Fame Foundry - A Charlotte Website Design and Marketing Firm

Wednesday, 4th December, 2013 | By Carey Arvin | Category: Website Design and Development

13 for ’13: The Best of the Web

As the year draws to a close, we shine a spotlight on those who make the time we spend online more elegant, more fun and more productive through websites that set new standards for creativity and innovation.

Best Civil Servant: NYC.gov

NYC

Government isn’t exactly synonymous with good design, but the repercussions of a bad government website are far-reaching, especially when the site is tasked with serving the most populous city in the nation.

To address its deficiencies in ease of access to public information and services, the City of New York dumped its decade-old site and overhauled it from the bottom up, with everything from new information architecture to a new look.

The result is a flexible, streamlined site that’s as attractive as it is functional. Data-driven navigation and a strong information hierarchy make it easy for the city’s 8 million citizens to easily negotiate more than 100 government agencies. A distinctive icon set conveys essential information about key services such as parking, school and waste collection at a glance. And, of course, the site features a responsive design that adapts elegantly to any screen size to accommodate the needs of users no matter when or where they choose to interact with it.

Best Modernization: New York Times

NYT

The New York Times is in the midst of a long-overdue redesign. Its previous incarnation, originally launched in 2006, felt dated from the start, so it was high time for this old media juggernaut to reinvent itself for the new media era.

A collaborative in-house effort by a team of journalists, designers and developers, the NYT is refashioning its digital form with a focus on readability. Currently in beta, selectively released previews reveal that articles have received a major facelift that strips away clutter while retaining large, eye-catching images, slideshows and videos, with captions moved to the side to keep them in context without breaking the flow of information in the body of the article. Another key change is the switch from pagination to continuos scroll, which research shows promotes user engagement and depth of reading.

Most Intelligent Content Platform: Medium

Medium

Twitter co-founder Evan Williams launched Medium with an ambitious plan: to shift our daily reading habits away from consuming incremental news bites and towards engaging with enlightened ideas curated by an intelligent algorithm that suggests stories primarily based on how long users spend reading certain articles (in other words, it’s the anti-Twitter). Like Pandora did for music discovery, Medium’s curation engine aims to improve the human-powered system of manually scrolling through the Internet and asking others what to read.

Self-described as “a better place to read and write,” Medium’s minimalist platform has garnered accolades from many well respected writers and designers. Facebook designer Julie Zhuo describes the platform as “ruthlessly writing-oriented,” saying, “Sure, you can post images on Medium, but that isn’t really the point…On Medium, you can’t post videos. Your links will not resolve into colorful little snippets. Even the expressiveness of text is limited…The words, simple in and of themselves, shine the brightest on this platform. The words, constructed into thoughts and ideas, are king.”

Best Virtual Assistant: Hukkster

Hukkster

You know that friend of yours who always seems to luck into the best deals on everything? Now that friend can be you, thanks to Hukkster.

Simply install the special Hukk It button in your browser; then, when you’re shopping online, Hukk a product by specifying the price you’re willing to pay. If it later reaches that price as a result of site-wide sales, markdowns, coupons or other discounts, Hukkster notifies you via e-mail, text or in-app push notification so you can seal the deal. The product is also saved to your Hukks so that you can view, organize, share and buy your desired items anytime.

Hukkster works with over 500 stores across the web, from major e-tailers like Amazon, Target, Walmart, Home Depot and Nordstrom to more specialized sites like Anthropologie, Banana Republic, Bonobos, Kate Spade, Pottery Barn and even Etsy.

Most Typographic: 365 Days of Type

Type

This study in typography is a year-long labor of love for Ontario-based illustrator Sabrina Smelko. At the end of 2012, Smelko was seeking a medium through which to experiment with her craft. With the new year approaching, numbers seemed to be everywhere – the countdown to midnight, the ticking up in years and the new beginning, a day one – igniting a spark of inspiration.

From a design standpoint, it’s an intriguing challenge: with a total of only nine numerals to get from one to 365, Smelko has been forced to explore the same forms multiple times, compelling her to find a way to make each one unique and, in doing so, cultivating deeper insights into the nuances of typography design.

Most Enlightening: Curious

Curious

The mission of Curious is “to connect the world’s teachers with lifelong learners.” To this end, the site aims to provide an inviting place to teach and be taught, promoting learning for its own sake. Instructors can upload video on any subject — be it beer brewing, pipe soldering or organic gardening — then divvy it up into lessons.

Unlike YouTube, Curious gives teachers the option to charge for lessons, features an oversize playback window and feels friendly and constructive. Here you’ll find no obnoxious commenters run amuck, and the site’s proprietors approve teachers and keep a watchful eye on content. As they say, “We believe that videos of cats dancing the Macarena, and super-slo-mo exploding watermelons are really cool, but not the kind of online learning we’re talking about.”

Most Astronomical: Distance to Mars

Mars

Have you ever wondered how far it is to Mars? Of course, Wikipedia can tell you the exact distance, but it can be difficult to truly conceptualize such astronomical numbers.

Enter David Paliwoda and Jesse Williams’s brilliant motion infographic Distance to Mars, which lets you scroll your way to the red planet as a way to visualize these massive distance in terms we can all relate to – pixels.

Best Discovery Engine: eBay

eBay

eBay has long been a haven for unique finds and great deals, but only the most adept users who knew the secret of manipulating its search functions could unearth its best treasures.

Thanks to a massive redesign, those days seem to be over. Taking a cue from today’s most popular social media platforms (ahem, Pinterest), the new eBay allows users to follow collections, members, interests and even non-vendor curators – ranging from musician Pharrell Williams to blogger Joy Cho to fashion designer Chris Benz – who promote certain products.

The more a user follows, the more tailored items they will see in their feed. Users can also show off their personal discoveries and passions by creating their own collections, which are featured in a newly revamped public eBay profile that can be followed by other members as well.

Most Craving-Inducing: Goldbely

Goldbely

Goldbely discovers the nation’s most legendary and distinctive regional culinary delights and ships them directly from the source right to your door.

Whether you fancy ribs from the Rendezvous in Memphis or wings from Buffalo’s Anchor Bar or even Frrrozen Hot Chocolate from Serendipity in NYC, Goldbely lets you eat your way across the USA without ever leaving home.

Most Fabulous: Armani

Armani

The newly re-launched site for Italian fashion label Giorgio Armani is beautiful marriage of form and function that propels shoppers seamlessly toward purchasing with a navigational structure that emphasizes simplicity.

Using a Pinterest-inspired collage-style layout set against a sleek grey and black color palette that allows the designer’s goods to remain front and center, tiled images allow customers to browse by collection or by pre-styled looks ranging from casual to day to business to travel.

Best Touch-Driven Adventure: Contre Jour

Contre

An HTML5 version of the popular iOS game, Contre Jour blurs the lines between interactive art and gaming as it takes users through a fantasy world of stunning Tim Burton-esque graphics, physics and beauty with a story based on Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince.

The winner of this year’s Best in Show at SXSW as well as Adobe’s The Cutting Edge award, Contre Jour showcases how HTML5 technology is transforming the user experience and portends the future of touch on the Web.

Most Immersive Brand Experience: Dior

Dior

Without question, the House of Dior is one of fashion’s most storied brands, and the label’s newly redesigned site takes visitors on a glamorous journey through its past, present and future.

Rather than pushing e-commerce, the site stresses the importance of brand heritage, allowing enthusiasts to explore the world of Dior through an array of curated magazine content and an interactive timeline that provides a visual history lesson in a linear, Pinterest-like format.

The site’s very structure beckons users to lose themselves in the experience as they delve deeper and deeper. Each facet of the brand gets its own “universe,” and each collection gets its own mini-site with more expansive content.

Dior 2

The mini-site for the Miss Dior fragrance collection, for example, features a short film directed by Sofia Coppola and starring Natalie Portman along with interviews, behind-the-scenes footage and photos meant to envelop the visitor in the aura of sensuality and romance embodied by the Miss Dior name.

Best Charlotte Website Design: Advanced Renovations

Advanced-Renovations

Over the course of the past 15 years, Charlotte-based home remodeling specialists Advanced Renovations have built their reputation on their expert craftsmanship and keen eye for detail – core brand values that are elegantly reflected in their newly redesigned website.

An infographic-style illustration of their unique design-build process puts potential customers at ease with the daunting task of tackling a major home renovation, while a sophisticated gallery showcase allows users to easily search and browse past projects for inspiration and a crisp, clean white palette let the refinement of the company’s work speak for itself.

Carey Arvin
For more than a decade, Carey Arvin has worked hand-in-hand with premier brands, helping them define their voice through marketing mediums, the Web and the social sphere in ways that engage customers and inspire trust. Carey currently serves as the editor in chief of Fame Foundry Magazine and The Fame Foundry Marketing Minute.