Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Best Of The Web? Really?

moluv screenshot

Amid the profusion of egotistical blogs, unreadably chatty MySpace pages, boring corporate masks and broken links, the web contains a few nice sites. How to find them? Well, you could rely on those web portals who make it their business to seek out the best of this world wide thingy. Here I'll take a critical look at one of these, Moluv's Picks.

To start with, I tried to understand the name of this site. Is Moluv a proper name, or is it some sort of cool street slang? Y'know "I got mo' luv for these sites!" The site name (with its possessive apostrophe) implies the former, the logo design the latter.

And then there's this circular doo-thingy in the top-left. It moves when I mouse it but doesn't actually do anything. Hmmm.

Looking around the page I see there's a section called "WORDS" subtitled "blurbs" which seems to be a news feed. Elsewhere there's a place to submit an URL (why?) below which there's a search bar. Although I haven't typed anything in, it's showing 25 hits. These appear to be site links but don't look anything like normal links. What exactly are these? Why are they here? What criteria is used to show them?

In the top-right there's some tiny text that says "NICE WEB SITES mmmm..." and some image boxes that once again give me no understanding of their purpose. They've got t-shirts on display under this and then a block for featured sites.

Further down the page there are Resources ("the best portals period") and Friends ("These cats either do what we do, or help us do what we do, and they've been doing it for a long time") and even "Moluv All-Time Favorites".

That's a lot of links. And I haven't even mentioned "Community" and several other home page blocks, because they are more self-explanatory.

I am slowly getting the idea that this site is something about collecting up other nice sites. But I have no idea how or why. Nor do I have any reason to understand why links should be in one place or another. This is an insanely busy screen with no logic behind its organisation. Six different areas for site links? Surely that's a few too many.

Things don't get any better when I start to click on what are reputably "the best portals period". Since these are listed in a Flash application, I have no control over how to open them. I get a new browser window whether I want one or not. And I don't, by the way. The more prosaic HTML links in "All-Time Favorites" function much better for me, but still have a few problems.

First, some of these sites are dead, stale, or on vacation. Second, many of them are simply home pages for design agencies. That's just not so interesting. Instead of forcing me to weed through 55 supposedly unmissable sites, I'd be a lot happier to have 10 or fewer. Then I'd know the editors of said list(s) had done their homework and weren't just using a shotgun approach.

Why go to a portal? For that matter, why read a blog like this one? Because you value the knowledge, experience and opinions of the writer(s). You want them to be your guide. You want to save time and energy by finding an ally who appreciates the same things you do. You want to offload some of the tedious web browsing work to them.

For me, Moluv fails completely on these counts. As it also fails on basic design, organisation, typography and English usage.

I think that's a problem with these "best of the web" portals. They're just too darned busy being cool. And their choices for best sites tend to be the same. Full of Flash and sizzle, fancy graphics and high-bandwidth content, they fail to impress on the very basic level of content and usability.

I've boiled down the portals I've found to four popular ones you may find useful. Still, they may not be the very best. I'm holding some in reserve. And I'm still looking for something better, portals which strive to promote good design, not just flashy design.

Where do you go for the best of the web? In a follow-up article I'll reveal my favourites. And yours too.


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