The “Wow” Factor in Web Design

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Everyday, we go through hundreds of different websites. With Twitter and RSS feeds, we are able to see an excessive amount of sites in just a short time. Most of the websites that we visit are forgettable, they don’t leave a lasting impression.

There are different ways that we remember a website.

  1. The Content
    We remember Smashing Magazine, Web Designer Depot, and other blogs because we go to those websites daily for their great content.
  2. The Design
    Some websites have extremely creative designs. These websites are easy to remember as well.
  3. The "Wow" Factor
    Sometimes, while looking at a website and browsing through its pages, we will see something that will make us say "Wow!" It could be a simple transition, a background change, a color switch, or even a unique animation that will cause us to remember the website. That is what I call the "wow" factor.

The "Wow" Factor

"It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen."

— Coach John Wooden

I believe that the "wow" factor is very important in web design. It is what can set your website apart from the myriad of different websites in your industry. By the way, this doesn’t have to be anything mind-boggling or extremely complicated, just something simple but clever will do the trick. This will definitely leave a lasting impression on your viewers and will make them remember your website.

While there are plenty of websites that make use of this technique, I have gathered 10 well-designed websites with clever little details that made me say "Wow!"

Analog1

Analog is a company of friends who make web sites. It’s a co-operative where imagination, design, and engineering thrive; good people doing good work. The website is very simple, but it definitely gets the job done.

The “Wow” Factor

Try pressing Alt+G and see what happens. Also, mouse-over the mugshots.

Analog2

Face3

Face is an intelligence-driven multidisciplinary design studio, based in Monterrey, Mexico whose work range includes design solutions, advertising, editorial projects and custom publishing, corporate identity and brand development. The site is very minimalistic, and at first look, it doesn’t seem to be exciting at all.

The “Wow” Factor

Mouse-over the navigation and you’ll be surprised.

Face4

Flourish5

Flourish is a full-service design studio with a decided focus on the Web. With additional experience in brand identity, print design and photography. This is probably one of my favorite websites in the internet. It is well designed and it has some great details that really make you say "wow!"

The “Wow” Factor

When clicking one of the 4 red banners, the tree changes. Also, the featured projects slider is great.

Flourish6

HutchHouse7

The Hutchhouse team have a mass of real life web design experience creating interfaces for simple brochure websites through to eCommerce, intranet and social networking sites. I love the giraffe illustrations in this website.

The “Wow” Factor

On the top right corner, try switching the theme and you will see the giraffes in different environments. They have a space theme, a night theme, a jungle theme, and a depth theme.

HutchHouse8

Komodo Media9

Komodo Media is a tiny web design studio and blog created, inspired by and maintained by Rogie King.He specializes in illustration, identity design, jQuery, JavaScript and is somewhat of a CSS/xHTML freak. He is pretty good with databases, PHP and Flash, but his heart loves and lives in the design and front-end scripting world.

The “Wow” Factor

Most of you have probably seen this website already, but the "wow" factor is definitely the foliage-o-meter. I still haven’t seen any website do anything similar to what he has done.

Komodo Media10

Riot Industries11

Riot Industries is the personal portfolio of designer Phil Renaud. He is a dual citizen, born and raised in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, which is basically Canadian Detroit. The website has a very nice texture to it, and the color palette really works well.

The “Wow” Factor

Mouseover any of the project thumbnails and the title will quickly slide out. Very neat effect!

Riot Industries12

Traffik13

Traffik is a CMS for designers, built for business. Traffik offers supperior creative liberty compared to other CMS products. Finally a content management system that doesn’t hinder your CSS talents or your coding deficiencies!

The “Wow” Factor

At first glance, the website background just has a normal bokeh design. Try moving your mouse around it and the fun begins.

Traffik14

Work[at]Play15

Work at Play builds digital experiences that are capturing the engagement generation. They specialize in building interactive social-networking applications, virtual marketplaces and unique digital content for the web. Headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia, Work at Play was recently recognized as one of the region’s fastest growing companies.

The “Wow” Factor

I really like the way that they did the work section. Try clicking on one of the projects and you will see a cool 3D, rotating effect.

