Best Indian websites - 2007

Hi,

This was an article that appeared in PC World India

Nice stuff

Santosh
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Technology will dominate the future and the web is clearly one of its greatest manifestations. Forget the dotcom bust that many sceptics will remind you of The Web is going to become our way of life in India.

There are enough statistics to point to the rapid growth of the Internet in India – number of connections, e-mail accounts, transaction revenue – all very convincing. But who needs statistics? Just a quick look around will reveal how web is fast replacing traditional brick-n-mortar operations.

Be it picking new stocks or new friends, finding a job or a bride, there’s a web way to things that is proving far more effective, and rewarding. Websites today are built with robust understanding of users and available technology. They purposefully pursue fulfilling the needs of their audience but are grounded in strong business reality. And hence, unlike the fairy-tail era gone by, this time round the web is geared to deliver all your needs.

Yes, the web has answers for almost all your needs and the problem is one of being spoilt for choice. There are scores of websites wooing you with the same content or service. There are those who promise to be a one-stop-shop while others claim they are better because they are focused and specialized. As a user one is left wondering where to begin and typically end up with familiar sites or recommendations. Perhaps not the best way to reach the site.

The best site should use technology to deliver solutions. Information should be presented intuitively and concisely. Design should aid the overall experience. And that is what our Best Indian Websites represent. In its first year, the award focuses on 20 prominent categories – products and services that are most useful today and are not based on fancy future roadmaps.

The 126 nominees that we evaluate represent the best known names as well as some not-so-famous-yet sites that our panel of experts believe do justice to their mission. The awards aim to capture the framework and user understanding that the site has – embodied in its design and deployment of technology - rather than to rate its specific content, something that changes very dynamically and perhaps impossible to judge objectively.

We’ve also stayed away from making popularity a criteria or viewing traffic reports to declare winners. The winners here are based on what our experts believe are the most promising and deserving sites and we hope you agree with the verdicts when you try them yourself.

Gaming
Yahoo! Games


There is nothing like taking some time off from work to look for gaming action online. No, we are not talking about Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing games or (MMORPGs) as they are called. What we are talking about here small arcade-style games that can either be played multiplayer in online mode or single player offline.

In India, Yahoo! games has became quite a hit with youngsters, with games such as pool, Literati (a scrabble clone), Chess, and Reversi etc. Based on the success and hit rates experienced by Yahoo, Reliance jumped onto the foray with Zapak.com. However, to say the least, Zapak failed to satisfy the jury. Though the site has many games, it scores low on the usability, navigation and functionality scale. And besides functionality, why on earth should a gaming site have trailers, recipes and fashion videos is totally baffling.

Indiagames.com deserves a special mention for providing a networking area, where gamers can discuss games. A great implementation. Funtoosh.com, on the other hand, sports a nice compilation of flash games that are really interesting. But, Yahoo! games rules the roost with a great mix of free-to-use, shareware and subscription games with a games news section. They could make the site even more interesting by adding game reviews, said the jury.

Flowers and Gifts
Fernsnpetals

Cards and gifts are a great way to communicate with loved ones across the country, or for that matter anywhere in the world. It is even possible to send flowers, cakes, sweets and gifts to friends and family at the click of a button.

Dedicated websites and special sections on shopping portals allow you to communicate your feelings easily. Unlike many other sections where portals have emerged as winners in vertical niches, fernsnpetals.com bags the honors here. This click-and-mortar operator has a clean look that seduces the user into buying flowers. But the images on the site leave a lot to be desired. Being a florist website they could have made them more natural, rather than using Photoshop touchups.

The site does offer a lot of user interactivity, employing chat options on MSN and Yahoo. The other florist player, Rajindra Florist, sports a site a bit too busy for comfort. The site design is far from great without much visual appeal. The site has a couple of good concepts like tailor-made orders, which however, are not implemented correctly. There is much scope for improvement.

Of the shopping portals, indiaplaza.in emerged as the main challenge to fernsnpetals. The site provides consistent information, but does not provide any Indian customization (in the form of special arrangement for festivals for instance). They could do with a better registration and payment page.

All portals have tie-ups with local vendors to fulfill orders. Though this process may work for them, the quality of flowers delivered cannot be guaranteed. Even if you choose not to use the winner, use a specialist who delivers in the desired location.

