Best and Top of Everything : Most Important Websites We Can't Live Without

Most Important Websites We Can't Live Without

The problem with the internet is that much of the health information out there is of dubious quality and sometimes downright misleading, which is why I direct my patients here. Launched by two GPs with an interest in providing evidence-based information for patients, it provides health advice written by doctor as well as links to UK clinical intelligence and patient information sheets. It is easy to understand, accurate and up-to-date.

This works on the principle that a problem shared is a problem halved, and uses video, recordings and articles to allow visitors to share the experiences of people in similar situations to themselves. What is it like to be told that your child has leukaemia? Do all people with depression feel like I do? Is breastfeeding supposed to be this painful?

An excellent site to find out whether your lifestyle might lead to you having an early heart attack or stroke and how you might avert that. It shows just how big a difference lifestyle changes and medication can make, examining the role that getting to your ideal weight, stopping smoking, lowering high blood pressure or taking a statin can have.

The Behind The Headlines section is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in a major health story, but unsure about the facts that lie behind it. Featuring doctors reports, scientific papers and investigative videos, this site makes clear that not all stories are quite as factually based as the headlines suggest.

There are many excellent patient-group and charity websites on the internet, but if I had to pick one example of best practice it would be Cancer Research. It offers clear, concise and comprehensive advice on a wide range of cancers, from how to detect symptoms to questions to ask your doctor.


The 8 sites that will save you time online

Makes the internet work for you
Want to save files to your Google documents every time someone e-mails you an attachment? Or receive a text every time a particular person e-mails you, or an e-mail every time a new book is added to the top 100 free Kindle e-books? “If This Then That” can do each of those for you. All you have to do is think of the things you do online all the time, and then set up a “recipe” on this website to do them for you.

Temporary e-mail address generator
Fed up with giving your e-mail address every time you sign up for a website or special offer? This service gives you a random e-mail address, which is deleted after 10 minutes, so you can trial services without being hounded by marketing departments.

URL shortening and link-saver
Bitly is a simple, straightforward link-shortening service, that crunches down long URLs (web addresses) into short ones that are easier to tweet without breaking the 140-character limit. It also offers analysis of how many people use your link and lets you create personal profiles of favourite web links to share with others.

Isolates relevant parts of web pages for printing
Trying to print the right part of a busy website full of pictures, adverts and pop ups is annoying. “Print What You Like” lets you isolate exactly which parts of the page you want to print and gets rid of the rest. Simple and useful.

Unsubscribe from e-mails
If your inbox is filled with e-mail newsletters and special offers from every website you’ve ever signed up to or bought from, the swizzle is a life-saver. Enter your details and it analyses your e-mails, detects which are newsletters and lets you unsubscribe from the ones you choose en masse. You can also have a group of newsletters compiled in one daily digest. Worth visiting any time you feel your inbox getting clogged up.

Send big files
If an image, video or music file is too big to attach via e-mail, WeTransfer is the best way of sending it — and, of all the transfer sites, the easiest to use. Just drag your file into the WeTransfer website, add the e-mail address of your recipient, and they will be sent a private link from which to download the file. It’s all ad-funded so completely free and there is a generous 2GB limit, although the files are deleted after two weeks so no one else can access them.

Online documents wallet
Never leave a file behind again. Google drive moves your desktop to “the cloud” so that once you have saved a document to your Google Drive, you can access it from any computer, smartphone or tablet. You can also share documents to be edited by multiple users, keep track of edits and save files into folders.
Digital presentation builder
Forget boring old PowerPoint. Prezi makes it easy to add video, animation, statistics and diagrams into your presentations and make them more attractive — and even fun. Then you can either use for meetings or share them online.


... and to find a new job

Comprehensive employment website
For anyone in the market for a new job, this should be the first place to stop. One of the world’s biggest employment websites, it has extensive job listings that can be filtered by a fairly bewildering array of options, and offers helpful advice on CV writing, interviewing skills, changing careers and how to get the most out of your job hunt.

Business Facebook
Although many potential employers now look up applicants on Facebook, you would rather they found your LinkedIn page. It is a networking site for business that encourages you to show off your skill set and employment history in order to build professional contacts. The theory is that, if you build a suitably impressive profile, job offers will come in from some of its 187 million members.


