Ten Really Cool Sites You Can Emulate - dummies

By John Paul Mueller

Creativity in site design is often a matter of seeing a well-executed concept on another site, emulating it, and then modifying it to meet your specific needs. If every developer had to reinvent the concepts used to create a great site, no one would get anything done.

That’s why it’s important to create a list of sites you really like, document why you like then, and then use this list when developing ideas for a new site. The following list provides some sites you might want to add to your list:

  • Google: Many other search sites are so complicated that you really can’t figure out how to use them. Google defines a site that is so simple to use that you really don’t have to think about it — just type a search term and click Google Search. This site also demonstrates great principles for sizing content based on need. The user is presented with the most needed items in a larger size.

  • Astronomy Picture of the Day: The Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) is an outstanding example of a slideshow used as an application. This content site makes it easy to move between the pictures and accompanying explanations presented on a daily basis. It presents a good combination of font styles and shows how to use links well to enhance content.

  • Yahoo! Maps: Map sites can be notoriously difficult to use because they rely on a complex interface or the information isn’t in a form that is easy for users to input. Yahoo! Maps gets around this problem by providing three simple fields.

    The majority of the interface is actually devoted to displaying the map. The control system for the map is easily understood and doesn’t require any wording. This is a great example of a graphics-oriented application.

  • Thesaurus.com: This site provides a good example of how to use tabs in a unique way. There are actually multiple sites associated with this single site. By clicking one of the tabs at the top, you’re transported to other sites, such as Dictionary.com and Dictionary.com Translator.

    Controls need not be used for staid purposes — you can bend them as needed to meet specific requirements. The layout of this site is a bit fussy, but overall the controls are easy to use.

  • Go Convert: A great example of creating a calculation page, this site actually makes it easy to convert between different units of measure. The overall layout is quite functional, yet simple.

  • Vischeck: Accessibility is one of the more important features you can add to your site. This site not only helps you check accessibility (for colorblindness in this case), but it also demonstrates the use of some accessibility principles, such as the inclusion of information needed by screen readers to make the site usable by those who have special visual needs.

    This site also has a nice side menu layout with a large content area.

  • Petter Hesselberg.com: Presentation of tabular data can be difficult. This site shows one effective way to display tabular data that isn’t too busy or difficult to see. It isn’t always necessary to use borders when displaying tabular data — sometimes subtle coloring is all you really need.

  • I18n Guy: Sometimes you have a massive amount of information to display and organizing it presents a problem because there isn’t a logical flow to the data. This site presents one way to organize such information in a way that is easy to access. The use of tables within tables and button controls for selecting data sets is interesting.

  • GetHuman: Databases are searched more often than they’re changed. When the database is large, trying to find a specific piece of information becomes incredibly difficult and frustrating. This site demonstrates a telephone directory search technique that could be applied to other sorts of sites that tend to rely on just one or two keys to display a range of information.

  • John’s Random Thoughts and Discussions: This site provides a nice view of how to present information in an easily read font, the use of the <acronym> tag as needed, and a good layout. The material on the site is searchable in a number of ways — both directly and indirectly.

    The use of keywords and categories makes it easy to find specific posts. The use of extensive tagging makes it possible to find like posts across categories.