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As you would probably know, building a website is no easy task. It requires lots of hard work and endless hours of dedication before you potentially get to see the fruits of your labour. Many frameworks can make this process easier for designers and developers, but that’s the subject of another article.
Today, I will take a step back and look at some phenomenal websites that have won prestigious awards for their outstanding design and usability across the globe. These sites are beautiful examples of what you can achieve when you put your mind to it; they feature clean designs, smooth interactivity, effective layouts, and, most importantly, engage their visitors.
If you’re looking to get inspiration for your next project or are simply in need of a push in the right direction, these award-winning sites are worth checking out:
1. Slavery Footprint: One of the Best Website Designs of 2011
Featured by Awwwards
Slavery Footprint is a non-profit organization that seeks to raise awareness about modern-day slavery. Unsurprisingly, the organization’s main objective is to provide facts and information to their visitors about modern-day slavery.
Their website pushes usability, accessibility, and responsiveness to the next level.
When you visit their homepage, the first thing that catches your attention is the breaking-of-the-chain design, which gives a clear message of its mission – freeing modern-day slavery. The website is simple, but it’s the little details that count.
2. Black Negative: One of the Best Website Designs of 2012
Featured by Awwwards
To give the visitor a smooth visual experience, Black Negative uses dark background paired with subtle colours. Their call-to-action buttons are also highlighted in white to stand out against their website’s neutral palette – this helps draw people’s attention without overwhelming them.
Visiting Black Negative’s website feels like taking an informative journey through time.
The creative use of fonts, textures, and colours gives their website a very distinctive feel. The designer utilizes high-resolution photography, adding depth to every scene.
Suffice it to say Black Negative’s site is a multi-sensory experience.
The technical skill displayed by these designers using rich multimedia content ensures that everything flows together harmoniously without any distractions or clutter whatsoever; it truly feels like something worth marveling at in person (rather than just reading about).
3. Hello Monday: One of the Best Website Designs of 2013
Featured by FWA
“Hello Monday” is an innovative agency that specializes in creating digital products for brands. They use their expertise to make the experience more enjoyable and human-like, intending to connect consumers with your brand on a personal level.
They’re one of the most creative companies you’ll ever come across, and their website shows it all.
Their website makes visitors feel right at home with a creative blend of interactive 2D animations and stunning visual graphics. Overall, the site does a commendable job at immersing users in their world.
Their website design is unique in that it makes you want to come back for more. The way they use subtlety with technology-driven animations and fonts on their site makes the experience more enjoyable for every user, regardless of age.
4. Aquest.it: One of the Best Website Designs of 2014
Featured by Awwwards
AQuest is an exciting website that combines the best of what we’ve seen so far. They have a brilliant user interface design, captivating imagery, and sound engineering to create an overall immersive experience. We also loved how they have used infographics on their site.
The website designers have created a site that is both informative and creative. The dark background with bright colours provides the viewer with an exciting atmosphere, bringing creativity to every corner of this production company’s website while mirroring their exceptional work in other ventures like website design or social media marketing campaigns.
5. ETQ: One of the Best Website Designs of 2015
Featured by Awwwards
ETQ is a premium footwear brand in Europe.
The company, with its luxurious and distinctively designed shoes, has created a niche in the market. ETQ stands for excellence through quality rather than quantity which is one way they set themselves apart from other brands on the market; there are no shortcuts when you’re talking about footwear made by hand with attention to every detail.
Their website is clean, minimalistic, and modern – exactly what you would expect from a fashion-based site. They have utilized white space effectively, with text predominantly written in h5 & h6 size font, highlighting special sections of their site.
The site is designed to attract the user’s attention and keep it there. The flat colour background combined with high-definition product images makes for an immersive browsing experience.
6. Woven Magazine: One of the Best Website Designs of 2015
Featured by the Best Website Gallery
The Woven Magazine website is a fantastic example of how one can design a website that’s both aesthetically pleasing and informative.
