It's nearly 2021, and I've decided to try something new in an effort to once again help users gain the most usability and functionality out of their browsing experience. So, earlier this year I did a bit of testing in Chrome and Firefox, to see how my homepage has stacked up, against other homepages. And, ultimately, what can I do to make it the best!
Before I begin.. a bit of background. As a geek growing up, one of my early projects in college led me down a pretty nerdy path. I began this quest to create a simple webpage that would hopefully make things easier for people when browsing the Internet. Apparently I wasn't alone.
Questions began to surface, such as How can I make the Internet better? Or, more realistically: Can I create a useful homepage for people so they can access all their favorite websites? This school project was now a bit of an obsession.
Fast forward to 2020 and these questions remain, but many more have emerged as the Internet landscape has vastly improved. Is my site still as useful? Is it as fun as it used to be? And, what can I do to make it the best?
Each person may have a different opinion as to what makes for a great home page. But, ultimately, what users should consider the page to be personal. And, let's not forget things like its speed, reliability, simplicity, usefulness, and (in my opinion) a bit of fun.
Further, I think it needs to have some customizable elements, which make it feel like its your own.
In an attempt to see what the user experience is like on various homepages around the Internet, earlier this year I spent some time using other popular homepages. My hope was to see which aspects of these homepages are better, worse, or the same as the one I myself created years ago. And, I would not only learn from them, but try to breathe new life into the original, classic version.
The first homepage site I tried out was Kadaza. I spent 11 days using the site, and overall I was pleased. They cater to a global audience, and have a huge directory of sites to choose from.
Well organized, but also a bit overwhelming. The checkerboard style site layout allows you to see a plethora of sites, with each one highlighted by their logo. When looking through all their categories and sub-categories, the amount of sites was endless so I was impressed by the ability to add links from an almost infinite number of sites.
As far as the organization of the site categories, I found them to be useful and easy to navigate. However, once again, the sheer number of dropdown menus to choose from prevents this from receiving a full 5-stars. For somebody who would like to check their horoscope, for instance, may not need to view 10 different horoscope sites online each day.
With just 2 settings, I found the functionality to be the weakest aspect of the website. You can choose which search engine to use (Google, Yahoo, or Bing) and which background to display. I would have liked to have seen a few more options available. However, you can drag and drop the websites around the page within each category, which may also be useful for some users.
With well over 100 categories to choose from, I found the site selection to be a bit overwhelming and require multiple clicks in order to visit a website.
Quantity is not necessarily better than quality. And I found this to be more of a site directory than an easy to use homepage. In my personal use, I didn't really update or change the categories much within the 11 days, and I presume others may browse similarly. I ended up spending ample time looking through sites that I would likely never use, and clicking more than I would on other homepages.
The logo reminds me of one of Google's old logos in the early days. It consists of colorful block lettering, but overall was pretty basic in appearance. The backgrounds available add a nice touch, but I wasn't in love with the text, fonts, or basic typography appearance of the site or its secondary pages.
According to PageSpeed Insights, Kadaza loads in 1.8 seconds, which is moderate to good. In my experience, I thought the site loaded quickly enough to where speed was not really an issue. When navigating through categories, the site is responsive and quick enough to not be a distraction.
Summary: I liked the background selection, and the accordion style categories, which allow you to access LOTS of different websites. However, from a standpoint of organization and simplicity, the site was overwhelming. I found having to navigate through thousands of sites in categories and sub-categories became tiresome and felt like a directory of sorts. But overall, some visitors will enjoy the broad selection and discover sites for future use.
Overall Rating: 3.4 out of 5.0
Are there advertisements? NO
Summary: My Web Search may be a site that some people actually prefer, even though the summary score is low. Despite the excellent speed, I personally found the site to be a bit soft on too many of the characteristics I believe matter most when choosing a homepage. I don't enjoy ads, and I think that ultimately it was my least favorite of the group due to the lack of sites to engage with.
Overall Rating: 2.6 out of 5.0
Are there advertisements? YES
There is one advertisement, but it is front-and-center. Was it invasive? No. But was it distracting at times? Yes.
The next site is My Web Search. I spent 8 days using this site, and came across many aspects that I liked, but also disliked about this site.
The organization, in a sense, couldn't be any cleaner. The few sites that are listed are laid out nicely right below a search bar. However, there are only 6 sites to choose from, and an advertisement is also listed front and center. Although technically organized, I didn't find it to be anything I would really recommend to others seeking out a new homepage. The clock at the top of the page was useful and accurate.
