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The edge of Flash

by Rob Ford

This is possibly the most exciting Edge of Flash column I have written so far this year. Why? Because one of the sites listed below could well be Site of the Year 2008. It's a site that has created a rare buzz throughout the community. A site that makes your hair stand on end. A site that keeps hitting my inbox with messages entitled, "Have you seen this yet?" A site that makes me realize that innovation and creativity are very much alive. And a site that makes me realize I should get out more often.

The question is, which site is it? I have included nine sites below. Can you figure out which one it is? Trust me, you'll know as soon as you click the correct link.

Screenshot of Julian Velard

Julian Velard

Julian Velard

Site by WEFAIL

WEFAIL has such a distinctive style, where style equals personality. (You'll see what I mean by personality if you read WEFAIL's introduction to the "Marketing & Communication" chapter of my book, Guidelines for Online Success, page 72.) I often hear people moan about certain agencies using the same style over and over again, but a unique style is what makes a great agency or a great artist. That style is WEFAIL's brand. It provides a competitive edge.

This site for singer-songwriter Julian Velard is one of WEFAIL's best to date. It plays out like a point-and-click adventure, with Easter eggs helping you make it through the site. It will take you about 30 minutes to reach the end, but I can assure you those will be 30 minutes of your life that you'll never forget.

Screenshot of Haze

Haze

Haze

Site by Soleil Noir

I'm not sure what they are drinking in France, but this is the second amazing site from Soleil Noir in the last two months. The last one was the Alfa Romeo 159 Experience. Video games often lead the way in technology. Even professors at NASA keep an eye on this industry.

Now, the video game industry is leading the way in web design with this full-on viral gaming experience that is bound to suck in even the most dedicated Minesweeper player. The site tells a story as it leads you through the game. The full-screen content shows, yet again, that full-screen is extremely useful for this type of user experience. If this site doesn't help increase sales of Haze, I don't know what will.

Screenshot of FWA Theater

FWA Theater

FWA Theater

Site by Fi

This site happens to be an extension of FWA, so this is a bit of self-promotion, but I have to say that it would've been featured in my column even if it wasn't. I hope you'll agree.

As you know, FWA has been showcasing cutting-edge websites for more than eight years. With the explosion of video content online and some amazingly talented motion, 3D, and VFX studios pumping out exceptional work, we wanted to develop a creative video showcase, so FWA Theater was born.

Fi created its FiV video platform in 2007, and I was lucky enough to see it before it hit the shelves. The player was skinned and customized for FWA's users, and the result is a clean, slick interface with drag-and-drop options, a search feature, a custom user library, plus some of the most creative video content online — updated daily. Additional features, including an embed facility, are soon to go live. This site has seen more than a million streams in the first two months, so it seems our users are enjoying it.

Screenshot of Greenpeace Weather

Greenpeace Weather

Greenpeace Weather

Site by Almap BBDO and Colmeia

Numerous sites are created for good causes, and many of them send an important message, yet lack creativity and high-quality design and development. This multiplayer strategy game is one of the best examples I have seen of a creative site with an important message.

Climate change is on everyone's mind these days. It is an issue that we've been aware of for years yet we all thought it wouldn't affect us, and we hoped it wouldn't affect our children. But the truth is now. In this game, you get to become an activist in the fight against climate change. Get stuck and learn something along the way. You have to register to play, which always puts people off, but it's worth your time and effort.

 

Screenshot of Music in a Bottle

Music in a Bottle

Music in a Bottle

Site by Jung von Matt/Neckar

I should point out up front that this site is for an alcoholic beverage, and it doesn't have an age gate for entry. I have included this site not for the content but for the original idea it employs.

Basically, you can scan the label of a branded beer bottle using your webcam to listen to the song that is in your bottle. The development team even had the forethought to enable users to download and print a label to experience the music without needing a bottle of beer.

Barcode scanning just took on a whole new dimension.

