What is the cleverest UI feature you have seen in a website? Something that:

  • Made the user experience more intuitive
  • Added significantly to the usefulness of the app.
  • Added to the 'wow factor' of the application
  • or... anything else you consider important ;)

Could be also something standard, but particularly well implemented.

Please restrict this to standard web technologies (HTML, AJAX etc.), no Flash or plugins please!

Thank you

+69  A: 



we can have a page preview by selecting a color scheme which helped me a lot in designing web pages for my applications.

Holy crap that *is* clever! Thanks for posting this.
Holy Holy SuperHoly Answer. Extra-useful
Many good responses here, thank you. Accepted this one as it's the most popular.
UpTheCreek has a nice color schemer too btw.
Not unlike which has been around for a long time...
Tor Valamo
+2  A: 

Ajax calendars e.g.

Genuinely useful (what day of the week is that?) and don't get in the way.

+4  A: 

I really like the interface of Freckle. They make it really easy to track time with their interface.

Edwin V.
+14  A: 

For me, the cleverest UI functionality is simply when, after I have executed some sort of action, I am taken to / given focus on the place in the app I am likely to need next.

eg: ToDo app - I add an item to my todo list textbox. hit enter. the app adds my item then gives the textbox back its focus to allow me to get on and add the next todo item.

I find things like this make an app much slicker and easier to use than any really fancy bits - a bit of thought for how the user will make use of a particular piece of functionality makes all the difference...


I like the flash based real true full screen effect...

+2  A: 

Facebook is a great example of an ajax site. Looks good and works well (not perfectly ;))

Facebook wasn't originally AJAX, was simple PHP pages initially.
Well, I hate Facebook UI (maybe I'm biased as I hate Facebook).
Pascal Thivent
I mean this in a completely innocuous manner. It would be great if it was stable. It always flickers, sometimes doesn't load images etc. It just feels like there's a heavy use of duct tape.
Chris Thompson
Sorry, disagree. FarceBook is not even close to a good UI. Too much crap all over the place, non-intuitive, boring colour scheme, doesn't render properly half the time, etc etc.
David HAust
The original (I mean, original original) Facebook was great. Back then they had a few bits of AJAX here and there and it worked wonders.
Facebook has always been pretty solid for me on decently spec'ed machines.You might not like Facebook, you might think it has too much stuff going on, and that may certainly be valid. However I don't think you can argue that the implementation is one of the most impressive of any site on the web. The AJAX everywhere, the chat / notifications, thumbs up, like, commenting, share. It's all packed in there tidily, drives serious growth and engagement, and they push updates almost daily. They invented the newsfeed for crying out loud. Facebook has amazing UI, don't fool yourselves.
Facebook's Ajax is buggy and unnecessary.
Josef Sábl
oh god. sorry, no, it's terrible. i'm a fb whore, but i still don't like the ui. they may have 'invented' the newsfeed, but they still could have done a better job of it.
+1  A: 

The google finance widget

Nice, but that's flash, so doesn't count (even google couldn't stretch js that far ;)
Well, true - but implying that flash is not a *"standard web technology"* is pretty ridiculous! Users do not care about the hows.
Sorry, flash is proprietary. In any case I specified no flash in the question.
Indeed you did specify that!
+24  A: 

Made the user experience more intuitive

Support for the back button and tabbed browsing, which GMail is a prime example.

I've used far too many ( Oracle based time booking systems seem the worst for this ) which just screw up if you use 'back' to go back to the page you were on before you clicked on a link.

On one site,, it's almost impossible to get train times for two different queries open in different tabs, as it stores the query on a per-user basis. ( so if you open one tab, make a journey query, open another tab, make another query, then ask for later trains on the first tab you get the details for the second journey ). Sometimes I have to open chrome and firefox or use more than one computer to plan my journey.

