by Rob Ford
Writing this column every couple of months can be quite tricky. Tricky, that is, if I can't find sites that are good enough or original enough to feature. There have been times in recent years when I didn't see any sites that were truly outstanding, and at those times I began to wonder if we had seen it all.
Luckily, I was always proven wrong. The last couple of months are a great example as I have struggled to keep my list of sites for this column to less than 10.
Here you'll find a selection of sites that are diverse, to say the least.
Benny the Brave
The other day, I received an e-mail from someone who asked me how agencies whose clients often have small budgets can compete with big budget sites when it comes to winning awards. More and more people are talking about this, and some believe it's not fair that the agencies with big clients and big budgets win all the awards.
This site for an advertising and marketing agency gave me the perfect answer...creativity. Benny the Brave is a site that boasts pure originality and oozes charm and personality. The site uses no 3D, integrated video, or other cutting-edge techniques. It relies purely on entertainment value by creating surprise through interaction.
So for anyone wondering how to compete with the big boys, just be brave and get creative.
Get the Glass
This is the first site I have seen in a long time that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. My first thought was that this is a site-of-the-year contender.
This website is a game that promotes milk. The goal is to break into Fort Fridge and get the Glass, while avoiding Milkatraz.
The production of this site is nearly perfect, with jaw-dropping 3D and video. The game itself is great fun and addictive.
This site suffered from a major viral effect that overloaded and slowed down its servers, leading people to believe the files were too big, when in fact the servers just couldn't cope. For those of you who find the site too slow, try the European test server on North Kingdom's site.
Site by group94
This site, promoting a major retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, boasts something we are seeing more often: full-screen zoomable images. This is one of the best examples I have seen yet.
One particular image I really want you to find is called Restoration. If you have a dual monitor setup, you will get the most out of it. This panoramic image, like many of the others, enables viewers to see great close-ups of the exhibited pictures.
What a simple, yet intelligent display.
Center Parcs – Lac d'Ailette
Site by Interaview Production
This site took me by surprise. Don't ask me why, but I wasn't expecting it to be as good as it is. In fact, it is highly impressive.
This must have been a huge project because this site has vast levels of content that are brought to life with impressive 3D environments and equally impressive integrated alpha video.
What I really love about this site is the clever way you find yourself exploring the many different places at Center Parcs without even realizing you are doing it because of the way the creative team has woven a story into the site.
The title of this site says it all — it's an excursion to an immersive audio-visual environment. This is pretty experimental stuff, similar to Amon Tobin's music samples.
Choose the HD version and then explore the field using the radar in the top left to find several different creatures (which are the big blips that show up on your radar). Once you get the hang of using the radar, finding the creatures is much easier. And once you have locked them into your line of vision, you can explore their different sounds.
Listen to all six sounds from each creature to unlock the complete sample, and see the creature perform for you. Each performance is unique and intriguing. This site is progressive on many different levels.
Air Jordan XX2
Site by Blast Radius
You may have already experienced parts of the Air Jordan brand site, but this latest edition is amazing. With full-screen 3D that uses the exciting Papervision3D, which in turn hosts full-screen video, this is one of the first examples of the next generation of multimedia websites.
We are slowly going beyond the browser by creating interactive areas that are no longer dependent on someone's screen resolution. Now users can explore in any direction the landscape has been developed for them.
Nokia – The Passenger
On this unique promotional site for Nokia's CK-20W multimedia car kit, users get their first chance to actually control the video they are watching.
Quite often promotional sites fail to actually promote the product, but here the user uses the product by taking to the streets of Paris to find three different addresses in a short amount of time.
You will certainly be familiar with this product after experiencing this site.
Site by SoleilNoir
Flash is often harshly criticized for its inability to handle large content sites, portals, and so forth. The Road Runner portal from 2003 helped kill this myth, and this recent site for the French Hip Hop label also proves a point.
This site is loaded with many different types of content, including music, video, and downloads. Pages can be bookmarked and the Back button works (although I think it's time people stopped relying on their browser controls to navigate).
Another huge plus is that this site is designed with perfect attention to detail so it is visually beautiful.
Site by PARK
It excites me to see more and more creative work coming from different countries. Russia has been in rare form lately, and this site for an advertising agency based in Moscow is a visual delight.
Just drag and drop an item into the receiver and see the result. This is a fun and original way to explore a portfolio, and one you won't forget. Be sure to explore all around — especially the drain so you can see the engine that powers this crazy site.
I think you'll agree that these sites all have a unique element. It's impossible to teach someone how to create a unique site; it just happens. And for some talented people, it seems to happen over and over again. I often find that my most creative ideas come while I'm in the shower. In fact, I have registered many domain names after showering.
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.