Woven Magazine is crafted out of high-quality content that inspires, educates, and entertains thousands of African Americans across the nation.
Their website features a black-and-white colour scheme; it’s on-brand with their motto of “Keeping It Real.”
Woven uses strong fonts like Gotham paired with nice photography of people from all walks of life to make the site feel more personal. The site also makes great usage of its content by using a three-column grid to place relevant information on each page. Consequently, their content is easy on the eyes, concise, and ready to be consumed at a glance.
7. Feed Music: One of the Best Web designs of 2015
Featured by Awwwards
Users are immersed in a creative, interactive world the moment they click on Feed’s website. The site merges video content and animation to create an incredibly engaging experience for visitors.
The team behind Feed’s website went to town with the animation. Everything is in constant motion, from buttons to images, but it never feels too distracting or messy.
The use of bold colours keeps the site fun and engaging while also allowing other elements like the typography to stand out without being lost in the background.
8. Paper Planes: One of the Best Web Design of 2016
Featured by Awwwards
The Active Theory website is an excellent example of making your mark in the digital world by investing in one simple idea — using mobile devices and web technologies. The result: Instant connections that feel natural. It’s like you’re there.
The screen is at the forefront of the design, with behind-the-screen animations that give it an edge while enhancing usability.
Design agencies should always remember to keep their brand identity in mind while designing their website. For example, if your company markets itself as hip and modern, your website should reflect that personality. If you want to be seen as a solitary and trustworthy company, your website should look minimalistic with simple typography.
Taking the time to plan your site’s design will pay off in the end by both capturing the attention of new visitors and making it easier for users to find what they are looking for once they’re on your site.
9. Nowness – Best Website Design 2016
Featured by Webby Awards
Nowness is a one-stop-shop for all your video needs, no matter what niche. It’s the go-to website if you’re looking for an interactive and unforgettable experience with independent creatives that share more relatable content than any other platform out there.
Nowness is all about innovation and creativity. The website uses big thumbnails with subtle typography to create an immersive user experience with captivating content for every brand.
This movement celebrates excellence through storytelling anytime, anywhere, hence the name Nowness.
10. Simply Chocolate: One of the Best Website Designs of 2017
Featured by Awwwards
Simply Chocolate created this website, where each page represents a different chocolate bar, making it easy for you to find your favourite flavours. The site has an informative blog section that shares tips on how to discover new flavours.
One cool visual aspect is the brands’ logo, which appears as you scroll through different bars – they’re crisp and clear without any clutter, makings each product feel special in its own right.
This site makes great use of the parallax effect (where images move at a different rate than background images), giving it an extra interactive feel. The site is eye-catching but not flashy, with nice typography and minimal colours, making it an appropriate fit for any audience.
11. Frans Hals Museum: One of the Best Website Design of 2018
Featured by Awwwards
Frans Hals Museum’s website is an excellent example of taking something incredibly complex and making it easy to understand. The site feels modern and clean.
The colour scheme is basic but still eye-catching, allowing the images to catch your attention. The typography is easy to read and feels appropriate for any audience — it’s sleek without feeling cold.
This website doesn’t take long to load, giving users instant access to loads of information ranging from essays to videos.
12. Koox: One of the Best Website Designs of 2018
Featured By Awwwards
For Londoners who want to experience one-of-a-kind dining, Koox is the go-to joint. The first Take Away in Central London to partner with top chefs has an amazing menu, making it worth the trip.
13. Crypton.Trading: One of the Best Website Designs of 2018
The website is well-organized and easy to navigate. The typography feels sleek but not cold, giving the site a vibrant personality matching Koox’s aesthetics to a T.
This site sets itself apart with brilliant animations that make you want to scroll through every page (a great way to encourage engagement).
