The Usability of Single Purpose Websites (Single Serving Websites) | Usability Geek

The Usability of Single Purpose Websites (Single Serving Websites) | Usability Geek.

By Thomas Churm / Posted in Terminology / Published May 14, 2012

The Usability of Single Purpose Websites
Single Purpose Websites (also known as Single Serving Websites) typically consist of a single page website whose purpose is to do one thing and do it well. They are accessible via a dedicated domain which usually describes what the website does. For any usability or user experience enthusiast who has noticed the proliferation of single purpose websites on the internet, one question immediately comes to mind: do users need single purpose websites and do they find them usable?

At first glance, these websites often seem to be little more than someone’s idea of a joke, since some of the better known ones tend to focus on trivial matters that may not seem to justify the existence of a web presence in the first place. In fact, many of these websites seem to exist for no other purpose than to occupy a particular piece of online real estate. In reality, however, a large number of them have real value that is disproportionate to their size. Users who learn to identify the truly useful single purpose websites are sure to find at least a few that can be easily and effectively utilized so as to help them achieve their objectives.

Do One Thing And Do It Well

This is the golden rule of single purpose websites. Of course, it is important to define these sites so that casual readers do not confuse them with the usual internet fare. To begin with, these sites are exactly what they claim to be: web pages that are dedicated to doing one thing and one thing only. Using this definition, one would never find a single use site that perfors complex calculations while also converting media files. The single purpose site would do either one or the other.

There are some limiting characteristics then that help users to identify sites that truly meet the criteria. As noted, sites must serve only one purpose. They usually have no menus or navigation mechanisms, few if any page links, and no registration requirements. While there are some variations to this list of criteria, most single purpose sites share these traits.

Single Purpose Websites And Usability

The advantages offered by these websites might not be evident to anyone who has never actually used one. While users can find a host of sites out there that offer them a variety of different benefits, those sites can often be difficult to navigate and hence, users will take longer to achieve their objectives. In fact, users are likely to bookmark and re-visit single purpose websites whenever the need arises. Because most of the sites are usually presented on a single page, easy-to-follow design, most users can use them with very little instruction.

Usability is concerned with “The extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context of use” (ISO-9241-11). Based on this definition, a single purpose website can indeed be useful. This is because if it does one thing and it does it well, and that one thing will help the user achieve his/her goal efficiently and in a satisfactory way, then one can safely state that that website is useful. The simplicity of such sites, the lack of hierarchy and navigation and the prominence given to the function that they perform, all contribute towards good usability.

7 Examples Of Single Purpose Websites

The following are excellent examples of single purpose websites that I think can be very handy to bookmark to. They are being presented in no particular order of importance:

1. What Is My IP?

What Is My IP?

2. Strike App

Strike App

3. Is It Old?

Is It Old?

4. Google URL Shortener

Google URL Shortener

5. Down For Everyone Or Just Me?

Down For Everyone Or Just Me?

6. Do I Need An Umbrella?

Do I Need An Umbrella

7. How Secure Is My Password?

How Secure Is My Password?


First of all, I hope that this article has convinced you that single purpose websites and usability can live in harmony. As can be seen above, the objective that a single purpose website helps you to achieve is so intuitive that the screenshots alone are sufficient. While there is a wide array of objectives that such websites help you to achieve, the golden rule for any single purpose website is:
Do One Thing and Do It Well!