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No. 95
May 27th, 2008

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Announcing The “Randys” Website Design Awards

Mihmorandum’s Monthly Awards Honoring Great Web Designs

With this post, I’m launching a monthly series where eventually I’ll share some link love for seven (7) impressive website designs. Some of them will be overwhelmingly beautiful; others clever; and still others may have particular components that are worthy of mention. Eventually this will be a showcase for sites I’ve found in the last 30 days, but for the first couple of editions, I’ll be running through a bunch of the sites I’ve tagged in my account.

Should be pretty self-explanatory; there’s no official nomination process, so feel free to email sites you’d like me to consider for June at davidmihm (-at-) Rather than critique each site per se (these are AWARDS, after all, not reviews) I’ll highlight what makes is such a successful site in my eyes. Where possible, I will credit both the site and its designer.

For some other, more important, awards just announced today, check out SEOmoz’s 2008 Web 2.0 Awards!

May 2008 Winners:

In no particular order: love the color choices, typography, and navigation of CNN’s politics site. It’s very web 2.0, very readable, and yet distinctive. The consistent fade-to-black photos of the header offer a great place for hot topics and big headlines without taking up a huge amount of screen real estate themselves. While CNN’s main website seems a little monochromatic to me, this one really seems to pop.

NorthxEast – Love the oversized headline and the simple navigation. Again, the header photo is attractive and engaging, without taking up too much screen real estate. It’s incredibly scalable, allowing for any number of posts on the homepage while still giving the featured post plenty of attention. Beautiful use of subtle background gradients. Designer: Collis Ta’eed, Eden Creative.

User EffectDr. Pete Meyers is a friend of mine from the SEOmoz community & just launched a new look for his Usability-focused website this month. It’s not the most beautiful website I’ve ever seen but it’s still more than attractive, and I’ll be damned if it’s not one of the easiest to use, read, and understand sites I’ve ever come across. The headlines stand out, the text is a perfect width and spacing, and the logo and navigation are wonderfully integrated into the layout, leaving the content pushed as far up the page as possible. UserEffect is just a great “proof of concept” for the designer’s true expertise as a usability expert!

Astheria – In terms of “pure” or “minimalistic” designs, this has to be one of the all-time best. Something that Mies van der Rohe and even some of the contemporary Dutch architects like Wiel Arets could appreciate. In this case, less is definitely NOT a bore, as the consistent use of Arial (with non-standard letter-spacing in the headlines) is more than offset by the sophisticated display of imagery and commenter avatars. Also, my mom would love the custom-built, chronologically-arranged archives page. Designer: Kyle Meyer.

CarsonifiedI could take or leave the Ajax-y looking header, especially since it doesn’t seem to actually be Ajax-y, but I am a HUGE fan of the overall layout, custom corners and borders, and font choices of this website. Carsonified is a British online marketing firm & for whatever reason, Lucida Sans (used in the body of this site) seems to be more popular internationally than domestically here in the U.S. It’s a brilliant, seemingly hand-drawn layout that is at once informal AND professional. Great work.

Further – We’ll finish strong on the other side of the pond this month by featuring another British online marketing agency, Further. The site’s homepage does a phenomenal job of arranging a lot of content in a very organized, easy-to-browse way. The portfolio pages are exceptionally clear in their organization and use vivid imagery in the header, here with a terrific use of Ajax as a slideshow enabler. And the site-wide navigation at the top of each page uses subtle tab-like links in a unique way. Bravo!

  • That may be my first official web award; thanks, Dave! I couldn’t have stated my intent better than you did: I think it’s possible to design a simple, usable site that doesn’t look like it was built in 1998 (e.g. Jakob Nielsen’s Kudos to Astheria for achieving that as well.

    To be honest, I’ve always been a little jealous of your design. Your background in architecture really influences your work in a positive way, and your blog manages to be bold and visually complex while still being clean and easy to use. That’s an incredibly difficult balance to achieve.

  • I couldn’t agree more with your comment about Nielsen’s site. I find it so repulsive visually that I refuse to read anything he writes. You’re not going to sell more widgets, help visitors engage in your content at a deeper level, etc., if your site looks like crap, PERIOD. I don’t care how “usable” your site is!

    Usability is not a goal in and of itself, IMHO, except in basic instances of accessibility for the disabled; it should be viewed as a means to an end to attract and convert more traffic. That’s where I think your site is so successful.

  • I’m glad carsonified made this list – that design is wonderful. I saw it on webcreme a few weeks ago and instantly bookmarked it.

  • Thanks for stopping by, Matt – I found Carsonified via a link from Distilled a few weeks back; it is indeed a great-looking site.

  • Of course, what a great site and informative posts, I will add backlink – bookmark this site? Regards, Reader.

  • Lauren

    Wondering what to do with an empty wall. How are our walls decorated? One or two large pictures, drawings or paintings on one wall? Or rather a group of many smaller pictures and drawings next to and above each other?

  • I’m glad carsonified made this list – that design is wonderful. I saw it on webcreme a few weeks ago and instantly bookmarked it.