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Best Live Chat for Customer Service

In this digital age, many people cringe when they realize they will be forced to call a company for a customer service issue.   They shudder to think of the unending keypad options they will have to endure, followed by an interminable amount of time spent on hold and culminating in an extremely poor overall experience.  Even if a business has a perfectly pleasant call center, the dread people feel for this expected experience will often prevent them from calling in, leaving them unsatisfied and less likely to become repeat customers. However, a solution for this problem has come in the form of online live chat options, which some websites offer in addition to phone support.  Usually, the consumer fills out a short form (directing them to the correct person) and then is able to chat in real time with an expert.  Even if there is some waiting time, it gives less of an impression of wasted time, as the person is on their computer and can easily switch to another window in the meantime.  In general, this service elevates a website and heightens the overall customer experience. Winner: 1-800-Contacts When it comes to live chat, the website for 1-800-Contacts wins the prize with their quick responses and overall effectiveness.  Since it’s safe to assume most visitors will be concerned with contacts, the initial form is extremely simple and only asks for a name and how they can help you with your issue.  The response is usually almost instantaneous, even in peak hours, which dramatically reduces the total time of the process. Most important, however, is their commitment to service, which caused them to rise to the top of our “Best Live Chat for Customer Service” list. Not only do they respond quickly, but they actually serve the customer, helping to rectify issues and going out of their way to make the customer happy.  They painlessly send free replacements for defective contacts and offer refunds or free products to appease an unhappy customer. Runner Up:...

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Best Audio Website

Winner: SoundCloud.com Self-identifying as the “largest community of artists, bands, podcasters and creators of music & audio,” SoundCloud was originally designed to be the Vimeo or Flickr for musicians.  A Swedish sound designer and artist collaborated to start this project with the original idea of allowing artists to simply share music with each other and get feedback from the community.  When the Berlin-based company was founded in 2007, it aimed solely to provide this artist-focused musical file sharing, but since then has expanded its offerings.  These days, the site is angled more towards the listener, making it the most popular way to upload and publicize any sort of audio or music.  Displaying the sound clip in an orange and grey waveform, SoundCloud allows music to be shared within their music community, as well as embedded into other websites. The site, like any respectable website these days, is also connected to social media and allows users to set up an account through Facebook or Google+.   Once these social mediums are connected, SoundCloud allows for easy posting, facilitating more sharing with various people.  This publicity-geared platform has made it a favorite with DJs, composers and songwriters, along with people looking to increase their music knowledge.  With its vast array of genres, SoundCloud has also joined the ranks of music discovery tools, allowing listeners to expand their range of tastes when it comes to music. Runner Up: NPR First Listen For anyone who has eagerly awaited the release of their favorite artist’s new album, NPR First Listen may be the greatest thing you’ve probably never heard of.  First Listen allows you to pre-hear everything from indie artist’s new tracks to upcoming movie soundtracks, usually for the entire week preceding the audio’s actual launch date.  One of the most important features for those of us who like to put a new favorite song on repeat until we’re sick of it, is the ability to listen to any track as many times as you want in that week.  However,...

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The Tech News Awards

First Place: Wired.com When it comes to news about the technology world, Wired.com is the go-to website for in-depth coverage of current and future trends in technology.  Not only do they offer real-time news about events in the tech world, but also their impact on business, entertainment, communications and other areas of the world outside of tech.  The site also features a host of blogs on a variety of topics as well as publishing their own awards, called the Vaporware Awards. With sections including gear, science, entertainment, business, security, design, opinion and video, Wired.com covers every aspect of technology that a reader could ever want.  The site itself was originally the online counterpart to Wired magazine, which is a full-color monthly magazine.  However the site split off when the magazine was bought by Condé Nast Publishing in the 1990’s and became its own entity, publishing daily online content.  However, when the website was bought by the magazine’s owners in 2006, the two were reunited at long last and the site once again features content from the magazine. Second Place: TechCrunch.com TechCrunch is a site focused on information technology, and more specifically the companies within that sector.  It features technology news and analysis, but also large quantities of information on the companies operating within the information technology sphere.  The site includes sections on startups, mobile, and gadgets, but also includes quick links to tags for popular companies such as Apple, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, Google, Microsoft and NSA. TechCrunch also sponsors Crunchbase, which is a free database of the companies, people and investors that make up the technology industry.  The database can be edited by anyone and therefore is constantly being updated.  It features over 150,000 companies and 172,000 people, making it one of the most comprehensive databases of its kind. Third Place: Gizmodo.com Although not as far-reaching as the other two, Gizmodo.com is known as the absolute authority when it comes to gadget news and digital culture.  It follows more of a blog format than...

