14 December 2009
Note: Based in London, Rob Ford founded the Favourite Website Awards (FWA) site in 2000. Since then, the FWA has evolved into a massive global showcase of cutting-edge web experiences. In fact, the site entertains and inspires web designers and developers worldwide and receives more than three million site visits per month.
As we fast approach the end of the "00ghties," it's exciting to see each year how the web is constantly evolving and changing, especially through the power of Adobe Flash. We are seeing styles of design being repeated already, much similar to fashion, thus showing how the online world works much in the same way as the "real" world we have all experienced through our lives.
Here I present the best SWF-based sites of 2009. The list is in chronological order, so the first site was launched earlier in the year. At the end of this article, follow the link to the FWA People's Choice Awards, which includes all the sites mentioned, so that you can vote for your favorite site of 2009.
At the end of the year, many agencies put together a Season's Greetings–type e-card or mini-site. Some send gifts to their clients. Grow Interactive stole the show with its very clever and superbly produced T-shirt gift site.
Using high-definition video of Grow's staff members getting creative with their artistic skills, this site showcases a wide choice of Grow-branded T-shirts, which—if you are lucky enough to have a code—let you select one for yourself. Make sure you check out the yellow T-shirt—the fourth one from the right on the bottom navigation. It's very cool.
GE unveils the 21st century method of electrical transmission. This site by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners and North Kingdom is exceptional on two levels, and you should experience both. First, the production level and attention to detail is world-class, right down to the sound design. You can navigate each section to learn more about the Smart Grid and enjoy the delightful presentation.
But the icing on the cake is the Augmented Reality: See How It Works video on YouTube. You'll need a webcam to actually experience it, but if you don't have one, just follow the link to watch a demo. Be prepared to be blown away.
For more technical information about augmented reality (AR), read Augmented reality with animated avatars using the 3D drawing API, one of several articles about AR in the Flash Developer Center.
I don't often get to see a truly experimental work of this quality. This site by Herraiz Soto & Co. is essentially an interactive music video that enables you to draw the music by using your mouse cursor. The beat of the music dictates at which point certain experimental events occur, which makes this such an addictive site. Even if the music is not your style, I urge you to stay with it. If you can make it to the end, you'll be rewarded with a plethora of visual delights and surprises.
I feel old when I look at this site because Lacoste was in fashion when I was a teenager. The second time around I'm not sure if I am cool enough to wear these threads anymore. This site by Megalo(s) uses some really great video and special effects to bring an ever-changing experience. It also offers several well-executed and addictive mini games. The cut scenes you see as each section loads are totally in your face, but that's half the fun of this site. Choose your style and play with the models. The crocodile is well and truly back.
In this site by Tribal DDB London, you can experience a giant 25 x 30-foot Scalextric racetrack, where GTI engineers race their new car in miniature—no less fine-tuned and expertly engineered than its full-size counterpart. Grab the control and get racing. Just like the real thing, too much pressure means you come off the track.
This is what BooneOakley had to say about its site: "We needed a new way to tell our story. So we made our website one, using the best storytelling platform we could think of: YouTube."
Some might say that making an agency website completely within YouTube is too risky, but the stats already prove otherwise with more than 400,000 views in a matter of weeks. This site consists of several video clips hooked together by YouTube's framework and uses the new ability to click links in an actual video to its advantage. Also, we mustn't forget the personality of this presence, which clearly shows another level of creativity within the team.
On July 20, 1969, a special event took place. My mother gave birth to me in Welwyn Garden City, England. At the time of my birth, nurses were otherwise engaged watching Apollo 11 land on the moon. Since then, I have always felt a special connection to the moon landing. Needless to say, I was excited about its 40th anniversary.
When I was shown the official anniversary site, We Choose the Moon, I was taken aback. This site featured a real-time recreation of the mission itself and included round-the-clock audio transmissions, coupled with top-quality 3D animations that represented each step along the way. The way the site played out was quite unique. It was like history repeating itself. Luckily at FWA, we have a strong team of more than 30 daily judges who voted We Choose the Moon the site of the month, so my personal relationship with this historical event was not a factor in the accolades it received from FWA.
You probably remember the Red Bull Flugtag Flight Lab, which was featured as a finalist for FWA's Site of the Year 2008. This could be seen as a follow-up to that site, but this time you're not flying. You're racing cars—but not ordinary cars. You draw your own car and then hurl it down a steep track with no power—just gravity and Red Bull.
I think this Soapbox Racer site by Less Rain has taken the Flight Lab idea to another level. I find it easier to use and much easier to race the car. However, my flying skills in games have always been dreadful. (I remember a flying game on the Amiga where you had to pass a test flight to continue in the game: I could never pass the test flight.) Have we started to take for granted the level of creativity in this type of site? Just try this one and consider while you are drawing your car how in-depth the code, planning, and even thinking must be to make an experience like this possible.
If you were to ask me to show a recent site with high production quality—make that exceptional quality—this would be one of the best examples. We may be seeing a glimpse of the future of the web here. This site, by Lowe Brindfors and ACNE Digital, enables you to experience the past, present, and future of Saab's safety, fuel efficiency, and power. The virtual desk invites you to select an object and then embark on a short online experience. Each one is original in its own way. A seamless combination of video and creativity makes this site exciting because the possibilities moving forward are huge.
Many of you remember the unforgettable and major award-winning HBO Voyeur site from 2007. This latest HBO site from BBDO and The Barbarian Group takes that creativity to another level. It's an interactive film experience with all elements set in a three-dimensional field. By navigating through this site, you slowly unlock a message at the bottom of the screen. To make things a bit easier for those in a rush, you can click a symbol at the top of the screen that shows you which parts of the site you haven't explored yet. Overall, this is a very immersive experience indeed.
The home page of this website for Masamichi Katayama's interior design studio is a fluid grid structure that sensitively reacts to your mouse actions, organically changing its form based on your browsing history. This very experimental organic navigation, as we have come to expect from the master Yugo (tha ltd), is very exciting to see at the end of a decade that has seen Flash move through many phases.
Teamgeist is an online graphic novel game where fans can discover and learn more about the story behind the German football national team jersey, while competing for the ultimate prize of flying with the German football team to South Africa in June, 2010. As always, North Kingdom has produced an extremely well-polished and exceptional-quality website.
So what really is the best site of 2009? Which of these would you choose as site of the year? Follow the FWA People's Choice Award 2009, sponsored by Nokia, and cast your vote. The winner will be announced on January 15, 2010.