The main function of the site is the search bar. However, the site is set up to where it is using Google's custom search feature. I don't know how I feel about this, as it's kind of a just a white labeled version of Google. This is okay, and I did eventually got used to it, but initially I thought it was unnecessary. Further, there are no other real settings or custonmization features to speak of. If you like the 6 websites it lists, then great. If not, there's not much else you can do. I ended up using the URL bar of my browser more times than not, to access other websites.
This is where the review of this site is challenging, as the simplicity is apparent. But, one could argue it's a bit too simplistic. As mentioned in the organization field, there are only 6 sites to use, so I felt the simplicity is actually a negative here. The site is just too basic for my tastes. But, I will say that the webmaster, owner of this site achieved a nice clean layout if that's what you are looking for.
The aesthetics really are okay. However, due to the advertisement being front-and-center, I felt like this was a slight distraction, and the RetailMeNot ad wasn't relevant while using the site.
There are no options for the addition of a picture or background other than the basic white color. I have to say, this site's looks could be vastly improved if there was an option to choose a different color or pattern.
This is where the site excels. The site loads at a blazing 0.7 seconds (mostly due to its very small page size). I kind of expected this site to be fast, and it was while using it.
The next site is ProtoPage, which I spent 10 days using as my homepage. This site has a lot to offer, and the site is fairly in-depth. Here are the details.
The site is a bit chaotic, but certain aspects are well thought out. You can search eBay, Amazon, Twitter, Youtube, and more, from the narrow search bar in the middle of the page. This was pretty useful, and the site provides a pop-out preferences option where you can add/remove sites.
Overall, I think the best way to describe the site is organized chaos. Your eyes can wander a bit when pulling this page up for the first time, as there are a lot of boxes and tabs to navigate through. Boxes are filled with news sources, weather features, and more. Overall, I have to give the web designer credit for how much they had to do to organize this much information on a single page/site.
The widgets you see when you open up the page come with several options, depending on which one you are editing. For instance, the weather widget allows for various length forecasts and the choice between fahrenheit or celcius controls.
News stories will appear with a
strikethrough after being read, and other small touches make this a very functional site.
I do appreciate the thumbnail previews of the news stories. Although not fancy, they do pleasantly appear before you read the article and allow you a quick preview of the story.
I've given 5-stars here because the owner(s) made a clear attempt at making the site functional for the user.
This site is not simple. In fact, they have tried to fit a lot in here, and they've succeeded in doing so. However, it is at the expense of simplicity, if that is what you value in a homepage.
The weather widget, as an example, is thought out nicely, but you then need to scroll down to see the forecast. So, in that regard, it's a complex site which takes quite a bit of time to explore and use. Is it simple? No. Is it simple for how much is thrown at you while using it? In a way. I think they achieved a lot on a single page here, and that is noteworthy.
This site has its aesthetic pros and cons like most. There are background to choose from, but they are low resolution images that really don't do it for me.
The widgets that appear have a small header that can be changed, which is nice. However, it's really not impactful in any way. Some aspects of the site appear a bit dated, such as the form fields and buttons. So, overall, I give Protopage mixed reviews here.
The page speed here is solid. The website loads in 1.2 seconds, giving it a solid score. When you create an account, and go through the same test, unfortunately the site loads a bit slower due to reading your personal settings, but I'll only list the score based on the initial page load. As you navigate through the site, I would say the page holds up on its speed, so extremely high marks were given here.
Summary: Summary goes here.
Overall Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0
Are there advertisements? NO
Summary: The news widgets are the highlight here, with the ability for you to switch between pages within each news source. That's a sweet function that I enjoyed. There are going to be many people out othere that enjoy the amount of news being displayed. When drawing comparisons, I felt like the site does an excellent job in those components, but I wish they offered a bit more fun, design, and an improved user interface.
Overall Rating: 3.4 out of 5.0
Are there advertisements? YES
There is one advertisement at the bottom of the page. Was it invasive? No, because you have to scroll down to see it. Was it distracting? Sometimes.
The next site is Start Me. I spent 10 days using this site. I was thoroughly impressed with certain aspects of this site. Let's dive now to see where certain aspects of the site are best.
There is a lot to go over here with the organization of Startme. They have done a fantastic job at packing in a lot of content into a small space. The main news widget offers Google news, CNN, Fox News, and the New York Times. Other news must be accessed through the news section, which unfortunately loads kind of slow, and can be a bit excessive due to the sheer amount of content.
