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Every once in a while, I’ll come across a website that really makes me stop and think. So, I found 20 of them to show you.
These sites push the boundaries of what is known to be possible on the web. Whether it’s the design aesthetic, usability, interactivity, sound design, or value that the site provides, each one is a masterpiece in its respective industry, and something to be inspired by.
Not surprisingly, many organizations exist to highlight these sites and the contributions they make to the web. To help surface some of the most inspirational designs, I gathered 15 award-winners that have made their way through several key awards organizations — including Awwwards, UX Awards, The Webby Awards, SiteInspire, Best Website Gallery, and FWA.
As you browse through the list, know that each site excels in its own way and seeks to serve a unique purpose. While one site may be an excellent example of visual design, another may be an excellent example of interactivity. This means that not all of these sites may be “conversion machines” or blueprint ideas that you can easily copy over to your site.
Rather, they’re great ways to gain some website design inspiration and see the cutting-edge marketing that’s happening in the different corners of the web.
The Best Website Designs to Inspire You
Inside Abbey Road
Citrix: The New Mobile Workforce
The History of Climate Change
Southwest: Heart of Travel
World of SWISS
Amanda Martocchio Architecture
Beautiful Award-Winning Websites
Award: Site of the Day (6/6/2015), Awwwards
Not only is Feed an interesting concept, but it also has a stunning execution that challenges our understanding of what is possible on the web. Through a creative blend of animation and video, the site immerses the user into a very engaging experience. As an atypical site, it contains several unique usability elements as well, including a navigation that doubles as a scroll progress bar.
Award: Site of the Day (4/3/2018), Awwwards
Meet crypton.trading, your robot accountant.
Crypton.trading is a trading hub for cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, using artificial intelligence to predict changes in a currency’s value and identify key buying and selling opportunities. The website was rated high for its development and design, as it gradually explains more of the developer’s methods the further down visitors scroll.
This award-winning website makes tech-savvy visitors feel right at home the moment Crypton’s greeting appears across the homepage, one letter at a time.
Award: Site of the Day (5/19/2015), Awwwards
ETQ takes a very minimalistic approach to ecommerce with their stripped-down site with big, compelling visuals of their product. Simple, flat, color-based backgrounds accompanied by strong typography help to keep the focus on exactly what the user came there to see: shoes.
4. Mikiya Kobayashi
Award: Site of the Day (7/4/2015), Awwwards
Mikiya is a Product Designer with a minimalistic portfolio that showcases his work through strong photography and subtle animations. His full site was originally created in Japanese and then translated into English, helping demonstrate the international scalability of his design.
5. Inside Abbey Road
Award: Best Music Website, 2016 Webby Awards
Google knocked it out of the park with this highly interactive site, which allows users to step into the Abbey Road Studios. Brilliant sound design, navigation mechanics, and visuals mixed with the usual “Google flair” all help draw visitors in to this well-made web property.
6. Citrix: The New Mobile Workforce
Award: Site of the Day (11/23/2017), Best Website Gallery
This website — dedicated to Red Bull’s partnership with Citrix, a cloud-based software company — is amazing.
The New Mobile Workforce, a site owned by Citrix, uses panoramic photography to show visitors how Citrix is supporting Red Bull Racing’s new race car. Even if you’re not a car-racing enthusiast, the website’s clever animations to explain a complicated automotive technology are hard to ignore.
7. The History of Climate Change
Award: Site of the Day (6/23/2015), Awwwards
Follow the footsteps of Luc Jacquet as Wild-Touch takes you along this visual and educational journey about the history of global climate change. A mixture of historical media and unique animations help tell the story.
Award: Site of the Day (4/19/2015), Best Website Gallery
Beagle does an exceptional job of visually and progressively telling the story of their product in a simple and easy-to-digest way. This is a major challenge for many startups, especially when they’re introducing new concepts to existing markets. People want to know, “What is your product? How does it work? Why do I care?” Beagle answers all those questions while simultaneously showing off their product and compelling the user to purchase. Plus, they’re one of few sites that actually implemented “scroll hijacking” correctly.
9. Southwest: Heart of Travel
Award: Best Visual Design – Aesthetic, 2018 Webby Awards
When Southwest Airlines wanted to prove its customers were “more than just a dollar sign,” the company created a website whose design was assembled using the shapes of their customers’ flightpaths.