Cricket
Cricinfo

India's unofficial national sport rouses passions like few other issues. Almost everyone has an opinion on the game. And that has resulted in websites being operated by everybody and his neighbor in this category. On one hand you have television channels such as ESPN STAR; on the other you have the specialists — Cricinfo and CricketNext.

Newspapers and portals are also not far behind with Rediff, Indiatimes, Hindustan Times and Express India putting together verticals on their respective websites.

In terms of design, ESPN STAR bagged the honors. The site provides excellent infographics within the live scorecard, though take a bit of time to load. It also has an excellent flash-based cricket centre. The site design itself has good color balance and visual appeal. Having said that, the one site that stands out of the crowd is Cricinfo. None of the others come close to providing such comprehensive content, and in such a good package. Though the site could do with a bit of less clutter. It is phenomenally well updated, so much so that at the time of testing it was already ready to show the next match. It also features a unique way of filtering commentary by players, and does the same thing for player stats.

To take this to the next level Crickinfo also features a new live 3-D rendering of the current game. Here, 3-Dimensional characters depict the happenings on the cricket field graphically. Though it would be akin to watching a cricket computer game, it adds the excitement, without stretching your bandwidth requirements. It is also well customized for Indian as well as foreign audiences. Kudos to them for a great job done.

None of the other cricket websites managed to impress the judges. They were either out of date, as in the case of Cric Buzz, or have poor navigation and planning as was the case with CricketNext.

As for the others such as Indiatimes and Express India, they seemed to be treating cricket as a necessary evil rather than adopting a focused approach towards the vertical. They do have news and analysis of games, but no in-depth information is available to enhance the experience.

Shopping
Futurebazaar

During the dot com boom and bust, shopping was touted as one of the major drivers of e-commerce growth. As it turned out, the concept was a bit ahead for its time. With the Internet coming of age in the recent time, and increased trust in online transactions, this category has found many more takers.

The jury evaluated Rediff, Indiatimes, Sify, eBay, Indiaplaza, Chennai Bazaar, Future Bazaar and India Mall. Though eBay is predominantly perceived as an auction site, it was included in the comparison because most of the trades that are posted on the site are for new products. This was one of the few categories where we saw very keen competition with different winners for design, technology and overall performance.

Future Bazaar took the top spot on the design front. Though this site sells a limited range of products it has a decent, no-nonsense approach, while providing a good shopping experience. Ebay, wins on the tech side of things. It provides diversity in functionality, good user tools and an intelligent error handling system. Overall, we found futurebazaar.com to the winner. It does not feature at the top on technology, but performed consistently across parameters to come up numero uno.

In terms of design and functionality the site is well planned. The look is clean and uncluttered, while supporting good user interaction. The product comparator is however, difficult to use.

Long time veterans Rediff, Indiatimes and Sify were more than OK in their performance, and trailed very close behind future bazaar. Once again, we see a case of a new website (futurebazaar.com) winning because of better technology adoption. The incumbents need to take notice of this and re-invent themselves in order to come up to steam with the winners.

E-mail
Gmail

There were days when Hotmail was the only free specialty e-mail service on the block. Yahoo and AOL moved in later to provide it some stiff competition. Our home grown services like Rediff and Sify also have a loyal fan following, but are still not too high on the popularity charts.

We evaluated Indiatimes, Yahoo India, Sify, Rediff, Epatra, MSN India and Gmail in this category. In the past few months, the interfaces of some old websites have gone in for a huge makeover.

Instead of using the age-old HTML most now use Web 2.0 technologies enabling interfaces similar to desktop e-mail clients. Some of these features like emails, conversations or web page shortcuts were first introduced by Google. The others have followed up with more dynamic features such as multiple selections, drag and drop functionality and right clicks.

The Jury found MSN Live, with its new interface, to be visually appealing. Its design is quite sophisticated and refreshing. The usage of refined gradients & fine thin lines give a good feel to the user interface. It scored the highest in our design rankings, countering popular belief.

Yahoo Mail, on the other hand, boasts of a good overall interface with new features to hook the user. Google was ranked much lower in design because of its aging interface, compared to the other contenders in the category. But it certainly wins overall because of the sheer number of features it has. Epatra.com offers good features like vernacular e-mails but the one-off features did not get them even close to the winners.

