By Team Digit Published Date
01 - Feb - 2006
| Last Updated
01 - Feb - 2006
When you're looking for information about something, your natural destination is, of course, About.com. It's got information about everything you can think of. It is not a search engine, nor is it an encyclopaedia-it's a place where you look for detailed information about a topic, written by experts in their fields. And you can, therefore, be assured of the authenticity of the info you find-which can't be said about too many Web sites. This site is something like the old directory-style Yahoo!, only smaller.

We can't emphasise enough that About.com has information on almost everything under the sun. The home page is neat and well laid out, though a first-time visitor might be a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of links. But you'll get used to it. For example, you'll notice human "guides," "what's hot now," and four neatly-sectioned, profiled topics of the week. Since every bit of information on the site is from an expert guide, there's the personal touch. Most pages are written in a matter-of-fact way; they're conversational in tone. They "talk" to you-they aren't plain reading pages.

Like we said, the site has advisors, called "guides," who are experts in their respective fields. To begin with, check out the left of the page, which has a cluster of popular topics under "Channels." Clicking on them brings forth a new set of sub-headings, and these are linked to more pages to search from. As you browse these pages, you can always look for anything in particular that you're interested in. And there are resources and advice from the guide throughout all the pages.

For instance, if you are looking for something as specific as using PHP Code in an HTML document, then, on the home page, you'd go to Channels > Computing & Technology > PHP / MySQL > PHP Basics > PHP Tutorial: Using PHP Code in an HTML Document. We know we're repeating ourselves, but the site is replete with such in-depth articles.
What's Hot
"What's hot" is an interesting feature; it appears in two formats. The home page has a section titled "what's hot now"-these are news topics, and clicking on them takes you to items that have recently made the headlines. And once you're inside a particular topic, the right side has a column that presents "what's hot" within it. 

You can always figure out where you are within the site-an arrow at the top shows you where you are, and traces your path through the pages. It's not easy, though, backtracking through the path during your initial forages, but you get accustomed to this after repeated visits. Also, categories and boxes and Centers pop up as you navigate, and for a first-timer, it's like "I-need-to-find-this-so-I'm-going-to-click-everywhere-I-can."

Browsing And Searching
The "Channels" aren't the only way to search-you can look for topics alphabetically under "browse by topic." Here, clicking on a letter opens a page with a list of the topics on the site. You might come up with 55 links or just one, depending on the letter you clicked on. To aid you in your search, there's a search feature at the top of the page. Key in a specific word, and results will appear from all over the About pages. For instance, if you want to look for anything to do with zoos, keying in "Zoo" in the search window brings forth about a 4,000 pages.

There may seem to be too many elements on the home page of About.com. A few of them are (1) The Channels (2) Your guide for the day (3) The search bar (4) Featured topics

A search for "hard disk" leads to this page-on pcworld.about.com-albeit after a lot of navigation

The site offers so much, it's difficult to find a specific topic without the search feature.For example, if you want to know about something like "napkin folding," conducting an alphabet search does not provide any results. You'd do better to use the search feature, and then, it's more than likely that you'll find what you're looking for.

So What's Not To Like?
Basically, the navigation. For one, the "Channels" don't cover everything-there's no "Technology" channel, for example. Neither does the alphabetical search for "T" bring up a "Technology" page, even though there are pages for "Tea" and "Toddlers." And when you do a search on "Technology," you get 40,000 pages-beginning with something on tech as religion! In general, you need to really narrow down your search.

We were looking for info about hard disks, so we searched for "hard disk." Even this brought us to a page that makes you go up a level, and "More Categories" appeared on the right: none of these had any documents in them! But magically, a "Computing Center" appeared on the left, from where we could browse through a universe of topics.

Some kind of navigation logic seems embedded in here, but you'll probably get it only after a while. Still, that's a small gripe for a
site that provides so much organised information!

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