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By 3 February 2009 | Categories: netsmart

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What exactly are personal, or ­personalised start pages? Personalised start pages are a rapidly growing, and somewhat competitive web phenomenon. The advent of Web 2.0 brought with it a lot of promise in terms of web “interactiveness” (if that’s even a real word), and personal start pages are now starting to lead this charge.

So what are they really? For the most part they’re homepages where you can put a lot of your most often used web information, gadgets and widgets all in one place.Things such as your email, news feeds you’re interested in, your favourite radio station, notes, weather, Facebook, the list goes on.

The point being though that you have all of this stuff of yours gathered in one place, on one website, instead of spread across a dozen. The nice part is that being web-based you get the same experience of your information from any browser. The biggest difference between this and old-style portals (think Yahoo! or Hotmail from a while ago) is that you can personalise your start page to a much greater degree.

You have many more options in terms of what you can put on your start page, it is far more interactive and it is almost certainly much more useful with the gadgets and widgets you can add in. On top of all of this functionality, superb quality Ajax development is making more of these sites very similar to a desktop-type experience.

In today’s much cluttered online world, the need for a decent start page is undeniable. For me the ability to personalise and customise my own space saves me plenty of time and hassle almost every day.

These Ajax-based start pages, with their drag-and-drop interfaces, are very easy to use, intuitive, customisable web pages, allowing you to keep up with the latest news and add interactive content. With just a few clicks you can add new news feeds, mail inboxes and widgets, and then still drag your content around the page until you like how it looks.

In some ways start pages are the successors to the old-style portals, but they have yet to break into the real mainstream. However the promotion of big players like iGoogle and the presence of MyYahoo are helping get the concept more popular. Let’s check out some of the nicer ones out there. You might find one that really works for you:

•    Netvibeswww.netvibes.com

Netvibes is a definite leader in this area. Usability has clearly been a big factor in its design and the interface is well thought out, and clean.

•    Pageflakeswww.pageflakes.com

These guys also have a great site. Getting set up is really easy, with just three steps, and yet it is highly ­customisable.

•    Favoor www.favoor.com

This site is easily the visual pick of the bunch. I think the start page is beautifully designed. Its not so straightforward to setup, but once that’s done, it’s a great product.

•    Protopagewww.protopage.com

The interface on this site is really neat. It’s perhaps not as practical as some of the others, but the drag-and-drop interface and sticky notes (think Post-its) are great.

•    MyYahoo & iGooglehttp://my.yahoo.com, www.google.com/ig

Yahoo and Google are the “big players” in this area. For both these sites the interfaces are pretty plain, both are super-simple to use, work well, and get the job done.

If you have any questions or queries drop me a mail, lance@brandedinternet.co.za.

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