14 sites for arts and culture

Film buff’s bible
Who played Mr Blonde in Reservoir Dogs? What was Brad Pitt’s first film role? IMDb has all the answers to your film questions, plus trivia you never thought you wanted to know about almost every film, TV show and video game.

Ticketing agent with a social spin
A simple concept: a single site that helps you to either host or to attend an event, whether it is a local yoga class or a stadium concert. It is the more local, social version of a site such as Ticketmaster, based on the idea that events are inherently social, and you will want to talk about them on social media, getting them more users and you more exposure. Events are really easy to create, ticket and manage, and, if you put in a postcode, you will instantly be pointed to events you want to go to.

Hip-Hop Wikipedia
From Gangnam Style to Nicki Minaj, this site “translates” raps, line by line, and explains what it all means. They say “our aim is not to translate rap into ‘nerdspeak’, but rather to critique rap as poetry”. So now you know that when Snoop Dogg sings “Aint nothin’ but a G thang baby”, it means “Snoop explains his condition: his gangster mentality defines him”.

Where to see live music
Three British entrepreneurs started Songkick so they’d never miss a gig by their favourite bands again. You can track bands and singers and receive alerts when they are due to play in the cities you choose. If you are a big music fan you can even let it assess your iTunes playlist or Facebook page and determine the bands you like, to save inputting all the bands you want to track.

Digital song library
Nominated by Val McDermid, author: “I can’t live without I always have music playing when I’m in my office and Spotify has reunited me with a host of old favourites as well as introducing me to music I’d never heard before. It’s easy to put together playlists to suit my mood or the atmosphere I’m trying to create in my writing.”
The network for film-lovers
Planning a night at the movies? This website makes it easy to find out what’s on where, when, and if the film is any good. Financed by Warner Bros, Flixster has more than 35,000 trailers and videos and a database of more than 250,000 films, each with a critic rating (including user reviews and those provided on critic site It is very easy to search for local showings and to save your favourite cinemas so that they come up first in search results.

Watch TV series and films online — or have DVDs sent to you
Fancy a film tonight? It couldn’t be easier to watch films or TV shows using Love Film’s web service. Stream films on your TV or laptop almost instantly. It started as a digital DVD loaning library, sending out your wish list of movies one DVD at a time, and it can still do that as well as offer a large library of content for streaming straight away. Although Netflix does the same thing and can connect to your web-connected TV as well as your browser, it has a more US-focused selection. Both have a monthly subscription service and both offer free month-long trials.

Collection of essays worth reading
Longreads curates the best, lengthy, immersive articles longer than 1,500 words from publications including The New YorkerEsquireand The Atlantic, as well as short stories and historical documents. You can sign up for alerts, and then choose to read the stories away from your desk either on iPad, iPhone or Kindle, or using such apps as Readability or Pocket. They post every day with fascinating reads and have a huge searchable archive.

Watch theatre online
Missed out on seeing David Tennant and Catherine Tate in Much Ado About Nothing? Thanks to Digital Theatre you can watch it online, with other productions in its archive. Invaluable for schools and universities as well as theatre fans, you can watch shows online from £3.99.

Watch live freeview TV
Like having a freeview box on your computer, tvcatchup is a legal place to watch freeview channels live on your computer. You must have a TV licence to watch and create a profile before watching anything. However, you can only watch from one computer per IP address and there are pre-roll advertisements that sponsor the site, so, unless you log on just before the programme’s advertised time, you may miss the first few minutes.

BBC internet television and radio catch-up service
BBC, ITV and Channel 4 all now offer catch-up online. iPlayer perhaps pips the others as it allows you to download programmes to watch offline via its app, and of course doesn’t have any adverts. The archive of 4oD (, the home of Channel 4 programming, is enormous, containing entire comedy series and some films. But you might have to sit through several adverts before each episode begins.

Selective YouTube videos
Instead of wasting hours watching cat videos, sneezing pandas, music videos and documentaries, Devour curates a selection of beautiful, often HD, videos worth watching. Best of all, they have taken out YouTube comments so you can watch without the “insightful analysis”.

