by Rob Ford
This month I have an amazing list of sites for you. Some are heavy on the load side, but I never penalize a site for that. My job is to highlight sites that push the limits, and if that means large file sizes, then so be it. Remember that when a site takes a long time to load it is usually due to your network, your ISP, and the distance between your connection and the actual hosting server. These days, loading 5 MB or 10 MB worth of content should be a breeze.
Site by tha ltd.
I have taken a huge risk putting this site at the top of this month's column because it's so addictive that you might not make it any further.
UNIQLO has definitely given us a lot of original viral work in the past year, and this human mix machine is yet another wonderfully catchy site. Create your own loop or just sit back, watch, and let the catchy Caribbean sounds mesmerize you.
Site by Soleil Noir
This has to be one of the most impressive productions I have seen. It starts with a slick splash page and launches into a full-screen experience. Note the perfect use of full screen, which leaves your taskbar in view rather than taking over your entire display.
This site showcases the Alfa Romeo 159, and it definitely achieves its goal. The imagery, subtle use of motion graphics, and special effects are world-class. Even the sound effects are progressive. Combined with some delicious full-screen, high-resolution video, this site shows you how far you can push a site with today's technology. Impressive indeed.
The "got milk?" campaign continues to blow me away. It has spawned some amazing web campaigns over the last couple of years — Get the Glass being the most impressive — but now we have something new to drool over.
As you'd expect from Goodby and unit9, this site offers high levels of production, incredible creativity through interactive games, and a sense of style that is sure to impress both young and old. If you enjoy point-and-click adventures, such as the original Monkey Island series on the Amiga, you're guaranteed to love this.
Site by Mekanism
As you open this site, you'll probably be thinking, "Oh great, yet another full-screen viral video site." Don't worry. That's exactly what I thought, but then I suddenly realized that this is something special. NOLAF, which stands for The National Organization for Legislation Against Fun, plays out as a fictitious organization — and a hilarious one at that.
This site is deep. Users can essentially choose their own experience by clicking one of seven conference attendees to see where he or she is. Note that each attendee has more than one point of view and more than one question to ask. And don't forget about the other areas to explore at the back of the room. This site has so much going on, make sure you spend some time checking everything out.
Site by Shackleton Digital
This site is rather different, so I thought it was worthy of a mention. This is such a simple idea. I don't want to say much about it or I'll spoil it. I can tell you that you'll find an eye on this site, but the title of the site and the screen shot already give that away.
I'll also tell you that this is a promotional site for something you may be familiar with. You'll get the most out of this site if you turn off all the lights, crank up the volume or (even better) use headphones, and just click around. By the way, if you jump out of your skin, don't say I didn't warn you. But whatever you do, don't blink.
This is another wonderful site. Check out the amazing attention to detail and high-definition production levels. This is an online backyard adventure where you get to interact with many different characters, including Mike. (I bet everyone clicks Mike first.)
The whole neighborhood has been created in 3D, and the site includes more than 40 minutes of HD video. Be sure to click You to create your own yard. For an Easter egg treat, type "iloveparis" when using the Yard Creator. Sites like this one make you realize that agencies such as Tribal DDB and Firstborn are not just churning out projects. Their passion definitely shines through.
Site by Farfar
If you like stop motion, you'll love this campaign site for the Nokia N-Gage brand relaunch. The site is a video with a twist. Halfway through the video, it turns into a game of human breakout. Maybe it's just me, but sites with catchy tunes like this one help take the whole experience to another level.
I'm confident this site will be a big hit with its target audience because it's definitely a "now" site. It's different, it's good clean fun, and it's nothing like a static informational corporate CSS site. The question is, can you figure out how they managed to get over the swimming pool? Look closely for a clue.
This new web presence for the highly acclaimed Publicis & Hal Riney shows us something that could change the web as we know it. While webcam navigation is not new, this is the first time I have seen it used on such a high-profile site. If you don't have a webcam, you should seriously think about getting one, even if it is just for this site.
With your webcam, you can navigate this site, which I'm sure most of you have never done before. Can you imagine the possibilities? I really hope we see this idea explored further in the coming years. I was pleased to hear from the team at Clusta that they are already working on new webcam navigation ideas.
We've all seen sites with 3D fly-throughs, but this site for Motorola is one of the best examples. The visuals alone will suck you in because they are so impressive. But what I find equally impressive is that they go further than your average site that uses these same techniques.
Most sites use a 3D fly-through and then do nothing else, but this site seamlessly incorporates cut scenes with parallax scrolling, which take on a life of their own. You can't help but want to explore each scene, even if you don't match the intended audience. It's hard to find fault with this one. Very impressive indeed.
After all of that sitting around looking at great websites, it must be time for a workout. So take on your new role as a pig. Pick a color, accept the username or make up your own, and then click Next on the You've Got Mail screen. Here's the deal: As an overweight pig, you need to be able to fit into a hot new outfit to impress the other pigs, and you can achieve your goal only by working out.
Guide your pig through the workout by clicking the items at the bottom of the screen. You'll need food and water, and as you work out, you'll need to go faster and slower at the right times to succeed. You need to lose as much weight as possible before time runs out, or you won't fit into that hip new outfit, and you'll have to face the dreaded Still Fat screen.
Websites are certainly becoming more than just websites. Some sites in this list truly push the limits of what our networks and ISPs can currently handle. The question is: How much high-quality content can the Internet successfully handle? We're seeing more high definition on the web, and this naturally pushes file sizes higher, but my main concern is whether the infrastructure can manage these larger files. I sincerely hope so. I'd hate to see an entire industry handcuffed by networks that slow down due to traffic jams, thus killing the intended experience.
I want to see people's imaginations come to life on the web rather than the web dictating how their imaginations can be expressed. Are we trying to run before we can walk? Or am I completely contradicting my opening paragraph?
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.