MasterNewMedia
Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi
 


Monday, December 18, 2006

Personalized Home Page Meets Virtual Desktop: YourMinis - Video Intro

Personalized home page meets online virtual desktop: YourMinis - allows you to customize your own personal start page through RSS and OPML imports, full widget integration and open sharing of your newly aggregated content.

my_yourminis.jpg

The personalized home page has proved itself to be a great way of bringing the web to your desktop without having to go searching for it first.

Personalized home pages and virtual online desktop solutions allow you to create a "start page" that replicates the experience of using your computer's desktop from within your browser while serving as a very powerful vehicle for content distribution, for online content providers.

With the increasing popularity of web widgets, which make it easier than ever to plug content directly into your website or blog, it is now possible to make use of a vast range of web-based applications to achieve almost anything your offline tools are capable of. From RSS feeds to project management, post-it notes to walls of video, there are a vast range of easy-to-embed tools waiting to be put to use.

YourMinis' success lies in its marriage of the start page and web widgets formulas to create feature-packed virtual online desktops that can serve as an instant portal to web content, providing you with a jumping off point to the rest of the Internet, or else a portable desktop that travels with you wherever you surf.

By allowing you to gather numerous micro-applications into a single, highly customizable space that you can access from any computer at any time, YourMinis personalized home page aggregates your favourite online destinations into an accessible, cohesive environment.

In this video review of YourMinis central features, I talk you through the process of setting up a personalized home page / virtual online desktop, adapting it to your needs, sharing it with others, and even of something you may have never heard before: embedding your personalized home page into your browser so that it can be called up at any time, even if you are visiting another website.



Online Virtual Desktops

usergenerated_spielberg.jpg

YourMinis offers a simple way of gathering a horde of useful, or just plain entertaining, content from across the web to a single, accessible space. It's usability is in no small part down to its mimicry of the GUI of your computer desktop, a space that all but the most technophobic users will feel an instant affinity for.

YourMinis gives great credit and tribute to the Mac's OSX elegant interface, from the design of the widgets themselves, to the decidedly Mac-like desktop wallpapers and the expose-like ability to browse tabs from a single visual interface. This can only be a good thing in terms of YourMinis great looks and intuitive usability.

The online desktop paradigm serves its function well and the spaces you create with YourMinis are every bit as customizable as the one on your actual desktop. The visual interface theme can be easily changed, the layout is highly adaptable, and it is also possible to create tabbed desktops, something normally only possible off-line using applications like VirtueDesktops. This feature alone is a great idea, that makes it possible to create a number of entirely different virtual desktops that can be switched on in just a click.

In that sense, YourMinis makes it very easy to create a number of spaces to serve a number of different, dedicated functions.

You can have a desktop devoted to RSS feeds, or to a specific subject, a wall of video desktop, a place to write and leave notes or check off to-dos, while at the same time this can act as a perfect aggregating space for all of your email and IM accounts in a single, cohesive space.

Images and text are easy to format, and both can be turned into links, so that you can have images that transport you to the site that they directly reference. In this sense it is possible to create a highly visual navigation hub to websites and sources you are interested in.

This further extends the interface design potential of this tool while handing it into the control of non-technical users, who, frustrated by their very limited ability to customize their "traditional" computer desktop start to understand and appreciate the advantages of creating a truly personalized space for accessing content.



Content Distribution and Feed Aggregation

rss_feeds_yourminis.jpg

Even if you were to discount the vast range of available widgets, which span from video players, games, comic readers and email aggregators to to-do-lists, calendars and note pads, YourMinis would be valuable alone as an RSS aggregator.

With OPML and RSS feed creation as easy as dragging and dropping a new widget onto your desktop and tapping in a few variables, YourMinis makes for a great way of being able to watch multiple feeds update simultaneously, rather than having to go through them one at a time. A nice alternative to the "river of news" or "newsradar" style, in which feeds are combined, this lets you cast an eye instantly over multiple sources to see the news coming in.

The fact that this truly portable personalized home page / virtual desktop can be embedded into your browser, and viewed at any time, superimposed over the website you are currently visiting, makes this a valuable tool for anyone that needs quick and easy access to a number of RSS feeds when and where they want it.

Furthermore, the browser version of YourMinis provides also, in the bottom corner of your browser window, a RSS-notification facility which lets you know anytime feeds are updated.



Community and Content Sharing

user_page_yourminis.jpg

The latest addition to YourMinis is a social, sharing dimension to the service, which makes it easy to publish your tabbed desktops to the rest of the web, just as you might choose to share your del.icio.us bookmarks. These shared, public desktops and personalized home pages from YourMinis are displayed in a YouTube-like style, with a selection of thumbnails organized by popularity, star ratings and other typical indicators of the social networking world.

From within the YorMinis' community portal YourMinis pages can be explored by tags, by the aforementioned popularity, or simply by browsing through thumbnails, and it is possible to interact with a given desktop through a half-page thumbnail without having to commit to visiting it's URL.

Also, like most video and image-sharing sites are doing nowdays, it is possible to both link or embed a public page directly into your blog or website, allowing direct and seamless integration of YourMinis content into any web page.

