A new coat of paint can do a lot for a Web site. In 2009, we saw more of an evolution, than a revolution for big site redesigns, but there were a few standouts. Below are five notables (in no real order), followed by several honorable mentions.
1. Twitter (the home page)
In terms of its core design, Twitter itself didn't change all that much in 2009. But at the end of July, the company unveiled a new home page--you know, the one you see when you haven't logged in yet.
Instead of trying to explain what the service was for, it simply shows it. This includes dropping a large search box right at the top of the page as well as displaying some of the latest trends and keywords--all of which can be sorted by minute, day, and month.
2. Facebook Lite
Facebook underwent an iterative redesign in March, one that angered a lot of its users. But we're not going to highlight that in this list. Instead we're picking Facebook Lite, a stripped-down version of the site that quietly went live in September.
Facebook Lite offers many of the core features of Facebook, but without as much noise. There are, for instance, fewer ads. And applications--once Facebook's crowning feature, are gone too. Other niceties include the removal of the often-annoying launch bar that sits at the bottom of Facebook's screen, and zippier page loads.
3. YouTube Feather
Like Facebook's Lite flavor, YouTube launched "Feather" last month. In short, it strips out many of YouTube's more superfluous features and puts the video front and center. It's almost like using the site back when it first came out.
YouTube currently houses Feather within its TestTube labs section, and gives users a way to quickly switch back and forth between the interfaces. Click here to see a before and after of the two interfaces.
FriendFeed may not be all that important of a product these days--that is, it's likely to be shelved since being acquired by Facebook. But a redesign in early April made the whole site real-time. This meant that you could view everything that was happening on the site live, and without refreshing the page. Friendfeed kept the new design going as an optional beta for just three weeks before rolling it out to all users.
5. Google Voice
Google Voice was Google's complete overhaul of GrandCentral, a voice services company it bought in 2007. Google Voice had all of the same GrandCentral features, plus a few extras. More importantly, it fit in with the look and feel of other Google products, notably Gmail. As a result of this, GrandCentral was due to be shuttered on December 31.. You can read more about that, and 15 other sites that went the way of the dinosaurs in 2009 in our slideshow from last month.