The amount of new web applications, features, and companies sprouting up is just astounding, and while some like to characterize “Web 2.0” design as involving lots of cliché diagonal lines and shadows it still takes a lot of skill to execute an attractive user interface. I’ve been checking out new sites and web applications for many months now and I’ve put together my list of the best interface design examples I’ve found. Some companies/sites on this list may not be as “Web 2.0” as others (and I purposely chose not to includes sites based on design or design firms) but they still deserve the same recognition.
Out of all the sites that use Google Maps, Wayfaring is by far my favorite. They’ve integrated Maps into the user interface very well, and the simple but usable layout is what many other startups should try to emulate. Very nice monochromatic color scheme as well, working with various hues of green to effectively block out sections of content — it also neatly keeps HTML/CSS weight down.
Synchronization startup Sharpcast has a simple website with expertly-crafted illustrations every place you turn, similar to a company further down on our list. Screenshots of their software are always nice to see, especially when (from what I can tell) the interface looks just as clean and elegant as their website. (Note: their site is currently switching from beta to public, so it’s not the same as it was when I originally made the list.)
8. Current TV
Current TV is a brand new concept where they combine user-generated content with actual TV airing to produce a type of on-demand network of great content. Visit their On-Air Preview page to get a taste of what is currently live on their TV channel. The site is dark but has some great coloring for each section to keep the visual interest alive, and their community area has a really creative way of showing the size and scope of their readers.
Regardless of what you think of Plaxo, it’s still one of the most beautifully designed corporate-type sites you’ll ever find. An extraordinary amount of time and effort was spent crafting every aspect of their site, from the glossy icons and glowing buttons, to the ever-present rounded corners and shadows everywhere. A lot of the site is done with ugly table code however, so that knocks the score down a bit.
Netvibes and Pageflakes are locked in the death throes of a one-upsmanship battle, which unfortunately for both companies is not the place to be in. Fortunately for Netvibes, I think their user interface trumps Pageflakes which adds at least one more feather to their cap. In case you are not familiar with Ajax portal homepages, they attempt to emulate the functionality that Lycos and Excite provided back in the late 90s, but without needing any page refreshes. And unlike Excite and Lycos, they’re nearly completely unprofitable because they allow so much user customization that no advertisements are shown at all. The subtle color themes are very well-executed, with beautifully rendered boxes that appear to have multiple layers of depth. Netvibes sets the Ajax portal standard, so if you ain’t putting it down better than Netvibes you better walk off the court right now.
Similar to Plaxo’s look, LinkedIn also has a pleasing blue color scheme, but their layout is more reserved with their efforts spent more on the information architecture and layout rather than small graphical details like Plaxo. Most sections of the site have their own simple illustration nearby, which helps greatly in identifying the key information on the site. The Connections tab (need to be logged in) has great information graphics that immediately show how “connected” you are to any other person in your network. The small, information packed illustrations definitely go a long way into providing a better user experience.
ScienceBlogs is a grouping of a few dozen great blogs on scientific topics like medicine, chemistry, psychology, and more. They are part of the larger whole of Seed Magazine, a fantastic new science magazine that has some of the best art direction of any printed periodical I’ve ever seen. Yet another great design from Mike Pick & Tim Murtaugh, 2 guys that need more exposure in the design community because they some incredible work.
Joyent launched over a year ago (has it been that long!) and it’s still one of the best examples of design you can find gracing a startup’s site or application. Cameron Moll always produces astounding work, and this is no exception. Each section of the newly-redesigned site has its own illustration and color scheme.
What crazy t-shirt company has more fans than Threadless? The guys that run Threadless aren’t business or marketing geeks, they’re straight-up web designers and developers, so you can expect their company site’s user experience to be top notch. As with some of the other sites, they use Flash as a means of highlighting some sections of the site. Each page of Threadless.com is unique, just a great job all around.
Akamai has been around longer than a lot of the companies on this list (put together!) and their new website is one of my favorite designs of all-time. Akamai provides many data-hosting services like streaming media and content delivery, and their website is as slick as their client list. They’ve effectively added interactive Flash animations to various parts of the site, and even their NOCC global control center is absolutely incredible.