2008 Web Design Trends

by Mike Sauce, Horizon Interactive Awards

As the 2008 Horizon Interactive Awards competition comes to a close and we look back at all of the outstanding entries from talented designers and developers across the globe, its clear that website design is continuing to evolve into a critical role in our business to business communication and business to consumer relationships. Designs that effectively integrate all forms of media to create lasting brand impressions and immersive experiences will continue to be funneled through a single experience on the Web for years to come.

This year's winners exemplify design trends that have been clearly developing over the last few years. In the business to business category, the top solutions were more than just basic communication and informational sites. They became useful and cost effective business tools. Taking top honors as "Best of Show" was a business to business project, "The Xerox Global Services Tour," created by N-Tara located in Johnson City, Tennessee. This outstanding project is a downloadable application built on Web technologies for an internal sales team to create presentations that were quickly customizable for the customer they were calling on. The efficient flash-based interface and sharp visuals combined to make this solution stand out as an extremely valuable tool for a salesperson's day-to-day work flow.

The Business to Business "Best of Category" winner adopted a more consumer-based approach to deliver a business message. IQ Interactive from Atlanta, GA with their microsite, entitled "The Tivoli Survival Guide: When Infrastructure Attacks" created for IBM took top honors. The site is a fun and engaging consumer style site with a clear business theme that utilizes a fun and visually appealing design and interface. Playful flash animations and sounds (a more consumer approach) combine to make a compelling message and draw the user into the site increasing exploration of the content.

Another notable trend in this year's competition was the reemphasis on creating an overall brand experience through an immersive online environment. This style of website challenges the user to interact with the brand through a convergence of many forms of interactive media such as video, online games, downloadable desktops, social networks and more. In the consumer information category, taking "Best of Category" was Zugara from Culver City, CA with their "Reebok DGK 2007" website. This site aimed at skateboarding enthusiasts not only showcased their line of shoes but seamlessly integrated videos, desktop wallpapers, downloadable videos and crew bios. All of these elements live beyond the single web experience and engage the user over time.

Creating another immersive online environment and winning "Best of Category" for Flash development, was a project created by 17feet interactive from San Francisco, CA entitled, "The Spanish Quarter." This aesthetically stunning website for the Spanish Quarter winemakers has a one-of-a-kind user interface as intricate in design as it is in functionality. A gentle music track and sound effects with what seems to be a virtual plaza combine to literally bring the wine label to life in an extremely creative and engaging way. Games and other consumer-based information add to the experience that will create a lasting impression on the wine connoisseur.

Continuing the trend of immersive environments is the Best of Category winner for Public Service. The website, "Schools for Schools," created by Digitaria from San Diego, CA, inspires schools from around the world to raise money to help bring war-affected schools in Northern Uganda to a nationally competitive standard. Strong visual design combined with video delivered in "You-Tube" style creates an interactive environment that speaks directly to the intended audience. The online community
this site creates adds the element of immersion as you click from video to video. With this site, the message and cause become the brand that is reinforced by the audience itself.

The 2008 Horizon Interactive Awards saw just over 1,000 entries from 20 different countries around world and nearly all 50 of the United States of America - a truly international representation of interactive media design and a reference point to identify the latest trends in design and implementation of websites and other forms of interactive media solutions. -

About the Author: Mike Sauce is founder of the Horizon Interactive Awards. The Horizon Interactive Awards are dedicated to recognizing excellence in the field of interactive media production.

More on Emerging Design Trends

Flash Sites with Wix:
Now that Google and Yahoo are moving towards crawling fl ash websites, the Web is about to get a whole lot prettier for many aspiring designers. Services such as Wix.com are at the forefront of creating fl ash-based websites easier and much more inexpensive than ever before. While you may not be keen on retooling your website today, the vision of Wix is to be the fi rst online application to enable anybody to develop professional-quality fl ash websites without being a designer or programmer. An intuitive interface leads users into developing creative and template-free, SEO-friendly mirrors of HTML websites. Perhaps the most exciting part is its extensibility - enabling users to embed on MySpace, Friendster, and Facebook. Small business users will see a premium package to create their content for a small monthly fee in the future but, for now, it's free and a powerful alternative to learning Flash. Wix also has a partner API so companies can tailor the editor to their needs.

Go Mobile With Ubik:
Designing a mobile website does not have to be an expensive undertaking. Services such as Ubik.com have simplifi ed the service to the degree that anyone - expert or novice - can develop a mobile-compliant website in as few as 30 minutes. While browsing on a device like the iPhone makes services such as Ubik sort of a lost cause, millions of users are accessing the Web on a variety of mobile devices far less sophisticated than the iPhone. Ubik features many available templates and modifi cations of text and styling (as well as the addition of pages) that are remarkably easy to implement. The downside is that you'll be hosting your new mobile site on a subdomain at Ubik.com. To be taken seriously, custom URLs should be mandatory if a service like this were to gain mass adoption. The solution is designed primarily for purely information-based sites and lacks any true interactivity outside of providing contact forms. An added perk, Ubik allows users see how their mobile pages render on a variety of mobile browsers - a common affl iction with the mobile Web.

-Peter Prestipino