The Weird Web: Top 5 Unique Site Designs That Worked in 2016
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I think it was the inimitable author Stephen King who once said, “People think that I must be a very strange person. This is not correct. I have the heart of a small boy. It is in a glass jar on my desk.”
Now, this quote might not seem so relevant to an article on unique site design but it got your attention didn’t it? The formula here is simple: take something everyone is familiar with (Stephen King) and then combine it with something you’ve maybe never seen or heard before (that weird quote about the heart of a small boy). This perfectly illustrates why weird websites work. In the sales world, this might be called the bait and hook or in the boxing world, the jab into right cross.
They take something you know, in this case the framework and general structure of what we have come to consider “websites,” and then do something new or unexpected to grab your attention and reel you in (or knock you out… in a good way).
There are plenty of businesses and brands that are beginning to utilize this “weird web” model and, in this article, we’ll take a look at the top five of them.
1. Pablo the Flamingo
What if I told you, there was a site where you could simultaneously listen to Eve’s “Let Me Blow Ya Mind” and make an adorable, and amazingly rendered, flamingo bounce along with it? Well, that’s just what you can do over at Pablo the Flamingo.
The project was conceived by Nathan Gordon and Pascal van der Haar, who acted as art director, and illustrated by Jono Yuen. The site has seen over 60,000 visitors and received numerous web design awards. Apart from bringing joy to anyone who clicks, the site has raised awareness for flamingo conservation through the World Wildlife Fund.
2. The Poli-Graph
The Poli-Graph might not be for those on a certain side of the political spectrum, but it can positively unite anyone who loves good site design. The website records in real-time all of the (purported) lies that the President of the United States tells.
You can watch live as the polygraph does its work or you can look at the last week and navigate through different source articles contradicting things that Trump has said. The design is immediately impactful with bold color and imagery and also (along with Pablo the Flaming) has a great use of micro-interactions (which are becoming all the rage in design circles). Designed by two Danes, Camilla Ploug and Martin Furze, the site has been nominated for design awards and promises to keep the President hooked “up to it 24/7.”
3. Nick Jones/Narrow Design
While the previous two sites used bold and basic designs, Nick Jones used a decidedly different approach to the website for his company, Narrow Design. Instead of clicking or dragging, you navigate by swiping a touchpad (or by gliding your mouse). The “homepage” is a multi-colored outline of the golden ratio, a Twitter button and a large “HELLO” to greet you. But as you swipe, the projects done by Narrow Design come into view, with a short blurb about each of them.
More sites, especially for personal portfolios, should use a design similar to this, which illustrates the creativity of the designer instead of the usual, dry “work,” “bio,” “links/testimonials” that many of them subscribe to.
4. ghost robot
Surprise, surprise, another design firm ended up on this list! The folks over at ghost robot know that the future is scrolling… seemingly forever. Back in the old days of 2015, people were decrying scrolling, saying that it was just plain poor design. But how things have changed. Now, many, if not most, mobile sites utilize infinite scroll and that number will most likely increase.
Maybe infinite scroll has something to do with Netflix/binge-watching culture—we just want to consume as much information as our little eyes can handle until they’re in actual pain. Either way, if you’re going to use infinite scroll, ghost robot does it pretty darn well!
5. Sounds of the Universe
There’s nothing cooler than spending some time in an old record store, pawing through classic vinyl and seeing what treasures you can dig up. The problem is, many of them have gone out of business and finding the time to dig around a record store is difficult for those with busy lives. Sounds of the Universe, an offshoot of Soul Jazz Records, has taken that time-honored and beloved recreation and put it in website form.
Their site design is as unique as the music they display—panels of vinyl records you can “pull out” and read about almost like you’re in a record store! This kind of ultra-interactive, almost tactile, design is great for anyone who runs an ecommerce business to supplement a brick-and-mortar store and wants to give a feeling of “heft” to their online retail outlet.
It’s been said, “weird can be wonderful,” and these websites are proof of that. They’re all a little bit strange, sometimes veering into controversial, but always beautiful to look at it and fun to interact with. Keep them in mind when you’re gearing up to design your next website!