Pete Kirkham
Sounds you like need :)
Agreed with all this, but I'm not sure if this qualifies as a UI feature.
The part with the session is good, but I would just add one note about the back button. Web is more about applications these days and the back button is a leftover from times when internet was just a jungle of interconnected documents. I mean there is nothing bad with the back button and it is nice that Gmail supports it, but I personally use it less and less every day. I doubt I ever used it in Gmail. It's same like I don't miss back button in Outlook.
Josef Sábl
Maybe I'm just old fashioned, but I use the back button loads in Gmail. @TM - are you saying navigation is not part of user interaction?
Pete Kirkham
+11  A: 

The way it is so simple to create an account on stackoverflow and the great integration with OpenId.

I will now consider using OpenId whenever I need a logon system for a website, now that I have experienced how well it can work.

Ian Ringrose
It's awful. I just create throwaway usernames and burn them every time I toss my cookies.
You mean wefwfwefwe isn't your real name?!
+12  A: 

The efficient simplicity of Google main page.

What feature is that?
Alex Feinman
*Perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add but when there is no longer anything to take away, when a body has been stripped down to its nakedness* — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
+34  A: 

I've seen something completely against all standards and it's also more an experiment, but it definitely has its wow factor. It's called Don't Click It and it's all about using an UI without clicking. Try it out for yourself, you'll be surprised how often you're tempted to click (at least that was my experience)

+1: took my answer ;)
Can be useful in some applications but a real horror in others... And against all standards? How about the menues in windows? sure, you have to click to activate the menu, but then you navigate in submenues just by hovering (but you have to click to activate your selection). I thought the testsite was a little annoying: Sometimes I move the mouse because the pointer is over some text that I want to read, and suddenly I have navigated to a completely different place... annoying.
Wow. This is annoying. Cool looking and new and everything, but sheesh. What's wrong with a click? It's an easy-to-use extra dimension to UI navigation while you're already using a device (the mouse) that already has a button **directly below your finger**.
Chris Farmer
Cool but resource-intensive, and @ChrisFarmer nailed it. A solution looking for a problem.
Jim Garrison
of course you're all right - as I said in my explanation, it defintely IS against all standards but still has its wow factor. please don't assume that I encourage people to switch their habits and don't click anymore (after all that would be quite stupid with a mouse in your hand) - I just wanted to share it as an interesting (I wouldn't call it 'lame' though) research project.
I dread to think how usable a website like this would be when viewed on an iPhone...
The information flow works exactly as if you were clicking, so I don't see how this is ground breaking in any way. Mouseover navigation is, if anything, more annoying.
Tor Valamo
Also annoying that the page has to be entirely flash.
+17  A: 

Drop-down suggestions for a search box, like ebay, amazon, etc. all use on their sites to make it easier for users to find search keywords. Google has this too, but the feature is arguably even more useful on a site-specific search, since you don't get random keywords which don't apply to that site.

I was involved with getting the search suggestions feature onto MSDN Search several years ago, and the usage metrics since then have been phenomenal: as many as 20% of English searches use the auto-suggest feature. In search, a feature is typically successful if over 3% of searches use it, since almost all the time when searching, people just choose the default UI and move on. 20% usage is unheard of-- no other search feature I've seen (on any site) comes close.

What's particularly nice about search suggestions is that they only take up screen real estate when someone actually needs them (typing into search box) and take up zero page real estate otherwise.

Also, you can extend them beyond simple suggestion lists-- you can show preview UI (like IE8's browser-toolbar-search-box's preview images do, or even allow one-click links to search results if users want to bypass search altogether).

Justin Grant
yep. that's why I think per-site search suggestions (like on Amazon) are so good, because you get suggestions whcih are only relevant to that site.
Justin Grant
+4  A: 

It's hard for me to pick just one favorite UI feature. But what comes to mind when I think of good user interfaces is SmugMug. In my opinion they have far and away the best user interface among all of the online photo gallery sites.

Allow me to pick a gallery at random :

And I'll list a few UI features that make it great:

  1. When you click a small photo it takes you to a new page anchor (not a new page) while dynamically switching the medium-size photo you're looking at. First of all, this means that the site doesn't have to load the page over again, which would be a waste of time when you're just browsing images. Secondly, because it's a page anchor, the back/forward buttons in your browser work! I agree with Pete Kirkham, it really annoys me when a website is designed in a way that it fights you when you hit "Back". Fortunately, SmugMug is not one of those sites. In fact what they have is the ideal set up. The end result is a photo gallery that is easy to navigate while also being faster than just about anything else out there.