14. Active Theory: One of the Best Website Designs of 2018
Featured by Webby Awards
Active Theory’s website is a real standout in its animation and navigation. The portfolio site features water-effect animations, typography that perfectly matches their logo design, high-quality images for every project shown on screen, and videos where applicable.
The company takes a bold approach with animation to display its portfolio, leveraging the power of dynamic website and water-effect sequences. Smart navigation mechanics make this site an excellent example of how storytelling can be told in many different ways through visuals alone.
15. The Octopus Blog: One of the Best Website Designs of 2019
Featured by Webby Awards
IDEO, an internationally recognized design company, won the 2019 Webby blog of the year award for their Octopus blog.
Their homepage features an elegant black and white octopus drawing as its theme. It also uses yellow, black, and white as you scroll down, creating unity among different website sections.
The title is highlighted in yellow, and the image pulls towards you. It might not seem like a big deal, but these little details make all of the difference when designing websites or apps for users.
16. Nomadic Tribe: One of the Best Website Designs of 2019
Featured by Awwwards
I love this site! It’s so different than any other site I’ve seen. The homepage begins by playing a stunning video featuring an adventurer walking across the dusty, arid landscape of Africa, followed by gorgeous scenic views and text like “Are you lucky enough to call yourself an adventurer?”
The website is playful with colourful pinks, oranges, and yellows. The homepage has logically designed CTAs that range from “Read More” to Watch Now; in addition, there are clear calls to action for downloading the app or signing up for email updates on new content releases.
17. Diana Danieli: One of the Best Website Designs of 2019
Featured by Webby 2019
This website is a visual delight, with high-contrast images and heavy exposure. As you scroll through the pages of art or architecture by different artists (or both), click on any photo to see it in detail–you can also use your mouse wheel for easy zooming.
The website is like a movie theatre with its incorporation of audio and music. Clicking on certain buttons triggers piano notes that make you feel like you’re living in a movie.
This site is easy to navigate and gives you quick access to all the information you need. The typography also looks otherworldly, giving off an old Hollywood vibe that perfectly matches the website’s ambiance and aesthetics.
18. George Nakashima Woodworkers: One of the Best Website Designs of 2019
Featured by Webby Awards 2009
This woodworking website is a treasure trove of beautiful imagery and insightful quotes. The images blend as if they were all part of one story told by an artist who sees beyond what can be seen with just human eyes. It flows deeper than merely natural beauty and conveys care for those who trade in trees or otherwise work closely alongside them every day.
“This site shines brightly to draw you inside its pages,” said judge Doreen Cronin during Ofcom’s 2019 Webby Awards ceremony “there’s so much information here it will take time before we’ve scratched the surface.”
19. Swab the World: One of the Best Website Designs of 2020
Featured by Awwwards
Parallax, bold colour hues and negative space shape the design of Swab the World’s website. Their mission is to “Make sure every single patient finds their match. Photos depicting couples in love searching for stem cell donors add an emotional element that was historically complex.
The site acts as a hub that connects patients with donors all over the world.
From a technical perspective, the design makes moving down the page feel natural. The homepage ensures that each point of copy and CTA can be easily accessed without disrupting your reading flow as you scroll through it.
20. Newest Americans: One of the Best Website Designs of 2020
Featured by Awwwards
Newest Americans have a large and important responsibility to honour immigrants’ past, present, and future identities. They rely on their website for spreading information about these experiences across New Jersey.
They have one of the most visually appealing websites I have ever seen, with their stories organized by photos and a press page that places their recent articles at the centre of the screen.
This site has a clear user journey with bright colours and strong typography. The large photos accompanying the stories give a whimsical vibe that makes you feel like you’re reading an interesting children’s book.
21. Spotify Design: One of the Best Website Design of 2020
Honorary Mention by Awwwards (in 2020)
Spotify is known for its fair share of amazing feats, but the latest iteration takes it to a whole new level. Serving as both an app and website you can use on your computer or mobile device (Spotify desktop), this music giant gives listeners insight into how they work – what makes their platform so sensational.