 

 

Screenshot of Spectra Visual Newsreader

Spectra Visual Newsreader

Spectra Visual Newsreader

Site by SS+K and Fluid

We are definitely living in an age where information is bombarding us everywhere we look. Reading news on the BBC website gives you up-to-the-minute happenings in the world, but if you want to see where we might be going in terms of presenting such information, check out this site.

Browse, play, and interact in a 3D visualizer that also features a webcam color sensor and the ability to filter and store your favorite stories, videos, and blogs — all in a slick, progressive way. This site is impressive on so many levels that it's difficult to start highlighting the best features. All I will say is go spend some time exploring what this visual newsreader can do.

 

 

The Eco Zoo

The Eco Zoo

The Eco Zoo

Site by ENJIN Inc. and McCann Erickson Japan and ROXIK

Some of you will remember an experimental site called PICTAPS from November 2006. It immediately placed Masayuki Kido up there with the likes of Yugo as an experimental genius. His work with ENJIN Inc. and McCann Erickson Japan is pretty special as well.

This 3D environment uses ROXIK's own 3D engine, which is called Sharikura. (Be sure to check out the crazy goings-on with the Sharikura 3D Library as well.) The Eco Zoo invites you to explore the environment — the zoo — and to take a close look at the animals. By doing so, you'll find numerous tips on how to live life in a more environmentally friendly way.

Click, hold, and drag your mouse up, down, and from side to side to explore this unique zoo and enjoy both the content and the super smooth 3D tower.

 

MyDeco Room Planner

MyDeco Room Planner

MyDeco Room Planner

Site by specialmoves

Specialmoves has excited me with its innovative, interactive work since the first time I came across The Osbournes, a site that was almost revolutionary in its day and still looks great more than five years later.

Here we have a site — actually an application — that is a planning tool to help you decorate your home. Using top-quality 3D renders, you can see your designs and also find out how much they will cost you to physically create. This site offers a huge array of options and details, from creating designs from a template to furnishing each room. You can even rate your favorite rooms and browse the top-rated rooms. You can also hook your creations into Facebook so you can show off your rooms in your profile there. I'm seeing more and more websites with that last feature these days.

Diesel Genes of Sweden

Diesel Genes of Sweden

Diesel Genes of Sweden

Site by AD&D

The landing page for this site hides something very creative and almost unexpected. First, you'll see some cool and crazy stop motion sequences that also serve to show off unique styles and expressions. So, what is it? It's a creative experiment aimed to preview an exhibition that will be showcased at a mysterious Diesel XXX party in Stockholm, Sweden.

Click Create Artwork, and you are asked, "What's in your Genes?" Type one word that represents you, click Enter, and then hit the Spacebar to stop the random jean pose, which can also be fine-tuned. Finally, you can add color, images, and more to enter your genes into the gallery.

This is certainly a way to express yourself, so give it a try.

Epilogue

I first started using Flash 3 in 1998. A 30-day free demo version had me hooked. In 1999, Flash 4 was released, and this time I really got sucked in and began to find my way with it. In fact I became addicted to using it because it could do everything I had always dreamed of doing in terms of designing a website. Ten years later, the sky really is the limit. Flash now enables things like the Space Needle Installations in Seattle that give visitors joystick-controlled HD cameras and interactive 360-degree panoramas to play with.

Most of the sites I highlight in these Edge of Flash columns are pushing the limits — such as your processor, your connection speed, and Flash Player itself — as far as possible. Some people often complain that it's not fair that the sites winning awards and getting all the exposure have big budgets and huge agencies behind them, but that sweeping analysis is just wrong. Look at the sites in this column. They are predominantly created by small teams with small budgets. The one important ingredient to successful web design — or success in any pursuit, for that matter — is passion.

I know I have passion for what I do because I live to work rather than work to live. It may not be a great trait to have, but I guess it's in my Diesel Genes. How about you?

 

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Rob Ford founded The FWA Network in May 2000 and since then the network has received over 150 million visits. The FWA Network showcases projects that use cutting edge technology for desktop, mobile and offline, together with showcases for photography as well as video. Rob is also the author of three bestselling books of web and mobile. Check out The FWA Network.