Work[at]Play16

Yaili17

Yaili is the website of Inayaili de León a web designer from London, England. She takes a lot of pleasure in coding other people’s designs to make them work online.Her code is as beautiful as her designs.

The “Wow” Factor

The bottom area of her website is wonderful. Try dragging the different sections around. Also, the way that her work section is laid out is excellent.

Yaili18

Eric Johannson19

Eric Johansson is a Swedish designer. I really enjoyed viewing his website. The whole design is very enjoyable and you will definitely remember this website.

The “Wow” Factor

Ok, this one is a secret. I won’t tell you what happens, but just drag the scroll-bar to the right to see something really cool, I promise, you won’t be disappointed. :)

Analog20

Which of these websites made you say “wow?” I only showcased ten websites because I didn’t want to overwhelm you with too much content. What are some websites that you remember because of the “wow” factor? I’d love to have an interesting discussion about this subject so feel free to contribute to the discussion. Thank you for reading the article. You can follow the Design Informer on Twitter here21.

Footnotes

  1. 1 http://analog.coop/
  2. 2 http://analog.coop/
  3. 3 http://face-face-face.com
  4. 4 http://face-face-face.com
  5. 5 http://www.floridaflourish.com/
  6. 6 http://www.floridaflourish.com/
  7. 7 http://hutchhouse.com/
  8. 8 http://hutchhouse.com/
  9. 9 http://www.komodomedia.com/
  10. 10 http://www.komodomedia.com/
  11. 11 http://riotindustries.com/
  12. 12 http://riotindustries.com/
  13. 13 http://www.playintraffik.com/
  14. 14 http://www.playintraffik.com/
  15. 15 http://www.workatplay.com/
  16. 16 http://www.workatplay.com/
  17. 17 http://yaili.com/
  18. 18 http://yaili.com/
  19. 19 http://www.ericj.se/
  20. 20 http://www.ericj.se/
  21. 21 http://www.twitter.com/designinformer

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Former editor in chief of Designinformer.

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  1. 1

    Great article, I really enjoyed it. :)
    .-= Johnny´s latest Blog Entry – Best Practices When Coding a Website =-.

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  2. 52

    WOW… brilliant article, really makes me want to re-design my site after just getting it back up lol!

    I like the Eric Johansson site very amusing and creative

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  3. 154

    I teach a intro to digital media class in the spring. Will be sending my students here prior to there web design project to give them something to strive for–the “WOW” factor. thx for a great post.
    .-= craigr´s latest Blog Entry – Chinese Environmental Art =-.

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  4. 256

    Great post and great collection of sites – thank you for sharing. Amazing what can be accomplished with jQuery, javascript and even CSS

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  5. 307

    Lately the debate in my studio has been great design suffers if there is no “there there” meaning that if a site that has great content and bad design will out performa great designed site with no quality content, but everyone has overlooked the wow factor,

    I agree that if a site has a “wow” factor it will be sticky. But how sticky is then the question so I would hope that all sites aim to entertain with a “wow” factor but still keep focussed on providing a quality message

    Thanks and Regards

    Noel for Nopun.com
    a graphic design studio
    .-= Noel Wiggins´s latest Blog Entry – Website Design Moving & Storage Company’s Enhanced by No Pun’s Industry Expertise =-.

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  6. 409

    Hey thanks for the great comments about my site, http://www.floridaflourish.com. Also wanted to point out http://tnvacation.com/trails/

    This is another site that made me say “wow” (in a good way) the first time I saw it.

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  7. 511

    This is an awesome article, I loved it. I think there’s a real danger that web design is becoming too generic, people following too many of the same practices, and an incestuous habit of only picking up inspiration from *other* websites.

    Sites with a wow factor as you describe break that mould. It’s important that they’re highlighted, but also the very principle of offering something different, new and memorable.
    .-= Robin Cannon´s latest Blog Entry – The Ultimate Freelance Job Search Page =-.

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    • 562

      Indeed. I think that as designers, we need to try to be more creative, especially in our personal work. I understand that with client work, we can’t really push the envelope, but I think in our own sites, we should really try to be unique and stand out. These sites have definitely done that!