Real Estate
India Property

The click-and-mortar approach to a brick-and-mortar business is becoming increasingly the way online realty is heading. With real estate prices shooting up like never before, online real estate businesses are spreading slowly, overlapping with the services offered by your friendly neighborhood broker.

India Properties, Magic Bricks, 99 Acres, India Property, came up for our scrutiny. It's love at first site with India Property, and India Properties (yes, these are two different portals). While India Property has a large number of interactive options, India Properties has very attractive colors, good layout and informative graphics. The pleasant blue-ish feel of India Property lends itself to a nice surfing experience while the good background picture makes it visually very appealing.

At India Properties, the large number of categories make it easy to locate precise information. Besides this, the testimonials and other interactive tools also make it a good site. When it comes to navigation, users found India Property to have an advantage over its closest competitor. Its structure/ framework, interface and functionality are better geared to user comfort. Also, the use of technology to enhance user experience, and security are better in IndiaProperty.com.

It was therefore really not surprising, given its appealing, fresh colors, high quality graphics that make the layout so appealing, and the in-depth and informative content that India Property stayed ahead in our ranking.

Technology
Tech2

Of all the technology websites, tech2.com emerged as the clear winner. It sports a clean and easy-to-use design with a smart color palette to attract the target audience. The dark background of the site enables it to maintain focus on the right areas while infusing a fresh feel to the site. Besides this, the addition of video in collaboration with CNBC-TV18 adds a new dimension to the website and moves it to a different paradigm altogether.

However, the site also does not come without its own set of problems; the Google ads on all pages creates a lot of confusion and is distracting whilst reading content. Also, the videos page does not allow users to comment and discuss videos.

Techtree.com was one of the fore-runners in this category, but has not leveraged technology adequately to enhance the user experience. It sports a very average interface, which proves quite difficult to find a specific product, even though they have used tag clouds in places.

CIOL.com on the other hand, is quite comprehensive when it comes to certain categories but does not span across horizontally. ZDNet India has a clean interface and is easy to navigate. The light colors on the website are soothing to the eye and makes the website very readable. On the content side however, this website falls short, as it is nowhere as comprehensive as tech2.

Portals
Yahoo

Everything that used to be on terra firma a few decades ago is now done better online. There are a huge number of portals that make up the world that we inhabit in cyberspace.

Among them, Yahoo!, MSN, Sify, Indya, Indiatimes and Rediff are unarguably the most- visited Indian portals. In terms of design and usability Yahoo! tops the charts. The color palette, graphics and layout of the portal is the best. The subtle blue gradient and the good pixel iconography results in great aesthetic appeal.

In addition, its interactivity and the degree of customization for the Indian audience are also better than most websites. The interface and layout utilize the available space just right.

On the technology side too, Yahoo! takes the top spot, using the latest technologies such as AJAX to ensure that user has a desktop- like interface. This provides the kind of personalization that instantly puts the user at ease. Yahoo!’s navigation is also good, and despite the great diversity of its content there is extremely effective utilization of space.

However, when it comes to quality, relevance and scope of content, Rediff beats Yahoo! to the finish line. The coverage, content quality as well as layout get full marks. It has very good coverage for a portal. Its layout is also consistent, and there is no overlap or structural confusion.

On the other hand, the one portal that disappoints, especially in terms of design, is MSN India. First-off, the single color palette is extremely boring, and the video advertisement on the homepage does not serve much purpose, except to irritate the user.

On content organization side, every section in MSN has a box on the homepage, which makes it look quite cluttered. Indiatimes is also not too far away from MSN where clutter is concerned. It could do with a better structure leading to a more intuitive user experience. Classier, brighter colors could also give this portal a new life. Not surprisingly, Yahoo heads the lineup, with the jury finding it superior to most other sites on almost all counts.

Providing a wide range of distinct features such as Yahoo Go!, the desktop feel and the messenger toolbar, while incorporating the latest technologies around, enhances the user experience, and makes it a winner.

Localization and personalization add to Yahoo’s distinctiveness. Close on its heels, however are Rediff and Indiya.com. The latter is somewhat unique on account of its animated graphics that stand out onsite as do the headlines of the day, giving a very unique touch to the portal.

Job Sites
Monsterindia

Its hard to imagine how people got jobs before these sites showed up. With the economy booming and HR managers trying hard to curb attrition rates these sites have become a one-stop resource for employers, job seekers and job consultants alike.

