What are the best (graphically) designed sites on the web?
August 2, 2005 6:22 PM   Subscribe

What are the best (graphically) designed sites on the web?

I am working on a project with a great web designer who has asked me to name 3 or 4 sites I think look great so he can get a feel for what I like. The problem is that what I want is nothing like the sites I use regularly... so I don't know where to start to look for great looking sites. I want something very clean, modern lines and strong, memorable identity; something bold and not cluttered at all. I definitely do not want to show any sites with banner ads, but text ads are fine. So, what sites do you think are sweet and kind to the eyes? [Of course, google makes my list, but I am looking for some ideas with a little more content and things I probably haven't seen.] Last, if you have some thoughts on design-- what I should think about as I make my wish list for the deigner, let me know!
posted by wtfwjd? to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
particletree.com is awesome.... actually pretty much anything on the 9rules network
posted by menace303 at 6:33 PM on August 2, 2005

I like to look at web projects as solving a problem. What exactly is your website supposed to do? Is it just web presence? Is it supposed to sell people stuff online? Is it supposed to disseminate information?

I think for these different goals there are different sites that look "best", so your question may be helped if you tell people what kind of site it is. Although you may want to have a beautiful, minimalist site, if you're building, say, a web portal, that might be a bad idea.*

*I'm sure there's counter-examples, and in fact, maybe that's a good place to start if you want something memorable. For example "What online store is both usable AND has, say, experimental navigation?"
posted by fishfucker at 6:40 PM on August 2, 2005

Stopdesign. Beautiful and functional site.
posted by jeremias at 6:43 PM on August 2, 2005

good question ff. The purpose of the site is to convey an extremely simple graph and a single number (the graph and # change every minute) to cowboy type manic day traders. The only other elements on the site are a (hopefully) super memorable logo, simple navigation and a column of text ads. The demographic for this is probably about 95% men between the ages of 25-60. Of course, I am *not* specifically looking for recomendations for financial sites (since most of these are trying to convey a ton of info and I am not) but rather sites that look great for my target market (uggg, shoot me- I just used the words "target market")
posted by wtfwjd? at 6:47 PM on August 2, 2005

Two sites let you browse the cream of the crop. For the winners of the Webby Award (given by the Int'l Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences), go here.

For the best home pages on the Web, go here.
posted by nancoix at 7:19 PM on August 2, 2005

I would say a lot of the stuff on CSS Zen Garden, such as this.
posted by tweak at 7:21 PM on August 2, 2005

In general, this AK-47 page is my favourite demonstration of good web design principles at work.

This page of energy prices might be more relevant. I find it tolerable enough to visit once a day. (It may try to open a pop-up window, but that's easily blocked.)
posted by sfenders at 7:35 PM on August 2, 2005

Ob37signals: I was able to look at their sites, read the example redesign PDF, and put a lot of the aesthetics and design ideas to work myself.
posted by trevyn at 8:03 PM on August 2, 2005

What fishfucker said. "Best-designed site" needs to be "best-designed site for a given purpose", since no two companies/people are exactly the same.

But if you want to get a feel for lots of different types of well-designed sites, try the CSS Vault and Stylegala, both of which exist pretty much for no other purpose than to catalog good design.
posted by ubernostrum at 9:36 PM on August 2, 2005


I'd say then the primary thing you are looking for is usability: i want to be able to do as much with the data as possible (including printing) and i want it to pop up fast. Minimal graphics, for sure, if any. No graphical text. Layout should be done using CSS and background coloring, no background images. Everything that's important should be above the fold, and I'd be tempted to say it shouldn't be longer than a single page. What kind of work is your designer used to doing? You don't want to hire a guy who's all about big ol' flash sites for bands or movies making this site for you unless he's very versatile. I'd shy away from anything that is "cool" or "wow!" because you ideally are going to have people looking at your site several times a day, if not an hour, and in that case, well, something like that is gonna get boring/annoying real fast. Look at the minimalism of metafilter -- the design (which is ancient now) doesn't really matter because the content is so good, and presented in a reasonable fashion. Find the best way to present the information you have, and design around that.

that said, i'd look to stuff like craigslist for inspiration. that's a hugely usuable and popular site, and while it won't win any design awards (well, any ID Magazine style awards), it doesn't matter, because it does what it needs to do and does it quickly and well, and that, if you ask me, is good design, even though it's not flashy: i can do everything i'd want to do right from the front page, everything is grouped in a manner that is sensible, and if i want to check and see if something is what i want i don't have to wait another 20 seconds for a reload in case i'm wrong (ebay, I'm looking at you). Google, which you already mentioned, should perhaps be your number one inspiration. Hell, i don't even use the google personal page because it's too cluttered compared to what I'm used to. Then again, I'm one of those guys who hates a messy desktop (on the computer -- in real life, i'm a slob -- go figure), and who makes sure to install "littlefox" before adding anything else to firefox (i also crank my screen res as high as it will go. I can hardly stand 1024 any more)..

i'm trying to think of other sites that present information well, but it's hard, because i think the temptation to overdesign stuff is always there.
posted by fishfucker at 9:37 PM on August 2, 2005

also, I'd vote for starting your site out super-simple, and then planning a quick v2. If people start using your site regularly, they'll tell you what you need. You're not selling cool, rather, you want your (future) users to design your site, so why not find a way to involve them. as an aside, it sounds like you've got a really cool idea, and i wish you well.
posted by fishfucker at 10:16 PM on August 2, 2005

dont forget metafilter.
posted by sophist at 10:38 PM on August 2, 2005

What are the best (graphically) designed sites on the web?
In my opinion, you're looking at one of them.

(I just wish it were a little faster.)
posted by trip and a half at 10:38 PM on August 2, 2005

These sites below have a large database of great looking websites

posted by buybelen at 11:54 PM on August 2, 2005

I love the design of getty images' website...it's so elegant and functional.
posted by mayfly wake at 12:12 AM on August 3, 2005

"I am working on a project with a great web designer who has asked me to name 3 or 4 sites I think look great so he can get a feel for what I like."

I think the web designer is tackling this the right way if you're a difficult client, but the wrong way if you're sensible.

You're not the design expert, so try not to dictate or restrict aspects of the design, particularly at the start. The expertise you are (hopefully) bringing to the project is a thorough understanding of the project aims.

So brief the designer properly on the purpose of the project, its target audience, any technical issues, and what kind of image (not look) it should convey. Giving URLs of sites is helpful, but do it in terms of brand positioning, e.g. you might feel the site should be a bit more friendly-feeling than Site X, and perhaps a bit less techy than Site Y, you like Site Z's down-to-earth feel, etc. Don't even mention design, try to explain your motives and reactions, and those of the potential audience.

Difficult clients will tell a designer they really like the colour blue, must have dropdown menus and must incorporate all the features from their competitors, while neglecting to fully explain what they're trying to achieve.
Difficult clients end up with bad web sites.
posted by malevolent at 2:17 AM on August 3, 2005

gapersblock ? pretty slim pickens above.


posted by specialk420 at 6:47 AM on August 3, 2005

It's a little bit "techno" / "font-spastic" and definitely not right for your target market. But I like the Moodstats homepage. It's a werid software product that lets you record your moods. Huh.
posted by zpousman at 7:28 AM on August 3, 2005

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