Top 10 Best Designed Websites in the World (2010)

18 months after my previous Top 10 list, here’s an update.

In 2010, I’m finding more sites with designs that I really love, that I find inspiring, that make me smile… But that won’t get them into this list.

I know that the purpose of a web site is to generate action – and to do that it needs to do more than just impress. It needs to communicate with visitors, identify with them, speak to them both emotionally and with information.

I think this list of 10 sites achieve that balance really well.

You may not agree with me, and that’s fine. You have your own criteria. I see myself as a marketer first, and a web designer second. I’m looking for sites that will really work commercially, not just get my designer juices flowing. Sites that will make money for the clients who paid for them and the designer who created them.

My Top 10 Web Designs of 2010

In no particular order…

#1 Philosophersnotes.com

I’m a huge fan of Brian Johnson’s Philosopher’s Notes site. Brian condenses the world’s great self-help and wisdom teachings into easy-to-digest audio books. He also has his own book (which you can preorder here).

The site is clean, letting the content really stand out. It makes really good use of imagery, and the compact copy conveys bags of personality.

There are also clear and bold calls to action, which means this site will also sell product. The free offer is a great way to build a list (but Brian, you need to use that list more, I never hear from you).

See my full review of the site here.

Philosophersnotes.com screenshot

#2 Bolwell-RV.com.au

How do you sell a product that’s so original that nobody’s looking for it? Bolwell is an Australian company with a varied history making anything and everything out of fibreglass, carbonfibre and composite plastics, including some rather sexy sports cars.

When they decided to make an off-road caravan, they did it in style. This tow-along unit is entirely bonded out of space-age materials, incredibly strong, practical and light.

Plus, it looks sexy as hell. So when you’ve got a product that looks that good, you do what these guys did and take some incredible photographs taken.

Our team actually worked on building this web site, but when you’ve got such great raw materials, the pages pretty much design themselves. It’s clean, packed with benefits, easy to read, and it lets the product stand out.

bolwell-rv.com.au screenshot

#3 Sussextipis.co.uk

I came across this site during the summer, looking for a family camping trip. I was very impressed.

The Sussex Tipis site engaged me straightaway. The design does a great job of combining folksy style with a clean, grid-based layout.

What really stands out for me is the photography. Where most tipi sites show you tiny pictures of tipis from a distance, this site actually gives you a feel of what it’s like to stay in their tipis.

The photography is colourful and interesting, and does a great job of immersing you in the experience. I just didn’t want to spend too long on any of the other sites I looked at.

The only thing I would change would be to vary the text size. Adding bigger headings would make the text easier to scan.

Sussextipis.co.uk screenshot

#4 UK.moo.com

This e-commerce/marketing site hits you on every page with clear products and their benefits.

Again, it’s clean, making the content the focus. The product shots are rich and colourful, with a nice cross-fader to show the range of what’s on offer.

I also appreciate the way the product photos are zoomed-in, filling the space with valuable content, combined with a consistent angle to add dynamism and interest.

One thing I would change immediately is the green link text colour. Although it matches the brand colours, it lacks contrast and is not as easy to read as it could be.

xxx screenshot

#5 37Signals.com

Read Dan’s more in-depth review of 37signals.com.

Recently redesigned, the 37Signals site continues to be a leading example of forthright branding.

It’s a very light site, which expects people to scroll (now we have mouse wheels, we scroll more). You can’t focus on anything other than the content… because there isn’t anything else!

It makes great use of type, in proper black-on-white for maximum readability.

The company’s personality shines out. You’ve just got to like them (or not like them, but at least it makes you choose).

37Signals.com screenshot

#6 TVLicensing.co.uk

This is a great example of “getability”. When people come to this site, they usually want to pay for their TV license, so it makes that action easy to find.

The reason this site is on my Top 10 list is that I turned up one day to buy a TV license, and about 2 minutes later I had completed the process with barely a thought having to go through my head. Is was one of the smoothest and most pleasant e-commerce experiences I’ve ever had. That’s good design!

You may think there are no prizes for making what should be obvious obvious… except that you get more happy users, and more profit!

I would suggest a couple of improvements. The text goes lime green on hover. Erk? That’s got to be bad for accessibility. If you have impaired vision, the links could disappear!

Also, the bold colour/contrast change and diagonal texture on the footer draw the eye too much. A plainer footer would make it even easier to focus on the content.

TVLicensing.co.uk screenshot

#7 Crowleywebb.com

The only Flash site in this list, but it still follows excellent “Save the Pixel” principles.

The navigation choices have been kept to a minimum, and they’re totally obvious. The content has plenty of personality, communicating emotionally and making good use of subtle humour.

If you’re in the target market for what these guys do, you’ll know it! If you aren’t, so what?

Crowleywebb.com screenshot

#8 Yesiamprecious.com

This is probably the most complex home page in this group, but the content is interesting enough that you don’t mind having a look around.