The job-site wars sparked-off by Naukri.com and Jobsahead, and were fanned to a blaze by the entry of Monster India. And now we have a couple of new promising contenders in Job Street, Click Jobs, and Times Jobs.

From the design point of view, Clickjobs stood out of the crowd because of its clutter free interface. The site design is quite subtle in keeping with the demands of the category, and does not come off as loud and noisy. The use of shading on the site is also quite inspiring and pleasing to the eye.

All these websites extensively use Web 2.0 functionality. Clickjobs gives you chat -enhanced search. Naukri.com, has tag clouds which make it very informative. Monster.com has one of the best search tools using a single search box. It also has a well integrated and organized registration and application process. It also has an absolutely clutter-free homepage that is pleasing to the eye and easy to use.

All these features make Monster India the chosen one based on our test results. In contrast, the Timesjobs.com interface is quite cluttered. Value-adds like ‘Career Services’ are hidden and not comprehensive. It does have its good parts with Ascent Job Postings standing out as an example.

Social Networking
Orkut

In today’s 36-plus hour workdays, meeting up with friends is usually possible only due to the benign powers of your computer and the magnanimity of the world wide web. Moreover, social networking today is not only about reaching out with the proverbial human touch but also about getting and staying connected, for a variety of purposes, be they family, friends or work.

We evaluated Mingle Box, Yaari, Sulekha, Rediff, MSN Spaces, Yahoo India and Orkut in this category. At first look, Yaari.com has the best visual appeal. The colors, graphics, consistency and typography make it the best designed site in the domain. It also takes the cake for user interactivity and it is praiseworthy for its customization to suit the Indian audience.

Orkut however, has been voted as the best of the lot. Though it is a global site, there are hordes of Indians using it, making it one of the most popular social networking sites.

In terms of user experience it is the easiest to navigate, with its straight forward, uncomplicated and clean interface. However, it may not be the best bet for those looking for business networking. It could also do with brighter colors. Orkut also faces some charges of unsuitability for an increasingly younger audience.

There are special sites now that cater to younger audience; one such is Minglebox.com that focuses mainly on teenagers.

On the other hand, sites like Kincafe.com are positioned for family networking, incorporating features such as photo albums and family trees. And then you have TechTribe, which is a professional networking site, one that promotes entrepreneurship in addition to networking. Members are encouraged to propose and discuss business start-up ideas, which could be funded by TechTribe. Though we have not evaluated these sites, they do deserve a special mention here.

MSN Spaces is predominantly focused on blogs. It uses web parts while creating spaces, using rich text editors which impart an extremely user-friendly and intuitive touch. However, the site provides the option of creating your own page within the space, something that actually creates a lot of clutter. Also, as is the case with Yahoo, MSN Spaces is not really an appropriate platform for social networking.

Among the sites we studied, Yahoo India scored best on relevance of content, layout and search options available.

Astrology
Sify


Hurtling top speed into the twenty-fifth century has not deterred mankind from charting the stars in order to foretell the future. The ubiquitous astrologer now comes packaged as a website that does all the necessary jobs, sometimes for a fee.

Whilst almost every portal has an astrology channel, there are a few pure-play astrology sites. Amongst the sites our panel evaluated was Vedic Astrology Prediction, Astro Yogi, Sify, Cyber Astro and Astrology India.

Vedic Astrology prediction eclipsed others by its simple, clean design, relevant colors (a soothing blue), best visual appeal and consistency of presentation with a robust type style. However, the site comes across as being too nonmoving with too many static pages. In addition, the lack of interactivity makes it dull for the user.

Astrology India ranked alongside this site for interactivity and local customization. In things as traditional as astrology, the Indian colors on the site impart a good feel to the whole visual experience.

When it came to the navigation and interface structure, Sify’s astrology portal was judged as the best. This portal also boasts of the best use of technology to enhance the user experience, error handling and security options. This site also has the highest level of security when it comes to payment by credit card, and with the SSL option provided.

Sify’s astrology portal and Cyber Astro both have very comprehensive as well as relevant content which is elegantly laid out Sify comes across as a very interactive site that allows interface with experts but it focuses too much on content. In the long run, this may create credibility problems for the site. With all these parameters in play, Sify beats Cyber Astro by a hair’s breadth to emerge as the winner in this category.