Architecture and design online magazine
If you’re a keen architect or designer, this is the only site worth knowing. Dezeen curates a selection of the best design and interiors projects from around the world — great for inspiring both amateurs and professionals, and often first for industry gossip.

Times crossword blog
If you’re learning how to do cryptic crosswords, or you are stuck on a clue, or you want to share the joys of a “successful solve” of theTimes crossword, this is the place to visit. You will find analysis and solutions for The Times cryptic crossword from a team of solvers who post their technique for solving each clue and thoughts on each day’s puzzle. It inspired the charming, which does the same thing for the cryptic puzzles in the Financial TimesThe Guardian and The Independent. Both are maintained by a team of crossword-addicts and are helpful for those trying to learn how to do cryptic crosswords, or stuck solvers. But beware: all the answers will be there when you log on.


3 sites for news, stories and gossip

The Thunderer — but digital
It’s everything you love about the newspaper, and more, with live news, daily webchats with our award-winning sports writers and the whole archive of cartoons from legendary cartoonist Peter Brookes as well as funny political animations from Morten Moreland. If that’s not enough, there’s our monthly book club, complete with live discussion at the end of the month, our football Match Centre, so you can follow all the big games live, and The Times Archive, with 200 years of back copies of The Times to search at your leisure.

From the must-read to the ridiculous
Of course BBC News is on your bookmarks. But BuzzFeed is guaranteed to have a headline you can’t resist clicking on, whether it is one of its notorious lists of social and digital memes (for example, 20 Reasons Why 2012 Was The Coolest Year To Be A Mormon and the 50 Best Stories About Facebook This Year) or one of their bizarre stories (such as a cat running for mayor). As well as silly and fun links, it has a meaty politics section and on-the-money tech reviews.

The front page of the internet
If you want to know what people are talking about, Reddit has the answer. While it isn’t the most beautiful online community, it is one of the biggest and most active. Since 2005 members have been posting links or stories, which other members vote on. Popular posts rise through the rankings, moving position on the site — and eventually landing on the front page — hence their slogan “the front page of the internet”. It gets 40 million visitors a month — and last year President Obama chose to do a Q&A there, which had more than 5.5 million page views.


4 shopping sites you can’t live without

The ultimate general store
The online site that’s changed the way we shop — and caused untold collateral damage to the British high street along the way. There isn’t much you can’t buy from Amazon, from children’s toys and kitchenware to electronics and sportsgear. With its easy-to-use format, recommendations from other people of products you might like, too, and free shipping, it’s like having a general store at your fingertips.

The original online fashion store
The game-changing original online fashion store offers unparalleled choice, with 1,500 new products introduced each week, and a powerful search engine which means that you can be specific about what you are after (ie, “red, long-sleeved, scoop-neck dress”). They have womenswear, menswear, shoes, accessories and jewellery. If you can wait, they offer free delivery, or next-day, paid-for delivery for urgent purchases. Useful and addictive.

Virtual marketplace
Whether you are a collector, a bargain hunter or you just need to find a missing Lego piece or dinner plate, the online auction house is the place to go for cheap second-hand goods, as well as some new products, including phones and tablets. It’s also, of course, the place to sell things you no longer want, from vintage bags and children’s toys to cars. Totally addictive: like a giant superstore with never-ending departments.

Designer clothes store
Nominated by Alice Temperley, fashion designer: “I am full of admiration for Natalie Massenet, not only for transforming the way women shop online, but also how she has merged a luxury store and a magazine. The site has always looked slick, is easy to navigate and the magazine has brilliant content — they have really grasped what consumers want.”


9 sites you should know ... and the big 5

Free-to-watch inspiring lectures
The TED (Technology Entertainment Design) conference started as a tech-focused annual conference to share “ideas worth spreading”. But you can skip the hefty ticket price and watch their entire archive online, free. Past speakers include Bill Clinton, Malcolm Gladwell and Annie Lennox all keeping their speeches to a maximum of 18 minutes.

Online campaign group
Dubbed “the real opposition” by the New Statesman, this website connects people to sign and spread petitions on worthy causes. Run on charitable donations, the website has now connected more than 850,000 people whose notable successes include helping to stop the sell-off of England’s forests and preventing Donald Trump from evicting Scottish homeowners to build a golf course.

