CNET Networks’ BNET beat out some stiff competition to win both Best Web Site Design and Best Web Site Editorial. Not bad for a site that’s only existed in its current form since March 2007.

The goal of BNET is to provide business managers with actionable ideas. “We wanted to create a management-focused site that’s not take-home subway reading but exists to help managers solve problems,” says vice president of product development Stephen Howard-Sarin.

A ‘Crash Course’ Approach
A personalized approach is key to both the edit and design of BNET. The signature BNET editorial feature is the “Crash Course”—a how-to series that ranges from topics such as how to select an acquisition to something as down-home as how to order wine at a business function. “A lot of our users know answers to that but many don’t—and who doesn’t want to sound smarter at a meeting or cocktail hour?” says executive editor Jeffery Davis. “There is an aspirational aspect to covering your bases.”

The site design takes similar cues. “We wanted to set up something more personal rather than a 30,000-foot view of business,” says art director Marc Mendell. “At a glance, it’s different from the traditional business site—we don’t use the traditional pinstripe metaphor. This is more reflective of a personal study with warm colors and earth tones. Designing for this medium is fun because it’s a moving target—the technology changes and the type changes. We have a really great face, the challenge is that as content grows and options expand, we need to continue to present it to users in a clean, enjoyable and personal way.” BNET had 649,793 unique users and three million page views in August 2007.

The site has also launched a content-sharing partnership with Harvard. “As a pure online property, we have to balance content in multiple formats and from multiple sources,” says Howard-Sarin. “When you’re an online publisher, you have to say, what does the user want and need? Do we want it or does somebody else have it? Do we do articles? Video? Podcasts? Downloadable spreadsheets? What is the best way to serve this active, problem-solving manager?”