This could prove very useful if you stumble upon - for example - a nice selection of RSS feeds, or a well presented photo-gallery that you'd like to share with your site visitors.

On a par with Google Gadgets or even Widgetbox, YourMinis does allow you to pick, choose and easily integrate widgetized content into your site without much of an effort. Going widget-hunting and integrating is certainly a lot quicker and easier on YourMinis than inside Widgetbox, though of course you may find a somewhat less comprehensive inventory in terms of widget coverage.



Conclusions

YourMinis is an excellent service for anyone looking to easily gather online content into a single, easy to access space.

Just as social bookmarking tools allow you to easily transport and share your bookmarks online, so YourMinis allows you to access a content and feature-rich personalized home page which fully acts as a virtual online desktop, regardless of where you are or which computer type you are using.

The Flash-based interface is smooth and free of glitches, and provides an attractive, easy-to-use interface for anyone.

In making everything so straightforward, in terms of the ease with which widgets can be customized, resized and dragged and dropped around the virtual desktop, YourMinis will also appeal to those who find embed codes and HTML an unappetizing prospect.

I feel confident that I could teach my grandmother how to use YourMinis in very little time, as it is really that intuitive.

Also in YourMinis' favour is its scalability to the needs of its specific users. For while it is quite possible to set up start pages with a few drags, drops and colour changes, the inclusion of RSS and OPML make it a potentially much more powerful tool for those who want to push its content aggregation capabilities.

Finally, I have to say that I am very impressed by the fact that I can embed the whole thing into my browser. The ability to be surfing the web, and then to overlay my personalized desktops, feeds, emails and other aggregated services, only to turn them off just as quickly, is a truly impressive one.

This is, for me, the icing on the cake of what is a powerful, versatile and great looking-resource for anyone looking to aggregate a range of content online with the optimum ease.



Additional Resources

If this review of personlized home page builder YourMinis has indeed whet your appetite, you might want to check out some the following links:

[ Read more ]
 
 
 
Readers' Comments    
2007-05-27 15:35:40

Neil Williams

You might also be interested in a new start page available called Funky Homepage. It's comprsied mainly of Google gadgets (as well as Gadgets from other sources), live news feeds, daily Bushisms, daily jokes, horoscopes, videos, weather (up to 5 locations), interactive calendar, Google calendar viewer (for up to 5 Google calendars), comic strips and lots more besides. It also lets you choose your own search engine, colour scheme, etc. Unlike many of the other personalised start pages available, there's no need to create an account and it's all already set up for you, with the most popular gadgets organised by category and sub-category. So there's virtually no setting-up work required by the user. More advanced users can choose to add their own Google gadgets and RSS feeds, but most people just use the gadgets and tools provided. It's free to use and you can check it out at http://www.funkyhomepage.com



2006-12-18 18:39:51

Dr. Rod King

Robin,
I looked at a range of startpage applications (including Google's) before I chose YourMinis as my current startpage application. For me, visual appeal and having a seamless webtop experience were top priorities.

On I-Google or Google's Personal Page (www.google.com/ig), I see and feel two fragmented homepages on one web page: a classic home page for Google Search at the top and at the bottom, a personal homepage for gadgets (widgets). In general, when I use startpages, I like to have the feeling that I'm using a single application for different things and not several sets of applications. YourMinis manages to achieve that by providing a framework that visually and thematically integrates widgets; no widget dominates the user interface. In contrast, the Google Search 'widget' dominates the Google Personal Page; all other widgets are subordinated to Google Search. My model for the ideal startpage is our brain: a visually simple organ or interface with multiple applications. Perspectives and functions change but the brain feels as one.

Below is a list of things that I like about YourMinis:

* YourMinis is visually appealing

* There is minimal scrolling on a page containing installed widgets

* Menu of widgets can be instantly accessed

* Widgets can be easily aligned and organized

* YourMinis pages can be shared and commented on in a community

I hope this information helps.

Best regards,
Rod.



2006-12-18 13:10:02

Robin Good

Sorry about the video Hart. It Should be visible now. Please let me know, if it is not.

Robin



2006-12-18 13:00:15

Robin Good

Rod,
have you looked at I-Google, or Google's own version of the personalized page?

Check: http://www.google.com/ig/

Considering all the RSS feeds and Gadgets you can add to it
http://www.google.com/ig/directory?root=/ig
http://www.google.com/ig/directory?synd=open
what do you like better about YourMinis?



2006-12-18 13:00:59

Hart

Where's the link to the video review? I can't find it!



2006-12-18 12:56:40

Dr. Rod King

A comprehensive and insightful article. I enjoyed reading it. It's interesting that I accessed your article using my YourMinis-startpage. I'm betting that the YourMinis application will become very popular since it is visual and easy to use as well as increases people's productivity on the Internet. I'm also betting that, in future, the competition between search engines and startpage applications will get more intense. But what if we could have the best of both worlds: a search engine that also functions like a startpage application? What if Google Search with its clean, one-box interface could function like a startpage application such as in YourMinis? For me, that would be the ultimate startpage.

Best regards,
Rod.



 
posted by Michael Pick on Monday, December 18 2006, updated on Monday, December 18 2006


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