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  8. 613

    Great Article! I really enjoyed viewing the sites and seeing their ‘WOW’ factor! I do find it interesting that many sites with ‘WOW’ are not using Flash. A couple years ago, you could only get ‘WOW’ by flash! Thank you js and jQuery!

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  9. 715
  10. 766

    Great post on WOW factor with nice examples. Having that wow factor is very important especially for first time visitors. You only have a few seconds to not only get their attention and interest to continue browsing the rest of the site, but also building a positive impression and brand. Great post.

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  11. 868

    Amazing post… It’s really WOW!!!

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  12. 919

    I will start by saying that all of these sites were inventive in their use of some javascript trickery. I do believe adding some subtle jQuery animation to your website can enhance the user’s experience. But, it should not be done with a “heavy hand”. I enjoy the fact that a lot of these are “Easter Eggs” that don’t smack you in the face when you land on the page.

    I will have to agree with Richard Glover’s comments. Wholeheartedly, our task, as designers, is to craft a website for our clients that will have a high ROI. And that does come from designing a site that is well thought out and designed while insuring that the content of the website is king. Wow factors, such as these should never get in the way of that content. If it does, it becomes a gimmick and will eventually have a negative impact on the site itself.

    Another great example of this is Nick La’s IconDock (http://icondock.com). His shopping cart tool is simply incredible.
    .-= Erik Ford´s latest Blog Entry – 10 Premium Retro Fonts to use in your Next Design Project =-.

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    • 970

      I like the way you put it into the right perspective Erik. You really bring out some excellent thoughts.

      ROI is our main goal when building sites for the client, and I do believe that having a “Wow” factor in a website that’s cleverly used can have a positive effect on the ROI.

      Thanks for your input. BTW, I really love the clean, minimal look of your website.

      0
  13. 1021

    Very impressive stuff. Thanks for putting this list together. Being able to mix web technology and graphic design has become a real art and a prime skill.

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  14. 1072
  15. 1123

    Nice post! The last one is very funny :D Another site that made me say WOW! is: http://www.2advanced.com/

    0
  16. 1174

    A great article on a great topic. Well presented and the websites you talked about does indeed have WOW factor. Love it.
    .-= Damian Madray´s latest Blog Entry – Redtape: Live Your Fantasy =-.

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  17. 1225

    Thank you! Great post.
    .-= Gwendomas´s latest Blog Entry – Pillowig =-.

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  18. 1276

    As everyone else has pointed out already; great article! A definite WOW factor :)

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  19. 1327

    Totally, Totally, Totally Awesome, a great reminder that you dont need flash to make websites interactive and cool.

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  20. 1378

    Personally for me the wow factor is simply the first impression. It’s like the first look and i can tell if I love it or hate it

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  21. 1429
  22. 1480

    Excellent article, Jad. I had expected this to be just another top 10 listing of cool looking websites but the contents proved me wrong. The collection here just proves that html sites needn’t be static. Also the very good reminder about the wow factor. Its what makes a gd design great. Just tweeted your article :)

    0
    • 1531

      Thanks Damian. While this post is a “list,” I do try to make it as informative as possible. It’s not your ordinary list. :)

      I appreciate the retweet.

      0
  23. 1582

    This is nice. I have been looking for a design article like this. I have gone so deep into code the last 2 years my design hierarchy is off. If anyone is interested I posted http://www.digitalcomplexion.com/archives/2009/12/18/hierarchy-designing-with-the-mindfu/ which talks about design hierarchy. This is also a really cool site that show the hot spots of your design.

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  24. 1684

    Thank you for the great post. And I totally agree to your the list! Those little details really add up!

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  25. 1735

    The WOW factor in web design has been lost… You wanna know about WOW factor… Remember that NRG.be website of the early 00’s. Now that was WOW!!

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  26. 1786

    I did love this post and it is one of the reasons why I love being in this line of work is because these “WOW” sites which push you outside your design comfort zone to try something new.

    Florish would have to be one of my faves this year for sure but I really enjoy all the others too! Look forward to more posts :)
    .-= Bee Todd´s latest Blog Entry – beet09: "You can erase someone from your #mind. Getting them out your #heart is another story." ~ Unknown /via @livetorque @admrich =-.

