I remember when there were relatively few significant Islamic websites. It was the mid to late nineties. Quality Islamic websites were rare. I had recently founded Zawaj.com Muslim Matrimonials, and it was one of only three Muslim matrimonial services (now there are scores).
Back then, IslamiCity was the Big Daddy of the Muslim web. It had more Islamic features, articles and information than any other website.
I remembering meeting a few of the brothers who founded and managed the website. It was at an Islamic conference in Los Angeles many years ago. They seemed honest and enthusiastic ma-sha-Allah. I had the impression that their intention was genuinely to offer a quality Islamic service. It was not a mercenary venture.
Since then, I have always included IslamiCity in any list of must-see Islamic websites.
But, more than a dozen years later, is IslamiCity still relevant? Has it retained its usefulness and cutting edge? I don’t seem to hear much about it these days. So I went back and took a close look. Here is what I found:
Appearance and Design
Let’s take a look at the most prominently featured content, where I think most newcomers would look first. This is the content in the left-center column, and the right-center column. Later I’ll come back to the top, left and right navigation bars.
- There is a left-center column with a list of articles called “Highlights“. However, many of the articles are sourced from iViews.com (a website I’ve never cared for due to its narrow political focus), and open a new window in that website. I think this is a mistake. Such a prominent location on the home page should be used to feature dedicated IslamiCity content. Only one point for this section.
- Below the Highlights is a small section titled “Islamic Gifts, Multimedia, Books.” It consists of three links to the IslamiCity Bazaar, which is a standard type of online Islamic store. It seems like a well stocked store. I have no problem with any website wanting to earn revenue by offering good products to readers. One point for this.
- Below that, a small section titled, “Community”. Among the handful of links in this section is one to request a free copy of the Quran. Another link allows one to send a free e-card to family or friends. There’s an excellent selection of cards in a variety of categories, including Islamic holidays, thank you, and congratulations. The cards themselves are very basic, but it’s still a useful and free service. The bottom link is to the IslamiCity forum, an active discussion board with a current count of more than 150,000 Posts in almost 18K Topics in 58 Forums. In my opinion this Community section should be moved to the top of the column, as these are the kinds of functional services that people seek and use. Three points for this section.
- The right-center column features “News and Analysis”. But once again, the links open a new window to other websites, ranging from the Los Angeles Times to the Independent (and one that failed to respond). Again, a mistake. Why use the most prominent real estate on your home page just to send people off to some other news site? Zero points.
- Below News and Analysis is “Multimedia”. This, finally, is dedicated IslamiCity content, and is where IslamiCity displays its strength. The only drawback is that many of the multimedia links create pop-up media players that require a plugin (RealPlayer) that I do not have. Still, I suppose I could install it easily enough. Two points for this section.
- Below Multimedia is “Science”. Again, links to other websites. The first link I clicked on took me to a website called the Mail Online. The article itself was interesting, but on the right side was a column called, “Femail today” with images of various celebrities wearing bikinis. Not a very appropriate place to send your Muslim visitors. Zero points.
- Below that, “Finance”. Same story, external links in new window. Zero points.
Okay, so far we’ve got a few good points and quality features, but also a lot of wasted space and external links to non-Muslim content. I would have liked to see more dedicated content. I understand that this is an age of economic hardship and budgetary constraints, but it’s starting to look like IslamiCity has given up. Though the website has some useful functionality, it feels frozen in time, no longer evolving.
Still, let’s give them a chance. In part two I’ll take a look at the top navigation menu, the left-side menu bar (which seems to be chock full of good stuff), and the right-side menu bar.