Posted on Tuesday, December 28th, 2021 by Will Hagle
In 2021, the concept of “web 3.0” increasingly worked its way into the mainstream. Artificial intelligence became smarter and more commonplace. Social media continued to integrate into everyday life. Whether or not you are enthusiastic about the future, it is clear that the way we use the internet continues to evolve at a rapid pace. Over the years, our weekly faves have adapted to this ongoing evolution, showcasing more mobile apps and different products in order to better reflect how people are building tools, games, companies, and fun sites on the web.
For our Best of 2021 list, we’ve chosen a group of faves that showcases the wide variety of ways in which the web as we know it can entertain, inspire, increase productivity or otherwise improve our lives.
Although All My Faves exists to help you better navigate the web, and our weekly faves list gives you eleven new awesome sites and apps to check out each week, we understand the negative impact that overuse of technology can have on individuals. So does Opal, a beautiful app that does exactly what it set out to accomplish: helping you “take control of your phone.”
The app asks you to set a goal for your daily screen time. It adapts based on user needs. If you want to get better sleep, be less distracted by notifications, or just spend less time being upset on social media, Opal can design a plan for you. The app’s basic function is disconnecting the apps that distract you most, so you can focus on what’s truly meaningful to you. It’s the antithesis of the “endless scroll” mentality that has overtaken engagement-hungry social media powerhouses.
Ultimately you’re in control of which apps Opal blocks and when it blocks them. So Opal is a tool to help you increase your awareness of your phone usage, and be more mindful about how you use social media apps. In a year filled with distractions, temporarily unplugging couldn’t be more important.
The internet has made the world more interconnected. Duolingo, Google Translate, and the many available other language learning and translation apps have helped people across the globe be able to better communicate with each other. No product has been quite as useful or advanced, however, as Yous.
Yous is a translation service that uses artificial intelligence to facilitate conversations between speakers of two different languages. It’s an audio and video calling platform, mediated by the A.I., in which the speakers’ voices are automatically translated to text in the other’s language. So a person speaking Italian can easily talk to someone who’s speaking French, without the need to type into a translation app or have a human translator present. You can also type text and have it instantly translated to your recipient’s native tongue.
Yous, like all A.I.-based tech, may not be 100% perfect. However, it reveals how our future will be impacted in beneficial ways by the increased incorporation of A.I. It feels like a fantasy that I could be able to talk to someone in my native English and have a person who only knows Hindi completely understand everything I’m saying. With Yous, that’s possible now.
By now, most people are accustomed to booking travel through whatever their preferred sites may be. Checking flight prices, reserving hotel rooms or making car rentals can all be accomplished through a handful of sites that tend to have the same listings. It’s all become so ordinary and routine.
Elude is a travel app that is the opposite of normal. Rather than showing you prices on where you want to go, Elude tells you where you can go, based on a variety of filters like budget, departure city, number of passengers and travel dates. It reveals more possibilities than you could find on your own through regular searches.
With a clean, minimalist design intended for mobile devices, Elude offers an ideal way to find travel inspiration. After you enter your parameters, the app displays the destinations that fit your budget. Flights and hotels are included. You can swipe through them, and click to book and reserve. This app is incredibly useful for those that don’t want to spend the time doing research. If you have a set amount of money that you want to spend and an adventurous spirit, Elude will help you accomplish your next adventure.
As someone who’s writing a blog post, you can probably guess that I am not incredibly enthusiastic about A.I.’s inevitable foray into writing and editing. In 2021 humans are still better at putting words together, but the machines are not far behind. CopyAI can already save you the time of writing or hiring a writer to make copy for your small business or entrepreneurial venture.
The site works like any word processor, with templates for website copy, blogs, emails, digital ads, and much more. The main difference is that you only need to input a short description of your product and choose the tone that you want your A.I. writer to utilize, and the machine does the rest. To see what the product is capable of achieving, below is a “bold” marketing description I generated for CopyAI based on the start of this post:
“Finally a copywriter that will write sales converting content for you! Whether you’re putting together product listings, powerpoint decks or blogs, CopyAI will do all the hard work for you.”
One of the best parts about the web is the ease of entry into designing. There are now numerous products that help you build websites without code. You can also learn basic HTML and publish a website that anyone in the world can access.
Mobile apps, of course, have grown in popularity over the past few years. The barrier of entry, unfortunately, is much more difficult. Adalo aims to change that. The site lets you design and deploy apps as easily as you could make a website with WordPress or Squarespace.