The website’s flat geometric designs with abstract accents make albums and artists practically jump off of the screen. The colours are bright, drop shadows give them character; smooth animations create depth – all in an informal tone, informative yet casual enough for anyone to enjoy.
22. Andy Warhol: One of the Best Website Designs of 2020
Andy Warhol had a way with words, and you can see his creativity on this website. As soon as your cursor lands on an image, it turns into what is called “the spotlight.” That means that when reading text, all of the colours reverse themselves while giving focus to whatever part you click.
A fantastic site about an artist who made films AND paintings? Yes, please!”
The website’s layout uses big, bold text to make a statement and emphasize how important copy is. Animations help pace each section as you peruse it on your homepage, while subtle animations set the tone for what lies ahead on this informative site.
23. Human Interaction Company: One of the Best Website Designs of 2020
Featured by Corporate Website (2020), Red Dot
The Human Interaction Company is a one-stop shop for all of your video needs. No matter what you’re looking to do or how simple you want it to be, they can make it happen.
From the moment visitors click on their site, there’s no slowing them down – they get dropped right into the action, with them educating and explaining everything along every step until completion so that nothing gets left up in confusion as well as providing an engaging experience both within their browser/device screen and through social media channels like Facebook Live, etc.
These interactive learning games will have you hooked from the moment you start playing. They use basic graphics and sound to join in on this fun way to learn, even without visual or verbal skills.
This Red Dot Design Award winner aims to teach us about human interaction and make it engaging through interactivity-inducing features like 3D models and animation sequences (don’t worry: no one is required to speak).
24. Garoa Skincare: One of the Best Website Designs of 2020
Featured on Awwwards (site of the day in 2020)
Garoa Skincare has the perfect blueprint for this.
It doesn’t matter how much your product costs. You can still convey extravagance. Bury that into each element of your design, even if it’s just the little things like how you organize your website.
A simple yet elegant website can be created with the use of high-quality visuals and typefaces.
The balance between negative space to good copy will bring out your content’s sophistication in an engaging way, both informative and enjoyable for readers who want more than just basic information about you or what services you’re offering.
Other Cool Website Designs
25. Movie Mark
Finding a great way to engage your audience has never been more important. Nowadays, we all lead busy lives, and sometimes it’s hard enough just keeping up with our mental strides (let alone everyone else’s).
Enters Movie Mark, an agency specializing in giving people exactly what they want – and that is, stories told their way through short videos. These videos will make you laugh or cry but, most importantly, get your attention while still painting a clear picture about who these characters are deep down inside — and don’t forget how happy everyone feels after watching one of those sweet little clips.
Their site is a work of art. No longer will we be inundated with cliches and boring, stock photos that only match the look and feel of our site.
Practical website designs like these make a difference in how memorable your brand can become.
The way they organized their site is more than just helpful. It’s also aesthetically pleasing; every word, every picture you click on feels like it has a reason for being there.
Thanks to the colour-coded navigation bar that changes based on the section you’re currently visiting, there are several different ways to explore this site.
Overall, the site was designed for ease of use and to encourage exploration – an effective strategy if your brand’s goal is growth.
27. The New Yorker
“My biggest frustration with design is my greatest strength, too. I’m very demanding, and I expect excellence in everything we do. But if you want to change lives, you have to be prepared to give the best of yourself.” – Benedetto Tagliabue, Chief Creative Officer at The New Yorker.
Named as one of the top ten most innovative companies in 2016 by Fast Company and honoured as a finalist for two Webby Awards that same year – for Best Writing and Best Blog – it’s no wonder The New Yorker made it on this list.
Their website is no exception to their excellent reputation. And it’s not just the design. Their stories are well-thought-out, intricately written, with words placed carefully in every sentence to ensure maximum impact for the reader. It’s why they continue to be one of the most respected names in journalism.
Zara’s key to success is putting its customers first.
