at Google Labs have released a whack of
cool applications that are being trialed and tested. Google Compute
allows you to donate your computer’s idle time to scientific research.
Google Maps is the equivalent of Mapquest but is also incorporating
actual satellite photos. Google Video allows you to search for clips
from your favorite television program or from a newscast (though not a
lot of video clips are available yet, Google is working on it).
Google incorporates a philosophy that it manages to exemplify in
its “Ten things Google
has found to be true
”. The ten things also fulfill the criteria we
set out for what makes a great site:
1. Focus on the user and all else will follow.
2. It's best to do one thing really, really well.
3. Fast is better than slow.
4. Democracy on the web works.
5. You don't need to be at your desk to need an answer.
6. You can make money without doing evil.
7. There's always more information out there.
8. The need for information crosses all borders.
9. You can be serious without a suit.
10. Great just isn't good enough.
Google has earned the right to be considered one of the best
websites in their commitment to providing “better than great service”,
in understanding their users and in continuing to be innovators. Google
continues to be one of the best sites on the web and is one to
Microsoft.com is the biggest corporate website on the Internet and
the sixth most visited site on the web. Frustration with some of
Microsoft’s software and bugs aside, Microsoft continues to be a web
It was published that in May 2004 Microsoft.com received 1.2
billion page views.
Microsoft.com’s particular strength is its content. Of interest to
content writers, managers and communicators is PressPass (the media
relations section for journalists) – perhaps the single best online
media relations site on the Internet.
PressPass is an exhaustive source of content for journalists (and
the public) including links to other mainstream media stories on
Microsoft (though only a selection of course).
PressPass predictably features news on Microsoft. But the news is
extensive. Microsoft news is categorized into more than 14
The site also includes excellent sections for Investor Relations
and Community Affairs.
One of the things Microsoft does best is branding. The Microsoft
brand is consistent across the site but individual sections and
mini-sites all are designed with the key audience in mind. The X-Box
site plays more to kids, while Investor Relations caters to adults that
play with money.
The navigation format and schema in at the top of each page, and
down the left hand column is consistent – as is the use of the company
Microsoft has also shown that they understand that they have users
with distinct needs.
Webmasters, content managers and IT and marketing minds would do
well to follow the leaders that have blazed the trails before them. As
the saying goes, there’s no need to ‘reinvent the wheel.’ Microsoft and
Google are key contributors to ever expanding and rolling wheel that is
the Internet and both exemplify leading practices that can be
incorporated into any Internet, extranet and/or intranet website.
If you think your site is one of the best on the web, contact us
Toby Ward, a former journalist and a regular e-business
columnist and speaker, is the President and Founder of Prescient Digital
Media. For more information on Prescient’s CMS
Blueprint service, or for a free copy of the white paper “Finding ROI”, please contact us.