We look back on the extraordinary year that was 2020 through the prism of those most recommended podcasts, apps and sites that helped get us through.

What a strange and discombobulating year we have all had. At times teeth-gnashingly hard to bear, it has also been, at other moments, genuinely wonderful, as the frequent displays of kindness and humanity and the coming together of communities have proved. There were moments it felt as though it might go on forever, but here we are, at last, at its end – and, no less, with a vaccine ready to be rolled-out.

It feels, then, like a good moment for reflection and to look back on the year that none of us will ever forget. There were, of course, some things that remained reassuringly the same, and for us, one of those was continuing to have our wonderful guest editors share their online recommendations – albeit this time including their tips for digital resources that have helped them to navigate two national lockdowns and continued restrictions.

Certain choices came up again and again. These are the trends that emerged over the past fifty-two unforgettable weeks.

Websites

Etsy

The enduring popularity of Etsy suggests that our collective championing of independent craftspeople is happily going nowhere.

House & Garden

We all spent rather more time inside our houses this year. It stands to reason that so many of us longed for inspiration as to how to make our little corner of the world a lovelier place to be.

Eat The Seasons

In a year when we all became more interested in cultivating the good life and eating for health, this guide to what to eat and when was exceptionally popular.



Podcasts

How To Fail With Elizabeth Day

This one is popular year in, year out. An overwhelming number of our interviewees have listened to and learned from tales of things that haven’t quite gone according to plan, from the likes of Jamie Dornan and Nadiya Hussain.

How I Built This

Almost the flipside of How To Fail, How I Built This looks in forensic detail at the machinations of creating a successful business. Fascinating stuff.



Internet Hero

This year, our guests’ all-time top Internet heroes have included Tim Berners Lee as the inventor of the world wide web – to which we all owe so much, this year particularly;
Marcus Rashford for his extraordinary work in ensuring that children in poverty still had access to free meals through lockdown, and in holding the government to account on ending child poverty; and, finally, trusty old Alexa.

Also up there were Michael Moritz, a philanthropist and self-made man who has been central to the development of online culture; as well as Jack Monroe, whose Cooking on a Bootstrap provides brilliant ideas for creating nourishing meals on a budget.

Apps

Instagram

Instagram was, hands down, the most-picked app this year.

WhatsApp

WhatsApp was another big favourite – and this year, it not only offered a free line of communications for family and friends, but also became a means of connecting neighbourhoods and fostering a spirit of community through lockdown and beyond.

Dropbox

As our homes doubled up as our places of work, Dropbox came spectacularly into its own.



Favourite Insta Account

The Modern House. Who didn’t need some distraction in the form of property porn?




Most Popular Guest Edits

We adore all our guest editors. These are the ones whose recommendations you especially loved poring over in 2020.

Sarah Raven

Who didn’t want to get lost in the recommendations of one of the nation’s favourite horticulturists – especially when they were for the likes of YouTuber Rosamund Young’s Secret Life of Cows

Jo Jones

The brilliant Jo Jones, one half of the brilliant Beauty Banks, shared her enduring love of a) TikTok and b) Nadine Baggott.

Alastair Hendy

Alastair Hendy is the proprietor of the most exquisite Edwardian hardware shop in Hasting; a veritable world to get lost in. We – and you – adored his guest edit, as he told of reading his late great friend Deborah Orr’s book, Motherwell, as well as of why having manners online is just as important as IRL.

Paula Sutton

The woman behind the ever-joyful Hill House Vintage grid shared her love for Pentreath & Hall, as well as The Great Indoors podcast.

Alain de Botton

The philosopher and founder of The School of Life gave us his take on the internet – ‘definitely a force for terrible ill, but it's too late’ – and told us why YouTuber Nonstop Dan is an Oscar Wilde for the modern age.

Bobbi Brown

The world-renowned legendary make-up artist told us of her love for How I Built This and how social media allowed her to meet Edward Enninful.

Courtney Adamo

The mum of five and founder of Babyccino Kids told us how The Crown got her through lockdown and how she couldn’t be without Etsy or Instagram.



Most Read Stories

Top Ten Charity Fundraising Websites

Charities took a big hit this year. The popularity of this piece proved people’s continuing collective willingness to give.

Eight Websites Like Toast

The earthy beauty of Toast – and those shops that are not dissimilar – proved a hit.

Online Quizzes

It is, perhaps, as sign of the times that a round-up of quizzes were such a hit this year, as we all searched for fun ways to occupy and distract ourselves.

Online Learning for Kids

This was a year that we all got a taste of home schooling. And these were a few of the resources that got us through.

Best Sites for Bed Linen

If ever there was a year we’ve taken to our beds more than usual, this was it. And these sites helped us do it in style.

Compelling True Crime Podcasts

Who doesn’t love a whodunnit, especially when the cases are real-life? These were the ones we found most edge-of-seat compelling.



GWG’s Biggest 2020 Hero



There is some stiff competition here in a year of extraordinary courage from so many. But our hero has to be Jago Jones, the dinosaur-obsessed five-year-old battling fatal brain tumour DIPG, and undergoing clinical trials, for which every donation counts. You can follow and support this brave boy here.

By Nancy Alsop
December 2020

READ MORE

The Best Online Courses
Lockdown Saviours
Insta Hero: Jago's DIPG Journey

Nancy Alsop

Editor

Nancy is a magpie for the best in design and culture.

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