Choosing sites for a Top 10 web design list is always a challenge because opinions vary greatly on what constitutes great design. However, these sites, from a wide variety of categories, were chosen based on content display, ease of use, visual impact and recognition from web award presenters or site reviewers.
10 Award Winning Website Designs
1. Black Negative
Each year, Awwwards names 365 Websites of the Day, 12 Websites of the Month and, finally, the Website of the Year. 2012's winner, Black Negative, is a striking art-and-visual driven design that takes the unique approach of horizontal scrolling.
When you land on the site, which is best viewed in Chrome or Firefox, you will see one of the most intriguing features of the site is the multiple ways new content is loaded. Black Negative removed the boring links and instead created interactive and visually compelling ways to bounce between pages and content. According to the site's designers, the goal of the design team was to "… create a unique experience that would tell a story to the internet user as well as surprise him..." They definitely accomplished their goal.
2. Catholic Medical Center
Although it may be difficult to fathom a medical website making Interactive Media Council's best of list, Catholic Medical Center's effective use of medical images almost makes you want to visit a hospital. When designing the site, the Center's goal was to "… place a greater emphasis on quality of care, and specialist and specialty centers while creating a positive, engaging online presence."
Besides the strong images used to create the engaging experience, another example of the site's quality design is the ability for users to find all the info they need directly from the home page. The navigation links lead users to doctors, medical conditions, or visitor's information without leaving the page, and then the content is just one click away.
3. DLJ Real Estate Capital Partners
A Horizon Interactive Awards Best of Category winner, DLJ is a visually stunning site that uses a vertical and horizontal navigation experience to guide the user. Although, the site securely places a navigation menu at the top of every page, it is the simplistic arrows that give the user all the navigation cues needed to find anything.
Despite the site's reliance on strong imagery, whenever text is required, it is always presented in an easy-to-read format. Winning any Horizon Interactive Award is a huge accomplishment, but bringing home best of category is even more impressive because of the competitive nature of the award. Each year HIA receives thousands of entries from across the globe.
When The Web Marketing Association judges a site, it looks at the entire site and pays close attention to the site's creativity and functionality, as well as the overall interactive experience. This year's Best of Show winner, Peugeot, is captivating largely because it puts a fresh twist on a common theme.
All you really do at the site is selecting color, rims and accessories for a car, but the clever designers turned these activities into a game. Your role as a user is to help the driver elude security while he tries to make off with the vehicle. The site definitely showcases how thinking of a way to present a common topic can be just as important as the way the site is designed.
5. Marcus Thomas LLC
Besides judging a site based on creativity and innovation, the Internet Advertising Competition Award also looks at such attributes as impact, copywriting and memorability. In some ways, 2013 award winner Marcus Thomas LLC seems a little simplistic, but that is the beauty of the design.
When you land on the site, you are immediately drawn in by the balance of text and imagery, as well as the bold statement, "We're an Idea Agency." Making good use of graphics, pull-out quotes, and liberal use of the vertical canvas, each downward scroll reveals new items of interest while successfully keeping additional navigation firmly fixed to the top of the page.
6. Adobe: The Expressive Web
If you happen to be a web developer learning and mastering HTML 5 and CSS3, be sure to bookmark Adobe's Expressive Web site. Named one of the Top 5 HTML websites by eBiz | MBA, the Expressive Web demonstrates some of the more advanced features of HTML5 and CSS3.
The site takes a feature, like HTML5 forms, gives you a working representation of the feature, explains a 'fallback' strategy for browsers that don't support the feature, and offers resources so you can learn more about the concept. There are also icons that show which browsers support any given attribute. The site is best viewed in Chrome, Firefox or Safari since some HTML5 features do not work in Internet Explorer.
No list would be complete with a gaming site. Polygon, named in Mashable's 17 Sites for Web Design Inspiration, successfully blends large and small blocks of information. It takes creative control of imagery and white space while taking full advantage of vertical scroll.
Whether you are a gamer or not, it's easy to appreciate the vast amount of information that is quickly and easily accessed. Tim Wong, senior designer at the Washington Post, is quoted in the article and sums it up best when he says, they (Polygon) "…unabashedly have a lot going on. This style suits my short attention span and promotes serendipitous discovery of new content."
8. Escapist Magazine
Escapist Magazine is another entry on Mashable's list. Like Polygon, this site uses vertical scroll to its advantage. In his review, Erik Hinton, interactive news developer at The New York Times, says, "Game designers are light years ahead of most app and web makers in asking questions about what interactivity entails and how meaningful play happens."
Hinton is correct because among the site's many strengths is the amount of information and navigation above the fold. However, even within the first scroll down the page, you have access to forums, latest news and columns, and information that any gamer would want. It's no wonder gamers flock to the site.
9. Green and Healthy Homes
Green and Healthy Homes is another winner on the Interactive Media Council list. This site's strong use of imagery pulls the user in. As a non-profit, the ability to share content and make donations easy to give is paramount. Both of these tasks are achieved seamlessly.
In its assessment of the site, IMC noted, "The site design uses stark, engaging visuals, focused data visualization, and iconography to guide audiences to helpful resources and news. The site offers a clean user experience across devices (desktop, tablet and mobile) using standards-compliant HTML and responsive CSS styles." Since many of its users presumably access the site using a mobile device, ensuring its accessibility is a user-friendly necessity.
10. Super Duper Wedding
Winner of the 2012 Annual Design Awards, the Super Duper Wedding site is another example of how putting a fresh twist on a common idea is a key component to quality web design. The gist behind this personal wedding site is how close the bride and groom came to meeting each other over the course of their lives. They designed the site in 2012 for their CMYK-themed wedding.
The Annual Design Awards -- on hiatus in 2013 -- is one of the few awards without an entry fee. Its goal is to bring "global recognition of cutting edge visual communications."
Creating a Quality Site
One important contribution these awards have brought to the Internet, besides improving design, is an online library of ideas on how to address almost any design challenge. The sites recognized by these awards showcase how skilled designers can turn challenging content into a site that is both functional and visually compelling.