Their website (an example of excellent UX design) caters to various kinds of shoppers: those who appreciate good deals, those looking for a statement piece, and even those who only want to keep up with what’s trending.
It doesn’t matter if you’re new or you consider yourself a veteran of fashion; I can bet you’ll find something you like on Zara’s site.
Their new site is full of valuable content, both written and visual: “What to Wear” style guides, collections for babies and kids, and even a page focused on the brands’ histories
All this makes it clear why Zara is a popular choice both offline and online, not only for women but men as well.
Founded in 1947, H&M has been a staple in the fashion industry for decades. But their site is truly something to marvel at.
Their site is also full of user-friendly features, including an easy-to-navigate menu bar and a search engine that you can access with a single click.
One of my favourite features is their “Inspiration” section.
It’s full of articles, how-to’s, and style tips that will help you see the world through a different lens.
If you need ideas or want to make sure you look your best – even for an impromptu outing, H&M can help.
So, what makes the H&M website so special?
Well, it’s clean and straightforward.
It won’t take you more than one minute to find what you’re looking for. And the products are beautifully displayed.
NARS is all about self-expression, which you can easily see by their brand’s philosophy: “NARS is beauty with an edge” (sic).
Like Nars, their website is edgy and daring; it gives you the chance to be different while giving your bank account a bit of a break.
Their site is full to the brim with products and looks that will help you figure out what makeup matches your personality – an important lesson for those searching for their signature style since they were young.
“I think as technology has advanced, it’s sort of allowed people to curate their own Vogue magazine. A lot of the stuff that we do is just really trying to inspire people to live through fashion, live through style.” – Anna Wintour
If you’ve ever wanted to see what all the fuss is about when it comes to fashion magazines, then Vogue might be for you.
Their content is focused less on the newest trends and more on how to incorporate them into your life – whether it’s with the help of one of their stylists or by doing it yourself.
They also focus on beauty, travel, and entertainment – three great topics every fashion fan would love to follow.
So, what makes Vogue’s website so special?
Their layout is easy on the eyes.
It’s clean and easily navigable.
32. Ralph Lauren
If you’re looking for a website design that screams “classic,” then Ralph Lauren is the design for you.
Their site is full of articles on finding your signature look and what to wear when joining special events.
They also have a unique social media presence complete with beautifully-shot images on Instagram.
Their site is also full of products, both in their official store and elsewhere.
So, what makes Ralph Lauren’s website so special?
Well, it’s clean, simple, but classy.
You’ll find everything you need without fussing too much around the pages.
What Lessons Do We Draw from These Website Designs?
While the web may have changed radically since these websites were first built, their layouts are just as relevant today as they were back then.
So, what’s the takeaway from all the lessons we’ve learned so far about good web design?
- Include a search bar on every page of your site. It might seem unnecessary at first glance, but if you have an online store, you’d be surprised at just how many people use it.
- Display your products in a way that’s easy for customers to understand and navigate but don’t make them feel like they’re being overloaded with information.
- Make your layout look like a natural extension of your brand.
- Allow companies to contact you through the site or include a live chat option for those who need more information about your products.
- Keep your pages consistent and simple. From fonts and colour schemes to the little touches that make your site unique, consistency is key.
- Include a blog that your readers will find both informative and fun to read.
- Be sure to keep up with any changes in web design trends as they emerge. It might seem counterintuitive, but if you look at websites from one or two years ago, you’ll probably notice a few changes in the design trends that people follow.
- Get an SSL Certificate – protecting your customers’ sensitive information is a must.
- Use an email marketing service that lets you send targeted campaigns to your customers.
- Last but not least, include a video. There’s nothing more engaging than watching a video that your visitors can both enjoy and learn from.
Building a website is not as easy as it sounds. There are so many elements to think about before you go live, and only with the proper research and planning will your site be successful.
That said, what do you have to say about the above list – how do these websites stack up?