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  27. 1888

    Enjoyable showcase, I totally agree with little details, I loved the “Side scrolling” design and that Bokeh design.

    I didn’t understand the Analog website though…it put a grid over the whole screen? And if you didn’t tell me to Alt+G then I never would’ve have found it….in this case, the detail would be completely overlooked, no?

    0
    • 1939

      Well, that’s kind of true. But you can see on the footer of their design how to activate the grid.

      0
      • 1990

        Hi Victor, and Jad,

        Victor, the grid was never a critical feature, or a design detail, to be honest. It was really just something we used in deployment, but it seemed like fun to include it. That’s why we only mention it in the footer as Jad mentioned. I hope you found it fun, too. :)

        0
      • 2041

        I found it fun, especially because I’m a designer so the grids were awesome. Also that “chicken” that slid out when you double clicked on the image, that was awesome! :)

        0
      • 2092

        Ohhh okay. I don’t know why I overlooked that. I loved the shifting with the Company Profile Images. That chicken pull out was a neat feature! I think you should consider doing something with the color wheel though…like you can drag or click to twirl it revealing more details about each point.

        And my favourite feature of this is the one-page design. Simple, quick website, no clicking-hassle. Good luck with your company!

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  28. 2143

    This post is such an eye-opener that we don’t need flash to create superb dynamic and interactive websites. These websites are really pushing the limit. And I am just completely fascinated and deeply inspired.

    Thanks for sharing. I dream that someday, one of my websites would be featured on a review like this.

    Cheers everyone!

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  29. 2194

    I always enjoy a good article that take a good hard look at the details put into a site. It is true designing with the WOW factor in mind has to be one, if not the most important part of web design.

    Thanks for the great article.

    Ciao

    0
    • 2245

      Thank you. I’m glad to know that the efforts that I put into writing this article was not a waste. It’s the little details that are really important in my opinion, as these details are what really will make a website go from good to great!

      0
  30. 2296

    I really like HutchHouse as well. Very creative with the way they change themes.

    0
  31. 2347

    Great article! Thanks.

    0
  32. 2449

    Good design has hit the web mainstream in recent years and clients understand more than ever the importance of making sure that your site looks good, but the next big thing is making sure that those good looks are backed up by good functionality….this is where the “WOW” factor comes in.

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    • 2500

      Good point Sanzu. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I do agree with you, clients know the importance of a good looking website, but most clients do not know what good looking is. It is the designer’s job to steer the client into what looks good.

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  33. 2551

    I checked them all and they are all very creative and inspiring! Just when you think you seen it all, along comes one that’s really wow!

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  34. 2653

    Love the “this site is a drag.” In general this is great for brainstorming.
    .-= bryemye´s latest Blog Entry – A Tale of Two Hobbies: My Love of Writing and Computers =-.

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  35. 2755

    I had to email the owner of that last one… just to say wow! It was amazing, thank you for posting!
    .-= Shane Hudson´s latest Blog Entry – New Position Open: Beta Testers =-.

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    • 2806

      Thanks for doing so. It’s always great for us to complement others and tell them that they are doing a great job. It build camaraderie among the design community. :)

      0
  36. 2857
  37. 2908

    Nice post..i love it! christmas is on the air. Keep on posting great designs.

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  38. 3010

    Hi Jad,

    I heard you on the comment you made for the reviewing list articles trends post.

    Thanks. I think one thing for sure we can learn from list article is that the same concept should be applied in comments as well.

    Don’t comment just for the sake of comment or trying to do some marketing.

    Just take at look in the comments nowadays, they are flood with words like, “nice collection, thanks, great..etc.”

    It doesn’t kill to add a bit more line right?

    Just My Two Cents Worth.

    Anyway, “Great Article, Thank you”…Hehe
    .-= Aidan´s latest Blog Entry – Reviewing List Articles Trend: 30 Powerhouse and Prospective Design Blogs =-.

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    • 3061

      That’s true Aidan. When I first started the blog, it was great to see a bunch of comments that said thanks, I like it, etc. But after a while, I kind of want comments with a little more information. For example, instead of just saying thanks, why not explain why you are thankful for it, or describing what you liked about the post.

      I don’t even mind constructive criticism. With that said, thanks for your comment Aidan. :)

      Keep up the great work with your blog. :)

      0
  39. 3112

    Great Article,

    I really liked Eric’s Drag Site. I especially liked the fact that it was not done in flash. Though flash is good for getting in some easy “WOW”, its much better when it comes without it. I do not like bashing my own liking, (flash) but when memory comes into play, it really kills the browser when not done right.

    A great list !
    Keep them coming :D
    .-= Philippe Harewood´s latest Blog Entry – crixandstuff: 20 articles to help you grow as a web designer http://is.gd/5xtw2 via @purplehayz =-.

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    • 3163

      I agree Philippe. I’m really impressed with the creativity that is displayed in that site and how he managed to pull it off with just javascript, XHTML and CSS. Incredible website indeed!

      0
  40. 3214

    The HutchHouse theme changer is nice. I have seen “color changers” – but theme changers is pretty “wow”. Illustrations there are great too. Thanks for the roundup of inspiration.
    .-= PhotoshopCandy – Web Design Inspiration´s latest Blog Entry – Wild animated optical illusions – It’ll Blow Your Mind =-.

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    • 3265

      It is very neat to see that. I was really impressed with it and that’s why I featured it. Like you said, there are plenty of sites that use color changers, but I have rarely seen websites that do a theme change.

      0
  41. 3316

    This is one of my favorite posts by far—great collection of interesting web design effects. I can feel the inspirational gears turning.

    0
  42. 3367

    Excellent article!!!! I had expected this to be just another top 10 listing of cool looking websites but the contents proved me wrong. The collection here just proves that html sites needn’t be static.

    0
    • 3418

      I’m grateful for the nice comment. I really tried my best to not just do a showcase of websites but to actually provide some information and value with the post.

      0
  43. 3469

    Great post on WOW factor with nice examples. Having that wow factor is very important especially for first time visitors. You only have a few seconds to not only get their attention and interest to continue browsing the rest of the site.

    0
  44. 3520

    wow some really nice websites there :) thanks for sharing
    .-= Michelle´s latest Blog Entry – iPhone Gift Ribbon =-.

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  45. 3622

    Jeez, I’m going to sound super grouchy compared to all the comments above.

    But when I see the cool slidey pop out animated flashy stuff I mentally heave a sigh. Next I mentally roll my eyes and think “cut the crap! I want info not spinning graphics.”

    In a word, it seems fluffy.

    Before you flame me, though, I should add that I really admire these sites’ usability. The organization of content, labeling, navigation, sign posts, use of color and quick-access drop down menus make these sites easy and pleasant to surf. That is harder to achieve than adding the clever bells and whistles, IMHO.

    Also, I’m not holding my firm’s site up as an example to follow. I think we lack ‘wow’ at our corporate site. But I haven’t found the right person/resource to help. There seems to be this certain sort of web designer who ‘gets it’ and other folks who are great at print design and other stuff.

    And if I’ve got a few thousand dollars for outsourcing improvements, and a day or two over the next month or so to improve performance, should it go to generating more optimized content or adding wow features?

    0
    • 3673

      Thanks for leaving a comment Rebekah. I appreciate it, and don’t worry, there’s no flaming going on here at Design Informer.

      Although I don’t agree with what you are saying, I’m still glad that you are willing to express your thoughts in the comments.

      I think a website needs a “WOW” factor on top of amazing content and a usable design. It’s just like the icing on top of the cake. :)

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  46. 3724
  47. 3826

    Mahn its just Wow!!

    Eric Johannson Rocks :D m/

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  48. 3877

    Excelent article. Loved the sites. And to contribute to the impressive rooster look at this.

    http://youlove.us/

    Scrolling background is simply WoW. Site isn’t mine I just find it really clean and beautiful.

    Regards,
    Deygmh

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    • 3928

      Thanks for sharing that site. I actually saw that site quite a long time ago and I forgot about it. If I would have remembered it, I would have probably included in on the list. Oh well, there’s always part 2.

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  49. 3979

    I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post

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  50. 4081

    wow indeed… thanks for the compilation of these beautiful sites. ;)
    .-= honour chick´s latest Blog Entry – Generating Traffic Using Social Bookmarking sites =-.

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