I am a sucker for gift guides. I LOVE giving gifts, I LOVE getting gifts, I LOVE thinking about the perfect thing for each person I care about. I’m probably the one person on the planet who actually pages through all the catalogs that come in the mail. I save them up until I have the brainspace to enjoy them. Catalogs are perfect breakfast reading!

So you can imagine that I really like planning for Christmas, and I really like online gift guides.

But not all gift guides are created equal!

When selecting a gift guide, I look for ones from blogs, magazines, or websites I trust, whose values or preferences align with mine. I like consumable gifts, and I’m also trying this year to support local shops and buy mostly handmade items, so I search for companies that promote those.

It’s also useful to think about the people you’re shopping for. You can narrow down specific types of stores to hunt gift guides in. For example, my father-in-law is big into backpacking, so a guide from REI would be great.

PSA to the makers of gift guides: if your guide is a slideshow, and I have to click through 50 Unique Gifts for Women, you will lose me. I may be willing to click a couple of times, but as your page slowly loads in between each click, my mind will start to wander. And when I hit a slide that’s an ad? I’m out. Unfortunately a couple of sites I really like, including Real Simple, make their gift guides this way. Womp womp.

Instead of a slideshow, show me pictures of all the gifts in a grid. Make the pictures clickable. Put a caption on the picture so I know what I’m looking at. If you do that, your gift guide wins, and it makes me happy.

Separate out your gift guide by category - Gifts for Him, Gifts Under $25, Gifts for the Hostess - and let me select the one that appeals to me most. I’ll be honest, I’m a fan of the “Gifts Under $25”…

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box! Maybe you found a wonderful gift guide back in February. Just because it’s a list of Valentine’s Day gifts doesn’t mean you can’t give one of the items to your husband for Christmas. Personally I’ve always found it weird to give someone a Christmas-themed gift at Christmas, anyway, because then they won’t be able to use it until the following year!

Ultimately the best gift guides are the ones where I actually click through to some of the items. That obviously depends less on the user experience and the layout and more on the store’s content. Without further ado, a few of my favorites:

  • Crate and Barrel - It’s not a local store, but the items are high quality, and I found numerous items (specifically from the “Our Favorite Gifts” list) that I ended up adding to my “Gift Ideas” Pinterest board.

Crate and Barrel

  • Etsy is the mecca of all things handmade. It’s eminently browsable on a normal day and especially nice around the holidays.


  • Zingerman’s offers high-quality edibles galore! Some really unique stuff there, too. It’s a little pricey, but everything I’ve ever had from there has been delicious.


  • I love the websites The Sweet Home and The Wirecutter for their product reviews, so it follows that I appreciate their gift suggestions. This is last year’s list, and I’m waiting with bated breath for the 2014 edition!

The Wirecutter

Others of note:

Sometimes a great gift guide just gets your creative juices flowing. I love when bloggers post lists of gift ideas. Usually if I enjoy the blogger’s writing in general, I’ll get some great ideas from their gift lists! This is a different class of gift guide: not hosted by a store, not necessarily encouraging me to shop anywhere in particular. And I may or may not end up getting exactly what the list suggests. But it gets me thinking, and helps come up with related ideas that may be more perfect for someone I love.

Gift guides turn me into a kid in the candy store, but the store is the Internet and the candy is pretty pictures. It’s practically as satisfying to me to browse beautifully laid out selections of gifts as it is to actually buy or receive anything. And by flipping through, I’m often pleasantly surprised to find just the thing to gift to someone on my list.

Laura Lindeman

Laura Lindeman