News
IBN Live

Is this an exciting space or what? Be it newspapers, TV companies, Internet giants or portals, everybody wants a slice of the online news pie. While for some it’s their bread and butter, for others it’s a necessary evil. And this can be seen from the various kinds of news site implementations on the Internet.

Starting with the Indian portals, both Sify and Rediff provide enough and more content than a user can handle. Though Sify could do with a little less clutter, Rediff scores better on account of its increased user interactivity.

Amongst the TV channel-owned sites we evaluated IBN Live and NDTV.com. Both offered almost identical features and scored much the same. Though NDTV stands out for its superior user interactivity, the clean design and good technology usage of IBN Live won the top spot amongst all news websites.

Being one of the pioneers of videos on a website, it enjoys a large fan following. Even so, it could do with better implementation of its user comment handling. Though both the Hindustan Times and The Times of India sites provide great content, neither provides adequate support for user opinion or contribution.

In this mad race for grabbing the reader, the old ladies of news appear to be laggards. Having said that, and despite its shortcomings, on account of strong site structure, effective interface and its ability to target a diverse variety of users, HT got the top honors in application of tech segment.

The other newspaper site evaluated was Indian Express. It was one of the first newspaper sites to be launched, but has not kept up with the times. The content is still fragmented and the site leaves a lot to be desired.

Finally, moving to the pure-Internet giants, MSN and Yahoo come out as just about average in performance. It almost feels that they are in the news space more as a necessary evil rather than out a desire to provide news.

Although Google is not in the news segment, being an aggregator it deserves a special mention. The site provides a lot of room for customization of news and alerts. You can individualize alerts and webpage based on the product, service or keyword that you may want to track. If you are not particularly attached or hooked to any of the other news sites, then Google News is the best way to go.


Travel
Cleartrip

With the rise of modern India, young people want to step out and travel around to see the world. What this means is a humungous business case for travel related websites, evidenced by the number of them that have mushroomed across the web. These are no longer mere ticket booking sites that offer you the best fares; they now provide comprehensive information about the best holiday destinations, hotel ratings and bookings, traveler blogs, pod casts, and almost anything else that helps make your travel simpler.

We tested six of these sites. Yatra.com emerged as the numero uno from design point of view. The site is a great combination of features, design and technology, providing a great user experience, while efficiently accomplishing the job at hand. The colors, graphics and visual appeal of the site are clearly miles ahead of the others. The only grouse that we had was the lack of a SSL login, though the payment gateway of the site is secure.

Cleartrip was the overall winner with its simple and clear structure, good error handling and a clear security policy. It is all the other sites sans the frills, and therefore great functionality. It is a good example of how a site can be a winner when it does what it is supposed to and does that really well.

We observed web 2.0 implementations in most of these sites, as also a focus on user generated content. NDTV Travel in particular has a lot of user generated content in the form of reviews and travelogue.

MakeMyTrip offers pod cast travelogues. At first glance these appear to provide a lot of info on various topics, but the content could be quite biased. It appears that travelers chose to write only about extreme experiences, either when overly impressed or totally disappointed.

Our advice is to tread carefully when you look at such reviews, and try and filter out the bias, if any.

Matrimony
Bharat Matrimony

Matrimonial sites on the web today make us wonder how anyone got married before these sites bought potential soul mates together! Their deep and expansive reach outdoes ways of finding a match.

Amongst the clutter, there are a few that stand out. We evaluated Shaadi.com, Matrimonials India, Jeevansathi, Bharat Matrimony, SimplyMarry (Times), and Rediff.

In terms of design, Shaadi.com was the most popular. Great design and layout, good blogs, Q&A, video and photo gallery along with interesting links provide great value addition to this site. Fresh, appealing colors, interesting graphics and convenient layout reinforce visual appeal. However, at times, Shaadi’s pages appear to be somewhat cluttered.

Equally positioned, Bharat Matrimony also uses pictures extensively making the site visually attractive, adding appeal to the layout. Every aspect of Indian marriages is special in more ways than one, and that includes the search for the bride or groom.

Few websites understand these individual demands, and among ones that do, Times’ SimplyMarry was voted right alongside Shaadi. Shaadi is also very user friendly and has very useful links and options for more effective search functionality. Bharat Matrimony boasts of the best navigability, in terms of structure/ framework interface, scope and functionality. It comes across as simple and helpful, with useful data that aids navigation.

