The Best of the Web 2005

by Toby Ward — 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 - and A third, Canadian retailer, receives honorable mention.
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 - and A third, Canadian retailer, 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 applications.

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 everyday users.

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 watch. 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 leader.

It was published that in May 2004 received 1.2 billion page views.’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).

Microsoft Best of the Web 2005 1

PressPass predictably features news on Microsoft. But the news is extensive. Microsoft news is categorized into more than 14 sub-categories:

  • Developer Tools
  • Microsoft Business Solutions
  • MSN
  • Office System
  • Windows Client
  • Windows Mobile
  • Windows Server System
  • Microsoft News
  • Consumer News
  • Legal News
  • Security & Privacy News
  • International News
  • Microsoft & Industry Events
  • PressPass News Archive
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 logo.

Microsoft Best of the Web 2005 2

Microsoft has also shown that they understand that they have users with distinct needs.

Microsoft Best of the Web 2005 3


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.