Website functionality has evolved beyond the UI (user interface). It’s all about the UX – the user experience. Visually stunning websites draw you into their world, and give you a reason to stay there awhile.
Some of the highly conceptual designs described below may not be a good idea for your business-oriented site … but what a collection of thought-starters!
The Tokyo-based multimedia illustrator Takashi Okada uses a minimum of words; he lets the images speak for themselves. Check out the stunning motion graphics in his interactive portfolio and his bold web design.
Remember that scene in “The Wizard of Oz” when Dorothy steps out of her black-and-white Kansas house into the Technicolor Oz? The team at Nelson Cash apparently does. This UX and branding strategy site gives us a homepage showing images of its client work. As you hover over each image, it pops from monochrome into color. It’s a simple, but amazingly engaging, concept.
The 2012 Webby Award winner for art went to Photo Seed. This site, with its scroll-less homepage, literally shines a light on great works of fine-art photography. Dozens of thumbnail images sit side by side waiting for your click, where you’ll go to details about each rare photo. This homepage also boasts one of the coolest “refresh” functions you’ll ever see.
Designer Ben Hunt (who is also the author of one of my top 5 web marketing books) picked his 100 best-designed websites for 2012. Space doesn’t permit me to spotlight them all, but I’m particularly drawn to this Detroit Venture Partners homepage. Its black-and-white photographic background pays homage to the embattled city’s glory days, while bright colors for the navigation boxes encourages you to think of the future.
There’s news sites, and then there’s Newsmap. If you open this homepage and don’t see something to attract your attention, you’re just not trying hard enough. Tons of headlines get the color-block treatment in color-coded news categories; scroll over each and you’ll get a pop-up thumbnail of the story. You can also get stacks of stories from around the world, courtesy of a top-nav banner.
Just plain out there
Think you have to be in a cutting-edge industry like music or fashion to justify visually stunning websites? Be prepared to eat those words … with relish. Goosebumps – a pickle company, of all things – got a Jury Special Mention in the India Digital Awards competition. Product “hero” shots have never looked so compelling as these intensely colorful close-ups of pickles in all their glory.
The scroll-o-matic CSS Piffle site throws a lot at you – line drawings, screen grabs, half-faded background images – but somehow makes it all work in its mission to inform you about its wide selection of CSS templates, icons, fonts and other developer tools. The impression is of a creative team’s brainstorm of ideas that are assembled, categorized and optimized, all in the name of a better user experience.
Then there’s The Kennedys – seemingly destined to make you gasp “ZOMG!” or even “WTF?” with its crazy, retro-inspired mélange of neon-looking blinkers to guide you to brief, spare subpages. This site has attitude to spare – it doesn’t define itself in traditional terms. Instead, if you want to know what The Kennedys is about, it’s up to you to figure it out that it’s a mentoring program for young creatives to join the staff of an Amsterdam ad agency.