Rediff was also rated as a very functional site, so these are obviously the most user friendly websites for choosing a life partner today. At the end of the day, Bharat Matrimony got the most votes for overall best website.

Bill Payment
Visabillpay

Life has never been cushier, now that utilities, banks and other bills can be paid online. There are a number of websites that make the dream of queue-less bill payment come true.

We picked up Visa Bill Pay, Bangalore One, Bill Junction, and Itzpay, and had a long hard look at which of them make our lives the easiest. Visa Bill Pay offers the best in terms of colors, graphics, visual appeal, consistency and typography. It is useful only to a limited number of customers, but its layout is clean and easy, and offers a range of payment options. It also tops for usability, interactivity and customization for Indian users.

While finance or bill payment sites could be slightly confusing if the navigation and site maps are not clearly laid out, Visa Bill Pay takes good care of this aspect. Its structure and interface are very well designed, resulting in easy usage. It is also the widest in terms of scope, relevance and depth. Most definitely the site to go to if you are looking to pay your bills online. However, in terms of sheer functionality and content, Bill Junction takes the cake. It is user-friendly, has loads of information and even provides the option for payment via SMS. The fact that it supports payment operations across a long list of cities as well as a large number of services sometimes make it took a bit cluttered. But in select categories it has the potential to be a winner.

Bangalore One, though not a winner deserves special mention. The way the site has been conceived is great. You can pay all kinds of bills and other dues on the website. Being backed up by service centers across Bangalore, makes it a robust click-and mortar story too. Though the site holds out great promise, it is nevertheless a bit too cluttered for our liking and could do with a facelift. At the risk of being overoptimistic, if Bangalore One could scale to provide similar service on a pan-India basis, it would be really great.

A somewhat different bill payment option deserves a mention here. Though not totally online, Easybill has centers across India that allow you to pay a wide variety of bills without logging on to the Internet. It would be great to see them extend this service online.

Visa Bill Pay appeared to be the best performer across all criteria, with a great interactive design, in-depth content and smooth functionality, not to forget its extremely interactive interface.

Entertainment
Rediff

News of any kind is extremely important, right? Everybody wants to know about their favorite film or TV stars’ lives, marriages, love affairs, work, or light hearted gossip. This content category usually forms a very important part of most portals, and thus in our shootout was considered a separate category.

The last four contenders in the race were India FM, Indiatimes, Rediff and MSN. Amongst the websites evaluated in this category Rediff.com came out on top. While India FM scored higher in the design department, surprisingly Rediff topped in the content department, ahead of all the others. This was surprising, as we expected that the specialist, niche players, India FM for one, would sail through this aspect of the shootout.

Adding insult to injury, Rediff was also the winner in the usability tests, the site providing superior interactivity. Indiatimes, on the other hand, flattered to deceive and did not live up to the expectation.

Yahoo got the most points for being the best technology implementation amongst the entertainment sites.

Photo Printing
itasveer

The advent of digital cameras has posed an unprecedented problem, how does one get the photos taken printed? If you date back to the time of Flintstones, you may still want to wade through city traffic and give your photos to the neighborhood photo-lab; alternatively, you could use one of the many photo-printing services available on the Internet.

Today, online photo printing is mushrooming everywhere in Indian cyberspace, and that too with hard to resist price and service offerings. Amongst the websites reviewed by us the two that clearly stood out were picsqaure.com and itasveer.com.

Picsquare has a very clean and contemporary design. The colors used for the interface and pictorial representation of elements are really cool and fresh and completely suited to the milieu. They have used Web 2.0 technologies such as AJAX, the photo resolution is high, and password module refreshing. Overall the site comes out as extremely clean and user friendly.

itasveer also espouses a very clean and focused approach, while providing structured interface. It edges ahead of Picsquare on account of its very interesting doodlepad application which lets you create interesting graphics that can be used on mugs and t-shirts, that can be ordered off the website. It lets you add borders, graphics, multiple pictures and such likes to your photographs. The sites that really disappointed us were Kodak and Snap Galaxy.

Kodak is the oldest photo printing service in India, but the site fails to live up to that reputation. It is an extremely basic website that depends on a downloadable software to print photos. The interface is extremely simplistic, and best avoided.