Sharing skills in your neighbourhood
Would you lend a neighbour a ladder in return for some gardening, or help someone on your street with their CV in exchange for a DVD? This British site helps you connect with your neighbours to swap things, whether they are skills or items to give away or lend. Sign up, enter your postcode, add something you would be prepared to help with or give away, and see who is within one mile of you. It is a small but growing network with the simple ambition of helping to “make your neighbourhood a nicer place”.

Collect charitable donations
Want to collect sponsorship without walking around the office with a bucket and a list of names? It’s much easier to get a JustGiving page, give people the URL and let them donate quickly and safely online. The site takes up to 5 per cent per cent — a fee they argue is balanced by the 30 per cent increase in people who donate, compared with those who fundraise offline. Since 2001 the site has raised more than £1 billion.

An investment platform for creative projects
An investment platform for creative projects If you have an idea for a business, but no idea where to find the investment, Kickstarter is a site worth looking at. Like an online Dragons’ Den, you pitch an idea with a target investment level (ie, a local cake shop for £10,000), and then ask people to invest small amounts to make it happen in exchange for something when it is ready (for example, a slice of cake). It has transformed the way entrepreneurs raise capital for new projects.

User-generated travel reviews
When booking a hotel, restaurant or B&B, you should always check in at Tripadvisor first. OK, so it’s not all trustworthy — there are some paid-for reviews and some nonsense — but with more than 75 million reviews, it’s a good start for an overview of where you are planning to go.

The leading resource for cricket news and information
Want to check who bowled first in a cricket game in 1783? Cricinfo can tell you. It was launched by an American university professor in 1993 and is now the foremost online resource for cricket information, from its archive of results stretching back to 1772, to live scorecards for almost every professional match in the world as well as news, podcasts and features.

Online photo editor
If you want to improve and edit your photographs, but don’t have Photoshop, Pixlr is a powerful, web-based photo editor that lets you crop your shots, resize them, remove red-eye and even whiten teeth. Similarly offers editing tools, colour filters, sharpening and even a wrinkle remover.

Football videos
For football fans — you will never miss a great goal again. This site collates every football video on the web, whether released by a football club or uploaded by a fan. They even have a “live goals” section with videos uploaded during matches. You can also vote on your top goal of the week, and read commentary and analysis on their blogs.

The ultimate social network
What started as a digital college yearbook in 2004 has now become as much a part of everyday online life as e-mail — 23 per cent of the 1 billion active users check Facebook five or more times per day. Part social diary, part photo album, part homepage, the ultimate social network has transcended its beginnings and even played its part in mobilising the Arab Spring (hence an Egyptian man naming his child “Facebook”). This month, Mark Zuckerberg, its 28-year-old chief executive, announced that he is working on a Facebook search engine based on recommendations from your friends.

The search engine
It is not just a website, it’s a verb, and the most visited site on the internet. And if you’re not sure how it works (or you are fed up with being asked to find out basic information), may we suggest you visit (let me just Google that for you).

The open-source encyclopedia
It isn’t the most reliable source of information, but the free-to-read and edit encyclopaedia is one of the best examples of the open-source internet. And the quality of posts has improved radically since it began, often written by experts in the field and peer-reviewed until all facts have a reliable source. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect, but it has its worthy place in your browser.

Video-sharing website
Hunt down old clips from TV or films, watch music videos and distract yourself with explanations of how to do magic tricks, bake a souffle or understand quantitative easing. The video-sharing website — the third-most popular after Google and Facebook — allows the user to view, share and upload videos free, making unknown artists superstars (such as Psy and Justin Bieber) and near-obsolete recordings digital, and creating new audiences for their back-catalogue of more than 6,000 film titles.

Global conversation
At first the microblogging site was full of people describing everyday mundanity. But today half a billion people use Twitter to follow breaking news stories, discuss culture and trends and even to find jobs. There have now been a total of 163 billion tweets: Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and Katy Perry have more followers than the populations of Germany, Turkey, South Africa, Canada, Argentina and Egypt.