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The Cutting Edge / Focus on Personal Technology | E-REVIEW

Web Sites for Weary Women

A Weekly Look at a Technology, Product or Service

May 25, 2000

Technology was supposed to make our lives easier, but try telling that to today's harried woman.

Better yet, try keeping up with her as she rushes between work and home, picking up kids and dropping them off, checking junior's homework, sending a few dozen e-mails, shopping online for family birthdays and preparing everything from tonight's dinner to tomorrow's staff status report.

Women are busier than ever, and they're turning to the Internet for all sorts of help, advice and information. Not surprisingly, a host of women-centric Web sites are trying to cater to mothers/wives/sisters/daughters/execu-tives. We asked our panel of Web site reviewers to rate the five most-visited sites--IVillage, Myria, Oxygen, Women.com and Womenconnect.com.

For the most part, these sites are slickly designed, well funded and written as well as your average women's magazine. But for all that, do these sites offer practical advice? Do they simplify your life? Or do they only add to the chaos?

Our panel of reviewers (120 women, 12 men) rated each site based on overall satisfaction, features, ease of use and "bookmarkability." Here's how they ranked them, from best to worst.

IVillage

IVillage (http://www.ivillage.com) comes closest to recreating the feeling of a women's magazine--think Ladies Home Journal meets InStyle--but the enormity of coverage exceeds anything you'd find on the newsstand.

Launched in 1995, this well-established site received high marks for its easy-to-read style, breadth of information, interactive tools and user-friendly design. Like its print sisters, the site is divided into departments such as beauty, career, relationships, travel and food.

Two related mini-sites--ParentSoup (about raising kids and teens) and ParentsPlace (about fertility and pregnancy)--are linked to IVillage and have the same style: a pleasing combination of big headlines and snappy writing. The site also hosts an affinity program for its shoppers: If you provide IVillage with basic contact information, you're eligible to receive discounts through affiliated online retailers.

The home page features a selection of interactive tools, including Baby Maker, a step-by-step guide to planning for a new arrival, and a Health Calculator, which figures body-mass index and waist-hip ratio.

Women.com

This site (http://www.women.com) offers more channels than your average cable service provider, with areas devoted to everything from relationships to fitness to starting up and managing your own small business. Because it's partly funded by Hearst magazines, it links to and derives content from Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Redbook and other publications.

The content is a well-balanced combination of fluff and facts. Channels such as News & Politics play it straight, while stories such as "The Men of Silicon Valley," a look at high-tech bachelors, have a lighthearted feel. The Help section of the Tech & Internet channel provides tech-averse visitors with useful tutorials and guides for everything from Web cookies to Pentium chips. You'll also find movie reviews, celebrity interviews and streaming audio on Women.com radio.

There's so much information that our reviewers complained that it didn't consistently maintain its women-only focus.

Myria

Unlike the other sites, Myria (http://www.myria.com) deals primarily with motherhood. Given this refined focus, our reviewers expected nuts-and-bolts articles about raising kids in these hectic times. Instead, they found spotty content and a loosely organized site.

It's not as though there's a scarcity of content. This site covers a range of topics such as healthy relationships, money and leisure, all from the parenting angle. Of course, the biggest chunk of real estate is devoted to raising children. Numerous message boards cover everything from breast-feeding to infertility to home schooling, but reviewers remarked that there didn't seem to be many messages on any of them. Myria also offers e-mail, horoscopes and links to retailers such as EToys. Mothers-to-be are guided to Myria's sister site, EPregnancy (http://www.epregnancy.com).

Despite these features, most reviewers weren't impressed. Many complained of incomplete information, and several pointed out that the health section didn't offer enough articles. Others complained about the lack of games and contests of the sort offered by IVillage.

Oxygen

The hype surrounding the Oxygen media group's Web site (http://www.oxygen.com) and recently launched cable network has been huge. After all, the big names behind Oxygen include network founder Geraldine Laybourne (who spearheaded Nickelodeon's launch) and Oprah Winfrey, who is both an investor and a Web content provider. Despite high expectations--or maybe because of them--our reviewers weren't wowed by this site.

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