There are only a few templates available on Adalo as of now, and the apps you can create are relatively limited in features. However, if you want to build an app that lets users book appointments, make to-do lists, or view profiles, it can get you going with just a few easy steps. The look and feel of your app is entirely customizable, so users won’t know that you didn’t build your app from the ground up.
If you run a business or are a self-employed contractor, having an app is vital to compete in the crowded marketplace. Adalo has a ton of features and is easy to learn. Anyone with an idea for an app or a need for a mobile counterpart to a website should check it out immediately.
Plant ownership exploded as a hobby when the covid-19 pandemic began in 2020, and that trend continued throughout 2021. The world is finally catching on to what plant enthusiasts have known all along: growing and nurturing these living organisms in your own home can enrich your life in unexpected ways!
How Many Plants is full of all the information that you need to succeed on your plant care journey. The site itself has a design as beautiful as a bouquet of flowers. You can discover different types of plants or filter by the kinds you already have. Then, explore all of the information you need to know: basic care tips, plus in-depth guides on soil & potting, feeding, grooming, propagation, and more.
If you have plants in your home or are planning to add some to your environment, How Many Plants is an immensely helpful resource.
2021 proved to be yet another stressful and emotionally intense year for many people around the world. There are many important apps and products online that help people work on their mental health, but this year one stood out above the rest: Therappy.
Rather than connecting you with online therapists (which remains a crucial step for many people), Therappy is designed for self-therapy. It teaches people to build the skills they need to successfully navigate their thoughts and emotions. The app uses principles of CBT, or cognitive behavioral therapy. It can truly transform the way you approach the world, and help you alter the behaviors that have a negative impact on your life. There are audio sessions, gratitude reflections, and endless bits of information to help you, even in emergency situations.
Therappy isn’t designed to be an all-in-one solution to mental issues, but it has so many useful resources that it should be a must-download for anyone interested in improving themselves. Heading into another year of the pandemic and ongoing uncertainty, Therappy will be a necessary tool for reducing stress, anxiety, and mental anguish.
Thematically related to the previous two entries, Tree.fm is a stress-reducing product that helps us return our focus to the healing power of nature. The concept of the site is simple. It lets you tune into forests from around the world. After visiting the homepage, you’re presented with a play button that lets you “listen to a random forest.” Click it, and you’re transported to the tranquil sounds of such a place. You can cycle through the different forests, and learn more about the locations that you discover. Tree.fm is an ideal site to save to your faves and access whenever you need relaxing background sounds.
The National Film Board of Canada consistently creates the web’s most impressive interactive storytelling. This year, their greatest achievement was Far Away From Far Away, an experience designed for mobile about the importance of small places.
It tells the story of Zita Cobb, a social entrepreneur responsible for transforming Fogo Island, Newfoundland. Navigating through the story is similar to clicking through Instagram stories or watching TikTok, but the content is more purposeful and enlightening. It’s more interactive than a documentary, and, as a result, more powerful. Described as a “visual podcast,” it’s actually something else altogether. It takes about 25 minutes to complete, and is well worth the investment of time.
The project is also an example of how media companies can better utilize the technology at their disposal. Creators too often mimic each other and depend on the limits of certain platforms. Far Away From Far Away shows what can be achieved by storytellers who choose to do something different.
When the pandemic began, citizens of the globe turned to puzzles. What better way to relax, reduce boredom, and challenge yourself mentally while stuck inside?
Although 2021 saw the world adapting to our new form existence, puzzles remain a great hobby. Google Arts & Culture designed a site that not only takes puzzles online, but lets us build them with other people anywhere: Puzzle Party. The site lets you solve puzzles with friends and family, bringing the communal aspect of the hobby back to the digital space. Each of the puzzles on the site are based on an artwork, and there are way more options than what could fit in the average physical box.
Puzzle Party doesn’t replace our need for human connection and physical touch, but it does offer a fun interactive alternative to the pandemic’s most popular hobby.
Chess.com is one of the longstanding sites for chess aficionados to play against each other. For those who aren’t masters of the game, Chess.com has built an app to help you: Learn Chess with Dr. Wolf. Using a simple but pleasant cartoonish design, Dr. Wolf and his digital friends become your personal chess coach. The app guides you through the rules of the game, and teaches you the most common outcomes of various openings and moves. The app is ideal for complete beginners, as well as for people who want to deepen their skills and understanding. If you’re interested in chess but have never understood quite how the game works, Learn Chess, our top mobile game of the year, is the perfect place to start.