5 Awesome Websites and What We Can Learn From Them
As web designers, webmasters, and bloggers, we can always benefit from looking around the internet for more great ideas as to how we can build and manage our sites. Basically, the internet provides us a great resource: we can read webmastering tips, we can view other great sites, and we can talk amongst ourselves and share techniques.
In my experience, I've been helped greatly by simply keeping a folder of my favorite sites bookmarked, so I can look at them from time to time in order to catch a bit of inspiration. From this list, I've picked 5 sites that I think others could easily benefit from checking out. These sites have dramatically helped me when I work on my own blog, so I'm hoping they can be of some use to you as well!
I consider Notcot.org to be an awesome website because of how its form has really improved its function. Notcot.org is a site run by two designers who are incredibly interested in aesthetics of all kind; they gather all sorts of beautiful things and feature them on their site.
What we can learn from Notcot.org is that content is king, and because of this, you should let your content determine how you present it. Notcot.org image heavy because design is very visual, so the tiled format of the home page emphasizes the visual features, giving readers an easy way of deciding what content they'll consume.
Pitchfork did for the contemporary indie music scene in the late 90s and early 00s what zines in the 70s and 80s did for punk rock. Started in 1995 by Ryan Schrieber, who had just graduated from high school, Pitchfork went on to exert enormous influence in the music scene, with favorable reviews often enough to boost a band to stardom, as happened for The Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene.
From Pitchfork, we can learn how important it is to create a consistent media experience for users. Although some controversy surrounds Pitchfork's editorial practices, such as deleting old reviews that were no longer in tune with current trends in music, readers of the site know that they can expect great writing, consistent tastes, and a simple reviewing system that helps them decide what kind of music to consume. As webmasters, you should strive to design and manage a site that remains consistent; readers don't often like big surprises, though they do expect excellent content.
Andrew Sullivan started The Dish (formerly The Daily Dish) in late 2000, and in a post-9/11 world, it has become a very popular source of information and opinion regarding global political issues. Sullivan, a traditional conservative who has often disagreed with many of the notions of the neo-conservative movement, is an excellent and talented writer, and because of this he has been able to cultivate an online following of politically savvy readers. His blog began at Time, then moved to The Atlantic, and now is hosted by The Daily Beast.
From Sullivan we learn how important it is to cultivate a blogging personality. Think of how many famous authors worked to cultivate a public persona (Truman Capote comes to mind here); because you're working online, you don't have as many variables for building that persona, so you'll need to work extra hard to spruce up the kind of writing you do on your blog and website.
Lifehacker, part of the Gawker Media empire we internet types love so much, is a blog devoted to helping readers 'hack' their lives. Every bit of content on the site consists of tips, hints, and tricks that readers can use in their own lives to make everything simple and more efficient, from doing the laundry to mixing drinks to organizing your day.
Lifehacker has made its main purpose this: to help its readers. From it, we can learn that if we provide users with some content that gives them concrete tips or ideas, then they'll come back for more. Once you have steady traffic, you can vary your content and have different kinds of content for your readers to choose from. The point is that some part of the content should help your readers in some way, which will maintain their interest in your site.
Although it might not look like much, Hipster Runoff has developed into a huge success within the alternative culture. The webmaster behind HRO, Carles, has created huge buzz for his personal brand by providing his readers with up-to-the-minute coverage of all things within the 'alt' culture, from buzz bands to indie culture.
What you can learn from Hipster Runoff is how important it is to stay relevant and keep up with the latest and most important news. If you can find a way to offer your opinion on relevant and important issues within your blogging community, then you can really present yourself as an authority that many readers can trust.
Guest post by: Mariana Ashley is a freelance writer who particularly enjoys writing about online colleges. She loves receiving reader feedback, which can be directed to mariana.ashley031 @gmail.com.
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