Snap Galaxy, on the other hand, is not a very user-friendly website. Fobaz and Merasnap, two other sites, do a reason-able job, but are barely average when it comes to design and interactivity. All said, done and evaluated, iTasveer barely nudges ahead of Picsquare to finish first, and mainly on account its superior navigational design and the doodlepad.

Mobile Content
Yahoo Mobile

Rediff emerges at the top of the pile for design in the mobile content area with its decent coverage of the latest mobile offerings with a focus on the entertainment space. The site appears to be clean, uncluttered, structured with well-designed icons. The type style used, and font color add to its visual appeal. This site has outstanding functionality, while providing quick and relevant search results.

Content appears to be the best on the Yahoo! Mobile content portal, which provides very good, feature-rich coverage communication, logistics, entertainment, even such diverse topics as finance and sports. This makes Yahoo! Mobile a really interesting site to visit.

However, some of the experts on our panel felt that the positioning of the key features and specific entries could have been done better. The site also provides unique value-added features; SMS backup, picture previews, creating of (optional) personalized logos, to name just a few.

On the usability front, mobile.yahoo.com rates alongside Rediff, and it’s a neck to neck race. These two sites also provide great customization for Indian surfers, catering to our region-specific needs.

According to expert opinion, even though it is easy to find info and links on the site, navigation could be made simpler on mobile.yahoo.com. Indiatimes also boasts of easy navigation and a clean user interface. Its clear content categorization makes for easy readability too.

All things considered Yahoo! Mobile stands above the rest, the strongest point of this site being its content quality and extremely simple interface.

Auction
eBay

The sound of the proverbial hammer with the solid “sold’ may be missing here, but online auction sites are no less exciting or useful as a great means of ordering and buying from the comfort and confines of your keyboard.

Today, auction sites, are a great place to buy everything, from latest gizmos to crafted jewellery. With more secure payment gateways in place, buying online is hardly an issue and more and more users are jumping on the bandwagon to buy from websites such as eBay, Rediff and Indiatimes.

A study of popular auction sites threw up these names and it was a dead-to-head fight. The judges rated each site on visual appeal, interactivity and their convenience oriented options, - links, add-ons and, in this case payment security.

Looking at design and usability, eBay India came up on top for its great graphic interfaces, colors, visual appeal, consistency and typography, as well as enhances interactivity and customization for Indian needs. This site has information flow, tabs, links and a very clearly charted-out information flow that a the user needs.

While all three sites boasted of similar technology, eBay India added more value in terms of using technology to enhance user experience, handling both errors and security risks. In fact, eBay India also has an e-mail authenticity check, which is an interesting security option.

Indiatimes excelled in scope of site content, the relevance of that content, interface layout as well as information search options. It has a wide variety of well-categorized offers, (though some products are in the wrong categories). Its simple interface made the site easy to comprehend and use.

Rediff did not cover enough products, and suffers from content shortfalls, especially while searching for information. Though certain jurors found it well designed and easy to interface with, it did not clear the bar set by eBay India or Indiatimes on these counts. Predictably, eBay India came up as the best of the auction sites.

Stock Broking
Moneycontrol

A large crowded room with suited guys and gals shouting and gesticulating, scenes of utter confusion, and millions of rupees at stake. All these remind us of the usual stock market scenario not so long ago. Not any more.

As with other online categories, stock broking has witnessed disruptive change with the coming of the Internet. Although one might still see the bulk of the population riding on so-called tips as a basis for investment; serious investors are always on the lookout for authentic and up-to-date information about the companies that they have invested in.

A secure platform to transact stocks, IPOs and Mutual Funds is also on top of their wish lists. Nowadays, some of these websites also allow you to trade in commodities, which are one of the hottest items in the business.

We evaluated way2wealth.com, jvfinancials.com, HDFC Securities, Money Control, ICICI Direct, IDBI Paisa Builder, 5 Paisa and India Bulls in this category. Moneycontrol.com emerged as an outright winner, providing an absolutely clean and easy to use interface, with all the features that you might desire at your fingertips. The site also deals in commodity trading unlike many other sites. A live market map, watch list, current news and market advice are some of the other features on offer here.

In contrast, ICICI direct was the winner on the technology side of things. The use of technology to enhance user experience was the best here too.

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