It’s a clever twist to make the bike (not the rider) the hero of the piece. The little gimmicks are actually interesting, which helps you feel involved, and the more involved you feel, the more likely you are to support the effort.

I’d probably add an arrow from the headline to the bike. Also, the body text in white over a grey textured background isn’t the easiest to read. It could afford to be bigger.

Yesiamprecious.com screenshot

#9 Gilesrevell.com

Giles Revell is a London-based artist. The site focuses 100% on his work.

This portfolio really appealed to me. If you’re going to be drawn in, you will be, because the focus of the site (the work) totally fills your vision and takes all your attention.

Still, the brand isn’t lost. There’s a clear logo, reminding you who did it. There’s nothing too fancy, just letting the content do the work – something a lot of sites could learn from.

Gilesrevell.com screenshot

#10 BMIVoyager.com

This is the web site of a magazine that is given out on BMI flights. The home page does a great job of grabbing your attention, which means you’ll be more likely to find out more about what the carrier offers – or at least think favourably about the brand.

Again, we’ve got good photography, so it fills plenty of space, but not stuffed so that you can’t focus on the words. When you have great imagery, you don’t need to decorate the container.

The text content is also very effective with clear headings, good copywriting, creating plenty of chances to draw you in.

BMIVoyager.com screenshot

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43 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Conny Graumann says:

    Thanks for the list :-) Great way to take a tour on the www.

  2. Matt & Shannon says:

    Hi Ben !

    Notice only the one flash site. What’s your take on Flash ? With the advent of HTML 5, CSS3, some of java script frameworks development trends, Sencha, jQuery, etc, not to mention Apples stand, is Flash on the way out ?

    Cheers, Matt & Shannon

  3. Steve says:

    All of the images are slanted. Is that your doing, or are the sites actually that way?

    • ben says:

      I slanted the images, Steve, just to add visual interest.

      I didn’t manage to find 10 slanted web sites :-)

      If it bothers you, I can straighten them out.

      • Violet Koncz says:

        Nice list of sites! Thanks for the inspiration. By the way, the slant is actually really distracting and misleading because I automatically thought that’s how they were all originally laid out, oops. Haha. Maybe in the future leave them regular. :)

      • isaac amunenwa says:

        please,i want you to teach me more about web design so that i will make my own to earn a living to pay all my debt.

      • Ben Hunt says:

        Sure. I’ve poured all my experience into my Pro Web Design Course. It’s 100% designed to get you ready to EARN money in this business. You get it with Pro Web Design Alliance membership at only $97/month.

  4. Harish says:

    Why do you think these websites are best in world? I don’t think so. There are lots of another websites better than these ones.

    • Natalie says:

      Harish, this is a list he compiled based on his opinion. If, in your opinion, there is a list of 10 better than this, then compile the list on your own blog and give us a link. Since there are countless websites, not everyone is going to agree on which are the best. I just appreciate that Ben took the time to compile this list as many of these websites I have never visited before.

  5. Owen says:

    Hey Ben,

    Great list! ;) We have had so many positive comments from customers, and the site itself has been integral in generating the 10 direct caravan sales we have made since opening for business 2 months ago.

    Cheers

    Owen

  6. rebecca says:

    I do like #8 & #10. I don’t love the rest.

  7. Julia says:

    Excellent list. I am impressed and very inspired.

    Thank you Ben.

  8. Frances Strong says:

    Good choices, good points; thank you for the chance to take a expert’s tour.

  9. AGAME says:

    Nice article and good design examples. #2 is the best, I think.

  10. Francis Shanahan says:

    I wouldn’t mention it except that your site is all about “good web design” – are you aware that the images you’ve linked to on the site are broken in the Feedburner RSS feed? Not in Google Reader but in the link itself:

    http://feeds.feedburner.com/webdesignfromscratch/ThMa

    • ben says:

      Thanks Francis. I’ve added a tag to our template, which may fix the problem (although we need to wait for FeedBurner to refresh its source).

      • ben says:

        Actually, I’m going to remove that tag again, as it breaks all #internal links on pages (like this one!). There may be a more elegant WordPress fix, which we’ll implement when we find it.

  11. Steve Wasiura says:

    Wow, I feel like I’ve just opened the cookie jar. It looks like you have so much good content on your site. I’m bookmarking it so I can come back and read the articles & subscribe to your email newsletter. Tell her Majesty I said hi!

  12. Raskraski says:

    I like #2 and #6 ….
    but who determine those designs to be top 10 ?

  13. Anthea Baker says:

    As always, fab top 10, with slight reservations over 6 & 7 (bit too much ‘blue’ going on for me!). Ben, can I just say, the orange promotion box at the base of my screen (re: 50 web design secrets), is really off-putting and a tad annoying? Sorry. Also think it doesn’t reflect your taste. Looks a bit ‘in your face’ and cheap, not like you at all, in my opinion.

