by Rob Ford
Welcome to my first column for 2009, a year that could be very interesting in many respects. As we see companies tightening their belts while trying to weather the economic storm, you do have to wonder what impact this will have on budgets for campaign and promotional websites.
I believe that the web is the safest place to be in the current climate, and let's all hope that the light at the end of the tunnel is far closer than some have forecasted.
With that said, let's catch up on some of the most recent impressive websites that will hopefully lead to more inspiration and opportunities for web agencies, creative individuals, and entrepreneurs alike.
Site by Grow Interactive
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 this year with its very clever and superbly produced T-shirt gift site.
With 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 — will 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.
Site by Profero
In the UK, our government uses Frank as a way of trying to educate teenagers about drugs. Over the years, the various campaigns have received mixed reviews and, no doubt, have had varying levels of success. This latest site, directly focusing on cocaine, is very well conceived.
Enter the basement and, from a first-person point of view, explore the darker side of coke. This site runs you through some of the various ways cocaine can affect you. The Impurities section is definitely worth a look.
Site by Navistudio
Photography sites are one of my favorite genres. Egofoto is captivating from the moment the site loads. The background music sets the perfect stage. The portraits of children are amazing, and the ability to save your favorite shots to a lightbox, as well as comment on any of the photographs, takes this site to another level.
Do you have what it takes to become a special officer in the Swedish Armed Forces? Even if you are not inclined toward the military, this site is still worth exploring. It plays out as a game where you complete numerous tasks while seeing how you fare against other participants.
The game play and game physics are truly outstanding, and I'm confident that if you play the first challenge, you'll be hooked for a good 10 minutes or longer. This is a true test of your IQ.
Site by Kontain LLC
A project that was codenamed Propod has finally launched. Kontain is a free online media blogging destination that boasts simplicity as its main selling point. This is a site for the young and old to use as a new blogging platform that aims to take all the hassle out of blogging through its simple and crisp front end and complex back end that make uploading all media types easy.
Kontain is promising to add numerous new features that could actually make it better than many of the existing blogging platforms.
Viewing a website from above is not totally unique, but it is indeed rare. This site for Volkswagen's Fox is unique, however, because it offers a top-down view and uses people to create the navigation and website itself.
The site resides in Brazil so some of you might experience long loading times — but, trust me, it's worth it. Make sure you check out the Cores section so you can see some of the car's colors by choosing a person holding a colored balloon.
Site by OrdinaryKids
Everyone must remember painting by numbers as a kid, right? Or maybe that just shows my age. Tracy Chapman's site is a painting by numbers experience, if you want it to be. Using a grid of colors located on the top right of the site and your mouse cursor as a brush, you can paint your own landscape.
This really is such a simple idea, but I haven't seen it implemented across an entire website until now, and the fact that this site was created to promote a globally recognized music artist makes it even more notable.
I think you'd agree that this list of sites is about as diverse as you can get. Doesn't that prove what an amazing medium the web is? It is able to convey all sorts of content and information to such a far-reaching audience. I am not within the target audience for most of these sites, but I enjoyed every single one.
We're just over four weeks into 2009, and I'm already excited about what this year will bring in website design and development alone.
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.