The website, called Heart of Travel, even allows visitors to create their own artwork out of a trip they might plan on taking. In this way, Southwest’s website is a product of their most loyal passengers.
10. Woven Magazine
Award: Site of the Day (4/4/2015), Best Website Gallery
Woven is an online publication that celebrates artists, craftsmen, and makers alike. To me, they represent a confirmation that publications can (and should) have beautiful, engaging sites with easy-to-read content. Free of distractions like pop-ups and obtrusive ads, this site all about the experience of the content itself.
11. JOHO’s Bean
Award: FWA of the Day (8/7/2015), Favorite Website Awards
The website for JOHO’s Bean has incredible imagery, interactivity, story telling, visual design, and most of all, sound engineering. These all come together to create a compelling, emotional, and engaging site that tells the story of a coffee bean’s journey.
Award: Best Cultural Blog/Website, 2017 Webby Awards
Nowness is perhaps the coolest crowdsourced video blog on the internet today. That was a mouthful … what does all that mean?
NOWNESS‘s “crowdsourced” nature is part of what makes it an award-winner. This means most of its content comes from independent creatives — an increasingly popular way for businesses to publish content. NOWNESS is also a video blog, meaning all of its blog content is in video format. Together, these qualities help make Nowness a captivating hub for the stories that brands everywhere strive to tell.
13. Virgin America
Award: Most Significant Industry Evolution, 2014 UX Awards
In a world where airline websites are known to be riddled with major usability issues, Virgin America has one of the best websites that pushes usability, accessibility, and responsive design forward. In fact, it’s been named as the first truly responsive airline website, a new precedent in the industry.
14. World of SWISS
Award: Best User Interface, 2015 Webby Awards
Another airline?! What is happening?! Yep, SWISS airlines built an incredibly immersive site that tells their story and describes what it’s like to fly with them — and they simply did too great of a job to be ignored. Strong visuals and animations introduce the user to different sections of the site that are packed with information beyond the usual sales and marketing pitch that is so common today.
Award: Best Humor Website, 2018 Webby Awards
It’s not that hard to make someone laugh on the internet; so much of what we read and consume online is meant to be entertaining. But it is hard to do it consistently for a large audience. Reductress is a satirical magazine whose headlines and general reading experience are top-tier in the humor department — making the website itself a quality property.
Other Cool Website Designs
Minimums takes a very bold approach to the way that they display their content, leveraging a grid-based website design, big typography, and full-width, high-quality images. Their site serves as a really nice example for how to properly execute a grid structure while still maintaining a nice visual hierarchy in the design.
17. Guillaume Tomasi
As a Photographer in Montreal, Guillaume Tomasi has built a portfolio that’s truly fit to house his unique and awe-inspiring photography. His surreal photo style is juxtaposed by his simple, flat, empty, and minimalistic portfolio design that places all of the focus on the work itself.
His unique series navigation coupled with art-gallery-inspired work introductions and perfect scrolling interactions yield an experience reminiscent of that of a real gallery.
This branding agency takes its imagery seriously, and it should — it handles all channels of media for their clients. The District’s website, alone, is a journey through some of the most beautiful artwork and photography you’ve ever seen.
These provocative tiles change rapidly as you explore the website, and the wackier they seem, the more interested you become in learning about their past work.
19. Tej Chauhan
Tej Chauhan has turned impressionist artwork into a business model with this intriguing website. Each image on this product developer’s homepage slides out to cover the previous image, offering little context around the object you now see in front of you.
But isn’t that lack of context exactly what makes you want to learn more? The tagline, “Souvenirs of The Near Future,” suggests these objects are a part of their product line — and an opportunity for you to get these innovative objects into your life.
20. Amanda Martocchio Architecture
An architecture firm might not specialize in web development, but its website should still demonstrate its commitment to visually pleasing design. Amanda Martocchio took that to heart with this gorgeous website.
It’s no secret that Amanda Martocchio Architecture loves its work — each picture on the homepage of its website is an enchanting shot of the houses the company designs. The website labels every house you scroll through with the type of design that was intended, along with numerous angles to each building.
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