  2. It conforms to the width of your browser. This isn't necessarily desirable in all sites but in a photo gallery it definitely helps.

  3. They've implemented their own Lightbox-esque effect when you click the big image to make it even bigger. This will dim the background while you're looking at the photo and also offer more sizing options.

So it's not just one feature, and in fact there is no stand-out ground-breaking feature in any of this. But it's the combination of good UI practices coming together that makes this site very nice to use.

Steve Wortham
seems to conform to the *height* of your browser too. that's nice... it can still be improved though ;)
+1  A: 

I like the jQuery UI ThemeRoller][1], which lets you customize a GUI theme for jQuery. Especially cool is its Firefox Bookmarklet, which lets you take a jQuery UI page and play with its appearance dynamically.

Jim Ferrans
+2  A: 

This is a bit esoteric, because it really applies to just wiki-tech, but I think the edit-by-section feature of some wiki's is great. I have to use several different wiki's, and when you are editing a really large page in a wiki that does not support edit-by-section (or worse, also doesn't support preview your diff), you feel like like every change could result in disaster.

+13  A: 


I know it's not glamour or slick, but imagine thinking that up way back in 1965!?!

That was clever!

David HAust
obligatory hyperlinks
+19  A: 

Google maps is by far the most clever/advanced non-flash UI on the internet.

The first cool high-volume AJAXy app around. Good stuff.
Chris Farmer
It doesn't seem so amazing in todays world, but I was blown away by it in 2005
Colin Pickard
+5  A: 
Corey Trager
I really liked the interface too the first time I saw it. It was appealing from a programmers point of view and from a music lovers point of view...which is pretty special I would say...
+1 for closing comment
+3  A: 

Gmail: for the amazing responsiveness and for the keyboard shortcuts (all of them but especially the label shortcuts: apply a label, move to label, go to label).

Google Calendar: for the clever UI allowing to view, add, and drag-and-drop events from one date to another without reloading the page.

In both case, the offline mode with Gears is a nice plus.

Pascal Thivent
+4  A: 

Google Analytics beats anything else I've seen hands down (IMO). Perfect example of an intuitive UI to present voluminous information in a crisp manner.

meh. i don't find it all that intuitive at all. took me forever to find a clickable link to exact page my hits were coming from.

The way that some web forum applications pop-up a window, rather like a tool-tips window, that contains the first paragraph or two of the posting. When you are looking at a list of topics, trying to decide which ones are worth reading, it can get tedious to click, wait for full page refresh, click the back button, wait for page refresh again. It isn't obvious whether there is an AJAXy way to handle this since the page layout (and thinking process) for topic lists and topic threads is so different. But this one little feature, which could be implemented with or without AJAX, goes a long way to making it a more pleasant experience to browse forums.

Lots of pages use hovering for all kinds of eye-candy, and sometimes they really overdo it to the point of being annoying or making the pages hard to use, but this posting preview hover is great stuff.

Michael Dillon
+1  A: 

I like Remember The Milk SmartAdd edit box very much. It is simple and powerful way to set all information at one place.

+1  A: 

I think one of the best simple, oldest, javaScript UI enhancing API's out there is Highslide ( It is used absolutely everywhere (see Implementations) and can be used for inline, ajax or off-site content. Easy, effective and brilliant.

I use it on my site for simple photos (, but we also use it for much more sphisticated web based applications at work. Allows multiple moving windows easily maximising space and content in your browser.

+3  A: 

The stackoverflow alert bar is beautiful. I love it. Now I'm that kind of guy who has ~200 tabs open at a time, so whenever I restart firefox, there are at least a dozen websites with the stupidest prompts EVER... and that really <some word here> me off.

Aviral Dasgupta
Yeah, I think that's really well done too.