Let’s face it, having a responsive website is a must these days, given that most people are spending at least two hours a day browsing the web from a smart device. For those wanting a responsive layout, the internet delivers, help comes in the form of numerous platforms and templates, just a click or tap away. Although practical and necessary they have lead to the web becoming saturated with sites that all just look a bit the same. For many this uniformity will be appealing, helping them look and feel professional online, however, creatively it's detrimental, with clients coming to expect a certain 'look'. It's time to spice things up, move away from the expected and try and bring back some flavour. So here's a quick look at some websites that have tried to keep things fresh and breath life into their designs.
First, a clear pencil winner in this year's D&AD awards was the website Leo Burnett created for print company Somerset, this website makes you feel all funny inside. It brings the tactile and textured world of print into an online experience. You get all the satisfaction that comes from tearing a perforated edge for real, but again and again, or as many times as you want to hit refresh. The site is not overloaded with information, instead clever user interactions and little details, that just make you smile, make this a successful website. A reminder to take inspiration from all aspects of the design, including the touch and feel of processes, even if it doesn't seem to translate into digital at first.
Also a pencil winner, but this time in the user experience design category was the site Because Recollection. Designed for Because Music, an independent record label, as part of their 10 year anniversary, this website takes you on a full-on visual and interactive experience. As a user you are somewhat overwhelmed at first by the flashing imagery, but as you settle into the pace of the site you are taken on a musical journey full of playful interactions (which are not lost when used on a mobile which is a bonus). This site is one that you can go back to and it's never quite the same, it is a site that forces you to participate and get involved. This site is a great example of how websites should be creating engaging user experiences.
Similar to Leo Burnett's homage to print, the site How I Fight, by Active Theory, uses a more traditional aesthetic in the form of hand drawn illustrations to give the site personality and engage the user. The website is a pool of people's personal experiences on ways to fight cancer, which makes the user generated content inspired watercolour style all the more appropriate. Additional touches, the pencil trail that follows your cursor and the movement of the "paper" backdrop when touched, are small inclusions that show thought and add to the experience. The introduction of hand drawn and illustrative features, to sites, help to break-up and move away from the current digital uniformity, but this isn't always a style that will suit all. This doesn't mean that a brand's personality can't be brought out in other ways, and it is a designers challenge to expand a brand palette for web.
Of course not every client has the time or budget to spend on creating websites that live up to the features developed in the above, but we can learn from and use them as inspiration. Websites are moving away from being flat, linear and lifeless, instead many more sites are focussing on creating strong and engaging experiences, which tell stories and are personal to each user. Given this, hopefully over time we will see websites with more design diversity, offering a personal experience, filter down and encourage others to tailor their sites rather than using something so formulaic, that hinders usability and suffocates creativity.
Check out the sites mentioned above for yourself: