Fame Foundry - A Charlotte Website Design and Marketing Firm

Friday, 1st January, 2016 | By Kimberly Barnes | Category: Website Design and Development

15 for 2015: The Best of the Web

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With the total number of sites on the Internet quickly approaching 1 billion, we’re shining 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 and portend emerging design trends that will shape the ways in which we experience the Web in the year ahead.

Most Engaging Product Tour: ZeroLight

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For most people, the process of buying a car begins online, but you can’t really fall in love with your dream car by clicking through a photo slideshow. Wouldn’t it be great if you could have all the benefits of a visit to the showroom sans the pushy salesperson?

Enter Zerolight’s car configuration tool, which uses real-time 3D visualisation technology to create a live, interactive experience that’s so realistic, the only thing you’ll miss is the new car smell.

Best Brain-Builder: Google SmartyPins

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If you’re only visiting Google Maps when you find yourself lost and desperate, you’re missing out, man. With SmartyPins, Google adds a touch of fun to their utilitarian Maps program. This trivia game gets high marks for user experience, thanks to its sleek design and integration with a program almost everyone is already familiar with.

In gameplay, players are presented with geography-related questions. To answer, they must place one of Google Maps’ trademark red pins in the appropriate spot on the map. In keeping with the theme, scores are kept in miles. Try it yourself, or trick your kids into enjoying a fun educational experience by sitting them down for a session!

Most Well-Played Philanthropic Appeal: More Than a Costume

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While some might argue that there’s space for levity in even the most serious situation, most were taken aback by the popularity of the “Ebola Doctor” Halloween costume in October of 2014.

However, instead of spending time arguing about the appropriateness – or lack thereof – of this get-up, Doctors of the World parlayed it into a philanthropic opportunity. Launching MoreThanACostume.com, Doctors of the World was able to broadcast the important message that the availability of necessary gear can make all the difference in a medical crisis. Visitors to the site can donate anything from a pair of medical gloves, which will set them back only $1, to an actual doctor, tagged at $2,500. All contributions support the fight against Ebola in Liberia and Sierra Leone, giving clickers an end result they can feel good about.

Most Wanderlust-Inspiring Revamp: Visit California

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Direct your browser to VisitCalifornia.com, and you’ll all but hear the Pacific waves crashing on the sandy shores. This website well accomplishes its goal, enticing visitors to pack their bags and hop aboard a plane, train or automobile for a trip to sunny CA.

As the California Travel and Tourism Commission seeks to lure visitors from near and far, the redesign is largely inclusive, offering content in nine languages and making this a web-star that many can enjoy.

Best Virtual Backstage Pass: DrivingLine

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More than 60,000 auto buyers attended the 2015 SEMA (Special Equipment Market Association) show – all of whom enjoyed a visual backstage pass, thanks to Nitro Tire U.S.A.’s website DrivingLine.com.

DrivingLine has long been heralded as an exceptionally innovative website, rich in interactivity and overflowing with drool-inducing snaps of some seriously sexy cars. The latest iteration of the site, which was rolled out right before SEMA, provided visitors with up-to-the-minute notifications of everything going on at the show, allowing them to make the most of their experience.

Top of the Class: Yale

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All colleges – particularly ivy-covered academic powerhouses like Yale – attract attention from a variety of stakeholders. While many college websites focus on enrollment and recruitment, with clunky banners and garish “apply here” buttons, Yale took an entirely different approach when redesigning their website, Yale.edu.

Yale’s new look, which went live in November of 2015, features enhancements to interactivity and a more minimalist look than in the past. Adding to the interactive nature of the site, visitors can explore scholarly articles by topic using a drop-down menu — and even shuffle if they aren’t quite sure what they want and just want to be surprised. The new site focuses on student and staff achievements, keeping the school’s goal of academic enrichment at the forefront of their web presence.

Most Chill-Inducing Redesign: Netflix

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Netflix’s 60-million+ subscribers visit the site in droves every day to indulge in its expansive library of streaming content, not to ogle pretty website design. However, the media giant’s snazzy redesign in June 2015 undoubtedly enticed some to pause and appreciate its aesthetic appeal.

The new design, featuring larger thumbnails and more auto-play content, makes the website even easier to navigate and cuts down on searching time. Overall, the redesign gives Netflix fans more of what they like most – flashy and engaging content, requiring just a click for them to Netflix and chill.

Best Throwback: Oscars

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If you think the Academy Awards experience is limited to the telecast alone, you’re missing half of the picture. Since its launch in 2008, the Oscars website has been home to a vast collection of movie memorabilia and facts, and the 2015 redesign only adds to the experience. This digital treasure trove of all things motion picture is easily navigable and includes everything from stills to clips. So the next time the yen for a good movie strikes, pop some popcorn and curl up with this site.

Best “You’ve Got Mobile” Overhaul: AOL

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Untouched since 2009, the AOL homepage received a major overhaul this year – one that some would argue was long overdue. The redesign was intended to make the site more useful for mobile and tablet users, which AOL identifies as 38 percent of their total audience.

AOL traded tiny boxes that all but disappear on smartphones or tablets for a dynamic grid design, bringing the news users want more easily into reach. These dynamic boxes update throughout the day based on popularity, making it a Hunger-Gamesian experience, with the most powerful headlines getting top billing while the less compelling ones disappear into the background.

Most Motivating: Human

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The more we become inundated with media coming at us from every direction and every device, the more we’re tempted to sit idly and consume, consume, consume, while letting our level of physical activity decline.
Human.co seeks to prevent this. The sleek website highlights the benefits of activity-tracking and provides the images and encouragement you need to turn in your couch potato card and start reclaiming the vibrancy of youth.

Best Excuse Not to Clean Your Own Home: Hello Alfred

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Even the classic butler has gone digital with Hello Alfred. Designed by two college students who were tired of living in their own clutter, this virtual assistant company promises users that a helping hand is but a click away.

This budding company has been cleaning up in the world of seed capital, besting 26 other competitors at TechCrunch Disrupt’s Startup Battlefield 2014 to win $50,000 and garnering additional investments from Spark Capital and SV Angel totaling $2 million to launch in New York. They now employ 100 full-time Alfreds, servicing customers’ needs and giving them the feel of belonging to an elite, upper-crust club but with an affordable flat monthly fee that they can afford on a budget.

While the concept of having a helping hand isn’t new, the customizability of the help is. With the trusty app, users can create their own distinctive list of services they need. Busy users can even build shopping lists for their Alfreds, taking the oft-dreaded chore of everyday errands off of their lists.

Best Hometown Love Affair: ChooseATL

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Atlantans love their city, and they think you should, too. With the revamp of ChooseATL.com, the quest to bring the best and brightest to the sunny streets of Atlanta went world-wide.

This website, aimed primarily at young up-and-comers, provides everything from basic stats to compelling reasons why you should make the city your forever home. In particular, young grads and students were encouraged to visit the site and the city through the “Ultimate Job Interview Contest.” Selected participants were offered trips, cash and prizes and even a chance to interview for a potentially life-changing job.

The website is such a love letter to all things ATL that clicking around this site is enough to make anyone consider uprooting to Hotlanta.

Best Digital Hand-Up: Help Your Neighbor

 

Help Your Neighbor is a newly launched social media network that seeks to fill a void in the fabric of the Internet. By providing a mechanism for individuals who need help to connect with other individuals who have time and resources to spare, this website takes volunteerism digital. The unique hyperlocal infrastructure of the site allows both those in need of help and those who wish to help others to find opportunities right in their very own city or neighborhood.

Ultimately, however, Help Your Neighbor is about more than just matching volunteers with those needing help, it’s also about strengthening communities and neighborhoods by providing a vehicle for building local, one-to-one personal connections – something that, in today’s hyperconnected digital age, people are doing less and less of.

Most Likely To Eat Up Your Afternoon: We Heart It

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If you’ve always liked the idea of Pinterest but can’t use a glue gun without suffering burns of the third degree, We Heart It is the place for you. With a clean design rich in images, this website offers a menu of inspirational and intriguing media.

Users can narrow their search to things they already “heart” or use the website as an avenue to expand their horizons by exploring things that others love. This site takes cultural exploration social, allowing you to share your latest loves with your friends at the click of a button.

Best Place to Find the Best: List 25

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This is undoubtedly the decade of the listicle; when web surfers see an article with a number in the title, their fingers itch to click. For list-lovers, List 25 is Internet crack.

As the name suggests, this website contains lists, lists and nothing but lists – all with 25 entries each. With lists organized thematically in categories spanning from “history” to “bizarre,” visitors can enjoy hours of exploration and leave, if not edified, at least with their list-consuming monkey off their back.

Kimberly Barnes
Kimberly Barnes is a digital marketing specialist turned freelance writer born back when Apple was called “Apple Macintosh,” floppy disks were actually floppy, and #2 pencils were the best way to rewind unraveled cassette tapes. Most days you'll find her summoning her muse while drinking a non-coffee beverage in Starbucks.