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Agencies – too busy working on other people's digital products to actually sort out their own websites.
However, there are plenty of good agency sites out there. And I've selected 10 of them.
Most are from Econsultancy's Top 100 Agencies 2016 report, which has a UK flavour, but not all of them feature there. Am I an expert? Not really, but I've shown my workings below...
1. Made by Many
Made by Many has an incredibly charming website. The delightfully naive, Shrigley-esque logo is echoed in much of the typography, and high quality illustrations help to give a warm and integrity-laden feel.
Here are some of my favourite bits...
A blog with lovely illustrations of each author.
Big and convincing testimonials, including photos of the client in question.
A little side menu in the header, containing categories, side projects and events, each of which are beautifully represented. The side projects contain some ingenious little endeavours, such as a solution to let the agency's studio dwellers know when the toilet is vacant.
The events page is worthy of framing.
A newsletter sign-up. Not all that common to see one of these so prominent on an agency website, but definitely a good idea, to ensnare those that might be considering enlisting a new agency.
2. Stink Studios
The Stink Studios website exudes the same kind of cool you get from those infrequently-published fashion magazines you see in the newsagents with titles such as 'The Gentlewoman' or 'sum zine'.
There's a confidence in the typography, white space above the fold, and lack of showing off with any scrolling trickery. It looks just as cool on mobile, too. The Stink group used to consist of Stink Films, Stinkdigital and Stinkstudios but at the beginning of this year, the latter two were fused together.
It feels significant that the word 'digital' has disappeared. On the website itself, you aren't bombarded with digital guff, rather the work speaks for itself, and happens to include digital assets.
I should probably pick out a few UX/design details I noticed and liked.
Scroll down quickly on the News or Work or Contact pages and watch how nicely the images perform their lazy load. Lovely squares in graduated pastel patiently wait for their images to overlay, meaning the page looks cool whether the images have loaded or not.
There's a quirky little fact rotator on the careers page.
Scrolling down any page, you can move your mouse to the left margin and the header menu will appear down the left-hand side, so you can navigate without needing to scroll back to the top.
I was occasionally a little disoriented when clicking around LBi's new website. But, heck, it was fun. And eventually you realise it's all there in the header menu.
There is no real way to do the website justice, other than telling you to explore it, so I have simply collected a variety of intriguing screenshots. It is bold, colourful and feels unique.
Inspired by Virgin America?
Look out for the yearbook (shown below), where DigitasLBi produces a little vignette every single day to show off a member of staff or a piece of work.
There's some very creative video of staff, too, capturing their hobbies.
And a great 404
4. Sagmeister & Walsh
If you're a client of Sagmeister & Walsh, you can simply visit the agency's homepage to check whether the staff are working hard or not. Yes, the homepage is live video from the agency's offices.
The website, with plenty of black and white, and 'plain text' font appears basic at first glance – just look at the 'services' and 'clients' sections on the 'about' page below.
However, the agency, which has heritage in print and identity design, is fairly obviously just projecting its ridiculously confident personality.
In the 'News' and 'Work' sections of the site, colour finally reigns. One of the nice bits of UX when you're navigating the site is a chunky 'x' for a cursor, and all-in-all you do get the feel of a luxury brand (indeed, the agency has worked with many luxury clients).
Clicking through to individual case studies, the imagery is really nicely presented, and the way it fills the page makes it seem as if you are flicking through a coffee table book.
The design is left to speak for itself, with little accompanying text unless you click to see project info.
Another agency that has redesigned its website in 2017, Clearleft is my favourite on this list. As you'd expect from an agency with its roots in usability, the website is just beautifully easy to navigate and its information easy to absorb.
And it doesn't stop at the typography and the layout, the case studies are impressively extensive, the people profiles informative (and not cutesy) and the blog articles very measured and insightful (showing passion, too).
6. Hugo & Cat
There are a number of websites I have selected because of their sheer simplicity of message.
Hugo & Cat employs simple and powerful copywriting with great contrast between typography, illustration and background. Examples of copywriting:
- 'We transform relationships between brands and people'
- 'Going beyond delivery'
- 'Calling a new generation'
- 'Turning fun into fans'
- 'Collaboration that creates powerful results'
The most striking part of the design is on the individual client work pages.
Though they all use the same templates – with clearly presented copy and images, and detail on the type of work and what awards it has won – each page uses a different colour scheme, and this brings a really strong visual thread through the agency's work.
Various case study headers
Netherland-based Bolden has a homepage that looks slightly confused (if cool) until you scroll over either the blue or red filter in either corner (see further below).
The blue translucent style font is used throughout and is very effective.
Bolden is one of the only websites on this list that uses black and white imagery on its case studies page. The stylised images really help to intrigue the user, with a title showing on rollover with the mouse.
And lastly, Bolden lays claim to the coolest 'about' page of the lot, beginning with a simple list of names of each member of staff. Again in that icey translucent blue.
Code (formerly Code Computerlove) is another agency with big colours and chunky typography. Beginning as a minimal viable product, this website is consequently very easy to navigate and does the job you feel a website for any smallish independent agency should do.
The 'work' pages positively zing in client brand colours with a big hero logo and a question that sums up the brief.
The word that best describes Rawnet's website is 'memorable'.
Ultra bold colours and typography, and full-screen imagery along with a far-from-conventional sideways scroll on desktop (for many pages, barring individual case studies), means this is an agency website you're unlikely to see copied by its competition.
The sideways scrolling is certainly interesting, but arguably a little confusing, especially as on a few pages my trackpad seemed happier when I motioned to scroll down (which took the page sideways). Those potential customers who don't like experimentation, may be put off - no bad thing, perhaps.
Case studies (sideways scroll)
Hero illustration for a case study page
Last on the list is Belgium's dogstudio. I have to admit that the only reason I added it here is because I love the way that the work is presented on the homepage – click and you're taken to the client's actual website (designed by dogstudio), rather than to a long case study page.
I love this idea (and that it opens in a new tab) because it encourages engagement with their work, and cuts down on marketing spiel.
There's some slightly more off-the-wall imagery and copy, too.
And a very creative contact page. I have only captured one example in the GIF below, but the message here cycles at least 20 times, containing some strange, perhaps even inappropriate sentences ("If you like hitting on grandmas..").
And on that note, we come to the end of our list.
Agree? Disagree? What makes a great agency website - let us know below.