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Best Photo Sharing Website

Winner: PhotoBucket.com When it comes to photo sharing, there is no shortage of websites on the internet that will help you accomplish this aim. However, none of them manage to combine ease of usability with quality at the same level as PhotoBucket. The site contains many features that were designed with its users in mind, as well as allowing for the sharing of large quantities of photos with ease. Due to its widespread use and relevance to the largest amount of people, PhotoBucket has won the Mambo Award for Best Photo Sharing Website. The first advantage of PhotoBucket is its ability to connect to a myriad of devices and medias, including computers, mobile devices and even Facebook. This allows for easy photo storing all in one place, as well as removing the worry about photo backup since they will all be stored remotely. PhotoBucket also features a comprehensive editing tool that makes it practically painless to edit large quantities of photos. They also have a Stories feature that turns photosharing into a narrative, allowing collaboration with friends and family. Lastly, PhotoBucket has adjustable privacy settings that give the user the option to share their photos with everyone, a small group of friends or even keep them entirely private. Runner Up: Instagram Although Instagram is widely popular and now integrated with Facebook, it remains a social media driven application that is meant more for sharing a single picture with all of one’s social media friends. It is extremely effective for its given purpose; however it is less useful to the general population as a photo sharing site. Therefore, it receives the runner up title in the competition for Best Photo Sharing Website. Instagram’s most unique feature is its plethora of digital filters that are available to apply to any picture before sharing, giving its site a more artsy feel. It also confines its photos to a square shape, similar to a Polaroid image, contrasting it with most other photo sharing sites. It recently also incorporated...

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Sports Website Design Awards

Sports websites have to walk a difficult line – they need to express the motion, power and spirit of sport while also accomplishing the goals of the site itself. When perusing websites in this genre, it immediately becomes clear that custom backgrounds are a cornerstone of the industry, but that each subgenre has their own structural design based on their objectives. Whether it’s a sports news site looking to impart large quantities of information or an athlete’s personal website conveying both his/her abilities and personality, the structure of the site can make or break a sports website. To this end, we’ve picked out the best in each subgenre of sports websites based on both design and structure, as well as the degree to which they’ve fulfilled the objective of their respective subgenre. Best Athlete Personal Site: Rory McIlroy Although not as popular a sport as some of the others played in America, it was one of golf’s rising stars whose website takes home the prize for Best Athlete Personal Site. Rory McIlroy’s website has a simple but intriguing design that is very aesthetically pleasing. With a series of black and white photographs taking up the main page, he defines himself in five congruent sentences. “I am a golfer. I am an athlete. I am a fan. I am a son. I am Rory.” Best Sports News Site: Fox Sports News Despite the wealth of information contained on the homepage of the Fox Sports News website, its clean design allows for easy navigation without overwhelming its visitors. The ticker along the top gives scores of current games, while links to specific sporting pages are easily accessible. The news itself is dominated by a single article with a photo, complimented by a sidebar of recent headlines. This combination brought the title of Best Sports News Site to Fox Sports. Best Sports Team Site: BP Team USA While an unlikely choice for Best Sports Team Site, the award goes to the website for BP Team USA. Made...

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Best Healthy Living Website: FitSugar

When it comes to living a fit and healthy lifestyle, there is no shortage of websites out there to help you achieve your goals.  From health magazine sites to diet meal-plan sites, women especially are bombarded with sites claiming to help you lose that weight or get those abs, but few realistically help you get there.  Most ignore the balance needed to feasibly lose weight and get fit, instead focusing on one aspect of healthy living, such as diet or exercise alone.  However, before giving up on fitness altogether, you should check out the few websites that promote an overall healthy lifestyle change – such as the winner of our Best Healthy Living Website: FitSugar. FitSugar is a subset of the popular website PopSugar, but with a complete emphasis on fitness and healthy living.  The mark of a good fitness website, FitSugar contains section on workouts, healthy living, weight loss and inspiration from various sources, including celebrities.  The presentation of the information is what sets FitSugar apart from its competitors, with easy to follow slideshow workouts, complete with self-explanatory pictures.  Featuring many bodyweight and no-equipment workouts, FitSugar removes the ability to make excuses such as “I can’t get to the gym today” or “I don’t have the right equipment to workout at home.”  They also offer yoga and Pilates routines for a more relaxed road to fitness, as well as myriads of healthy recipes, especially lower calorie versions of popular meals to make healthy eating more enjoyable. Runner Up: Greatist Following close behind FitSugar in the race for Best Healthy Living Website was Greatist, a similarly health-focused website.  It has a great layout with only three main sections: Fitness, Health, and Happiness.  We love the inclusion of happiness, because isn’t that the true goal of anyone striving for weight loss or fitness? The happiness section includes inspiration, ways to deal with stress, as well as tips for better sleeping and keeping healthy while having a social life.  Their health section is mostly focused on...

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