    • Ben Hunt says:

      Thanks Anthea. You can hide the slidey promo, by clicking the [>>] button on the right. It has had a big impact on newsletter sign-ups too. We are working on making it a bit less in your face :-)

  14. Anthea baker says:

    Thanks for that Ben. Also wanted to mention that I think anyone looking at your top ten should read your book Convert!, which will give them a good idea how you came to choose them. When I looked at your older top ten’s a while back, I thought aesthetically most of them looked great, but I was a bit confused about a few of them until I read your book – now it makes more sense. You’re too modest!

  15. Ben Hunt says:

    Thanks for your kind words Anthea. Here’s the info on Convert! (Amazon.com: http://bit.ly/gLJGat+) (Amazon.ca: http://bit.ly/gDR4qN+) (Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/eOEYSU)

  16. Pingback: Top 10 Best Designed Websites in the World

  17. mik says:

    Hi Ben
    Nice list.
    One concern that I have had for a long time is that many sites have the most important stuff e.g. important text, sales pitch etc ‘below the fold’…
    (Or perhaps I am imagining that people have lower resolution screens than they really do.
    Your take on this greatly appreciated.
    Mik

    • Ben Hunt says:

      Hi Mik.. You obviously can’t always fit everything above the fold, so you have to choose.

      My take is – be selective, and put powerful content that will grab attention, feel like it’s talking to YOU, and give you a reason to read on.

      Same as it has always been with newspapers, advertisements, and direct mail.

  18. Doug Smith says:

    The block just above the footer on the Bowell site (Request a Brochure), the third line of text is clipped when viewed with IE8 on a 1920 by 1080 screen. NRN.

  19. simplesite says:

    Inspirational.

  20. Sparks says:

    Hi Ben,

    Great list.

    Most of the sites seem fairly static or irregularly updated. Do you have any suggestions for high
    turnover (think news-type)sites that have great designs?
    Thanks,
    Sparks

  21. Gerson says:

    Man!!!
    You’ve got to be kidding!!

    You must have been paid buy those site owners or something.

    Geeeee, those are the worst looking sites I’ve seen in years!

    And the content, uhffff. It sucks.

    Be real, man.
    Do you really thinks bill buy that?

  22. Ammy Jackson says:

    Wow,Nice designed websites……
    Great colleections…….

  23. Naseer Fedaee says:

    Nice Collection of great designes….

  24. millerpages says:

    Interesting collection of sites. Most of them seems to be skewed. It’s nice to see innovative design that moves away from the norm. Thanks for sharing.

  25. Niall says:

    Hi Ben

    Thanks for the list; good inspiration.

    Obviously every one has their own ideas and opinions as to what is the best designed websites so no arguments there. However, am I right in saying that these are the best sites in English? I’ve seen some websites that are a lot better than these in other languages.

    p.s. I like your “slant” on things if you’ll excuse my terrible pun.

    • Ben Hunt says:

      I think I’ve already answered that question above. Yes, I’m only reviewing sites in a language I can understand. Anything else would be a nonsense.

      I’m not saying there are not better sites out there now. Sometimes you can’t compare apples and oranges. But these work. What really matters is to understand why.

  26. Ted Staird says:

    Best designed ones?? Are you sure you know the meaning of the word ‘Best’. Beside those regular/cheap web sites you are promoting, the rest on Earth are bad?

    Think again.

  27. Brant says:

    More like advertising for these companies. Those are horrible designs. There’s nothing imaginative or inspiring about them and it shows in how you promote yourself as a person.

    • Ben Hunt says:

      Hi Brant. Have you been on “Museum of Me”? You can’t call than unimaginative or uninspiring.

      You need to appreciate my context. My criteria for quality of design is how effectively the elements are selected and arranged in order to achieve the site’s goal – whatever that is.

      I’m not looking stuff that’s fresh and sexy. I’m not a porn addict. I’m into marketing, selling, communication, business growth, and how design can help you achieve those really important things.

  28. Gillian says:

    Before I give my two cents, I will disclose that, although I am still a graphic design student, I am in the top of my class at the best program in my state.

    I believe many of the comments you are receiving are due to the misleading title. These websites are well designed. However, I personally would have liked to see sites that were chosen for their excellence in front-end development, not sites that are picked for their excellence in efficiency and layout. Where’s the interaction? Some of these don’t even have so much as a single rollover. I’m still a junior and even I know exactly how to code Sussextipis.co.uk. It’s not that it isn’t good, its just not THE best.

    Not to say that simple and clean isn’t good design, because it is. But when selecting sites to deem as excellent, I would have chosen some with more of an interactive experience, like the UK moo printing site (appealing to creatives by being more interactive) An interactive experience, no matter how, is KEY to creating a great website because otherwise you might as well just be designing print layout.

  29. me says:

    wow,,,, i havent seen a more bland plain collection of sites in my life….hehe…dude your a lame,,,sorry

  30. Raul Lopez says:

    I agree with this list a lot more than the previews one….still bit bland overall considering the amazing work out there but I definitely agree with lots of these :)

  31. Jake says:

    Why are most websites based in the UK? This is a stupid bias.