If you’re asking me to share with you some of the best web designs in the world, chances are I’m going to point you in the direction of something that’s pretty minimal. In fact, if you ask most designers, they’ll point you to sites that are equally sparse. Myself and others tend to believe that less is more. Plus, we’re entering an age where audiences want less fluff and more information & content. That lends to the question, how do we handle design-heavy websites?
I don’t mean design in the sense of layouts and higher understanding. I mean design in terms of aesthetics and decorations and lots of visual stuff. I’m big on separating the two, but when you think about it, I start to wonder when we on the web even left that idea. Think about it like this: many print designers know that you can’t do too many crazy effects because they don’t work on paper.
But on the web, you can really do what you want and people will see it. Nowadays, you get online and it’s not uncommon to see a website with very little design and lots of white space. So today, we’re going to do something a little different and show you some of the great websites that have tons of visual design, but still manage to work.
The X3 Internship Program
Most internship programs give you a piece of paper and you have to do your best to keep up. You really might feel like you’re pushing the envelope if your internship program has a dedicated web page. x3 is an agency that decided to give their entire internship a full fledged website. It’s not just any old website either. There’s so much excitement built on this page thanks to the unorthodox layout and great illustrations.
Kahuna Webstudio does a great job of creating a new iteration of the typical agency or portfolio page. While many are doing one-pagers, they aren’t doing lots to create differences per ‘page.’ Kahuna does a different thing for each section. And while it’s not the heaviest of design, they use a good amount to help create the feeling and emotion they’re looking for.
Beurre & Sel
I’ve never seen cookies look so sophisticated! Beurre & Sel is an excellent site that balances lots of design with simplicity. They first create their excitement with various, bold color choices. They keep the balance by using a consistent, high quality font for headlines and a constant red color that excites and keeps base with the brand.
Browser Awareness Day
As designers and developers, one of the most annoying things to do is to spend hours debugging and making our website cross-browser friendly. It almost makes no sense how these browsers are so different and show different pieces of code differently. It’s also extremely maddening when people with old browsers can’t even properly enjoy your website. You couldn’t do much before but this web page for Browser Awareness Day seeks to stop all that. With it’s welcoming design and spectacular illustration, it helps spread the idea that we should all get on the same page about browsers.
At some point, creative agencies decided it would be really neat to strip their websites of lots of design. It was probably an attempt to spotlight their portfolio of work, but some just end up looking bland. Creative9 wasn’t going to take that route and decided they were going to have a great design no matter what. They create a galaxy that almost makes you feel extremely cool just to work with them.
Guitars and other instruments aren’t typically areas that experiment with much design. Many people would rather look at the beauty of the guitar than the beauty of a website. D’Angelico does a great job of highlight the guitars and creating enough aesthetics to compliment what’s already going on. It’s the perfect amount of decoration on top of a well-designed and planned website.
With some names, there’s certain things you expect to see and associate with those names. For Dearest Nature, it would almost be crazy if they passed up the idea to not use nature in their imagery. Instead of going for a clean look, they went with a natural feel. The artistic images and grungy kind of texture really help with the emotion and feel of this group.
Much like the Creative9 design agency, Delirium decided they were going to go all out on their web design. Delirium does a good job of making available the information you need only to make a decision and nothing else. It’s kind of like you have to choose heavy content over heavy design and Delirium did a great job choosing the latter.
Blue Acorn is a pretty clean site that makes sure to break up the content easily and not over complicate things. They do, however, have one major piece of design that is the centerpiece of their website. They’ve decided to create an animated illustration that helps show how they work. And while it isn’t large and across the entire site, it’s a great way to add some wonderful aesthetics amongst a solid design.
Hugs For Monsters
Hugs for Monsters is a portfolio for an individual. The illustration at the top of the page actually is taken across the entire site to create this exotic, tribal feel. It’s paired with extremely clean design, which makes you think this guy has a pretty good wild side while he can get his work done.
The Land of Nod
When you design for kids, there’s a fine line between being too kitchy and just being too plain for children. The Land of Nod sells great furniture for kids. Now, we know kids aren’t logging on to purchase beds and chairs online, but we do know that creating the right feel for the furniture will definitely get parents to buy quicker. Land of Nod has some great design that balances really well with what children want and what parents need.
While the homepage for Media Engine is nice, please make sure to check out the pages under the ‘Our Services’ tab. They really went above and beyond for the design here. Photo-manipulations are a great way to create some excitement with designs and they’ve utilized them throughout the site. Media Engine is known for providing new ideas, so what better way to show this than by creating crazy good manipulations, next to some good design.
Of course you want an art festival to have a web design that’s telling of the work to come. MyProvence Festival has created a theme — it seems to be like a vintage style mixed with some elements of the new age. It’s extremely creative and makes you feel that way about the festival.
The NASA Prospect site is a site designed by students in conjunction with NASA. They’ve created a site where an astronaut goes on adventures throughout the galaxy because that’s what kids dream of doing. With the help of some scrolling and development techniques, they’ve created quite an interestingly illustrated and put together story.
I like the Rdio website because it’s just a really solidly designed website. Again, there’s a great balance between cleanliness and aesthetics that has to be made note of. They do a great job utilizing the flat color design concept and pair that with a wonderfully colorful graphic that highlights some of the popular artists. The design of this site really draws you in and makes you want to try their service.
Aaron McGuire has created what seems to be a pretty regular website when you go there. Immediately, Samcreate bursts with some energy and flavor as the background moves. Throughout the site, you tend to notice some elements that have an added flair to give the site some personality that you normally wouldn’t see.
SoSweet! is a creative agency (husband and wife team) that’s created another pretty run-of-the-mill website. Until you actually look around. Much like Samcreate, they add lots of flair to different elements to make this site really pop. Not to mention the animation on the header slider, really gets you interested in what they are doing.
The Original Classy Broad
Every section of this one-page site feels like a new flyer design. She mixes this site up by introducing new styles, but keeping consistency by using the same type of vintage theme. This website is fun and great for those looking for new ways to spin our websites creatively.
There’s really no other way to say this, but this web site is just the coolest thing ever. If you bounce around from page to page there’s something different and interesting. They’ve revisited some of the ways we do things (especially the map) and have made it exceptionally interesting, to say the least.
Just like the Land of Nod, designers have to find a way to say ‘for children’ without overdoing it. The Wee Society has found a great, clean way to show off their products. Wee Society has many extra design elements that help with this, but the colors and design really help.
Yookoso is designed from top to bottom. Between parallax scrolling and some killer photo manipulations, you immediately get interested in what they are selling. Even though there’s so much design and aesthetics, they keep manny of their elements common and you know exactly what they’re talking about.
I think lots of have abandoned this dominate style of creating websites because of ease in development, load times of different browsers and just the notion that people want to see less. However, if there’s a way to balance or incorporate the two styles (which there are), I think it’d be beneficial to start doing so and bringing excitement back to the web and making it different.
After all, people want to read something in print and have a similar but maybe more exciting experience online, right?
Should we get back into creating design-heavy sites? What do you see as the pros and cons? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!