However, sources can and should be customized, so organization can technically be improved over time. Because of this, and the fact that they have succeeded in displaying a lot of content in small spaces, I feel like the site is worthy of 4/5 stars.
This site functions quite well. The page is awesome if your main purpose is to view news on your homepage. Some categories of sites are more customizable than others. But in some cases, you are forced to navigate through the icons of sites that are already pre-chosen, rather than selecting your own. This is okay, unless you have to look at sites you'll never use.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, there are certain functions that seem completely unnecessary. For example, I don't see why anyone would need to open up 9 sports webpages at once, which is what will happen if you select the sports box and choose to "open in new tabs."
StartMe has certain aspects of the site which are nice and simplistic. I really like the tabs within the widgets, as this allows you to see a lot of information in a small space. The upper tabs, which allow you to switch between entertainment, finance, gaming, etc, are pretty helpful, but they have their drawbacks (see Speed section below). I don't think this is a site one would use if you prefer a simple layout. It's a bit too much for those purposes. However, there are also parts of the page that are a bit unnecessary.
Startme functions well, is organized well, but less effort was made in making the page look good. There are backgrounds to choose from, which in theory is a huge plus, but they fall short because they are covered up by all the widgets in the foreground.
The site speaks more to the news reader than those who wish to open up their browser with a pretty looking site. The layout is rather complex, and really nothing is exceptional in the site's aesthetics.
The site is pretty quick overall. However, switching tabs between the various sections of the site is where things slow way down. I ended up not using those tabs much at all, except for on the first day where I was exploring the site thoroughly. Bottom line: The site loads in 2.3 seconds on average, which is pretty decent, but nothing special.
The next site is Best Homepage Ever. I have now spent 30 days on the site.
The popovers (menus that appear when you hover your house), display several websites in a table style format. This is nice to keep websites in their own respective categories for ease-of-use.
For the main sites, they are all contained (some in redundancy) in the top navigation menu, when hitting Jump To. This redundancy is done so for 2 reasons: In case you want to hide some elements on the page, and 2) To access sites in your preferred method.
The main navigation is accessed by clicking the logo in the upper left, which is organized for those links that are used less frequently.
The site has many functions that are kept in the settings panel of the site. The drawback is you need to be logged in to access them. But once you are, you can show or hide basically anything you see on the page. These options are nice for those who may want to take Simplicity to the extreme on their homepage.
The tools, which are accessed on the bottom left, are also helpful for those who want to quickly browse Internet trends, shorten a link, shrink an image, and more. Those also appear in a popover, allowing for 1-click.
The site is pretty straightforward. The main links section, named Jump To is at the top right of the page, which leads to a menu with popular links like Facebook, Google, Netflix, and others.
The clock, categories (which also contain links), and popovers that appear on hover, all keep the main viewpoint clean. You cannot scroll down on this homepage, but that actually helps in this case, for simplistic purposes.
Of all the homepages reviewed in this study, this site looks the best. The first thing you notice is the background, which is a high resolution image. And if you don't like this image, there are an additional 150 images to choose from within the settings panel.
The other elements (header, footer, and categories) are well deserving of good marks, as they don't take away or distract you from the links. If you do not want to see those categories, then you can remove them, which is a nice touch.
PageSpeed Insights pegs the load speed at 1.7 seconds, which is a solid speed. The site underwent some changes to both the server and CSS properties to improve this over the last month.
When clicking around, hovering over menus, and navigating to other parts of the website, the site is good. No buffering, slowdowns, or delays. The only exception is the music page, which loads several Youtube music iframes.
Summary: Best Homepage Ever is the best of breed amongst these homepages. The combination of the 5 elements listed here are done well, and the sites that you can link to (including your own custom ones), make this site an enjoyable homepage on a daily basis.
The ability to edit the aesthetics: background, site elements (like the clock or launch bar), footer, categories, etc., allow for full customization which is what I think people want from a well done homepage.
Overall Rating: 4.8 out of 5.0
Are there advertisements? NO
There are no ads on Best Homepage Ever.
|Site||Kadaza||MyWebSearch||Protopage||StartMe||Best Homepage Ever|
|Did the site exceed your expectations?|
|Does the site do a good job balancing organization and functionality?|
|Was the site easy to begin using as your homepage?|
|Would you consider setting it as your homepage?|
When comparing these sites, there are really no losers. Each has their own style, layout, and strategies as to what makes an efficient and useful home page for daily usage. All the the opinions above are listed as my own. I encourage you to visit all of these sites and choose the one which suits your interests the most.