10 awesome agency websites

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I've been looking at a lot of agency websites recently, as the company that I work for ramps up for a redesign of its own. What I discovered is that many of these sites struggle at delivering a clear and straightforward user experience. That's surprising when you see the quality of the work that these agencies provide to their clients. However, contradictions like this are easy to explain.

Imagine an agency redesign project kick-off. A team of subject matter experts is assembled, and together they begin a journey through creative collaboration. With such a talented group, there is no shortage of great ideas. Things run smoothly until it's time to narrow down the possibilities and achieve group consensus. Client workload stacks up, and the schedule starts slipping. Pressure builds and the redesign team begins an intense debate around features and functionality. In the end, everybody gets to walk away with a little something.

The unfortunate result of design by committee is an agency website that makes it difficult to accomplish simple tasks and fails to address user needs. Smart agencies choose a different approach. They embrace user-centered design and have websites that achieve a balance of usability, emotion, and aesthetic. User experiences like these look and feel like the ones presented below. Here are 10 of the best agency websites out there today.

1. Publicis & Hal Riney

This may seem like an unusual way to start, but I was inspired recently after reading an iMedia article featuring Kristi VandenBosch, who is the CEO at Publicis Groupe's Publicis & Hal Riney. Shortly after joining the company, Kristi recognized the agency's website was failing its users, so she decided to take it down -- most of it, anyway. If you look at the site today, all that remains is a single page with contact information and a succinct description of what Hal Riney does. What's great is that Kristi prioritized user experience over novel features and functionality. It's a surprisingly bold yet simple interim solution as the full site redesign gets underway.

Tip: When in doubt, cut content, features, and functionality out. 

2. R/GA

R/GA's website touts a user interface that is simple, clean, and elegant. I like that it scales to fit the width of a browser window, graphics and all. That's a nice way to take advantage of a wide canvas. Work samples on the site are large and presented in demo reel format. These probably aren't the easiest things to update, but I'm sure that R/GA's in-house video production studio helps.

What I like most about R/GA is that the agency has a mobile site at m.rga.com.  No, it's not a fancy app. It's simply a WAP site that provides company contact information, sample projects, service descriptions, and more. Many agencies promote mobile capabilities but don't offer a mobile site of their own.

Tip: Be present when and where people are looking for you.

3. Boone Oakley

Boone Oakley stepped out of the box by going with a YouTube video for the agency website. It's such an unexpected experience that brief instructions are required to let visitors know what to do when they arrive (note "brief"). Functionality is limited, but all key agency information is provided, including a client list, portfolio, and contact information.

 

I can't think of a much better channel to publish broadcast television work samples in full 720p HD glory. A plethora of viewer comments bring to life what could otherwise be a static experience. Boone Oakley's site conveys a message of originality and boldness, and for that reason, I put it on my top 10 list.

Tip: Go off domain to validate your message.

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Comments

E''lona Moore
E''lona Moore December 23, 2010 at 3:29 PM

I like the websites mentioned. It's amazing how people have very different tastes. Just because one may not like the websites mentioned, doesn't mean they are junk. I for one appreciate the diversity and creativity from the sites. My personal favorites are Publicis & Hal Riney, Red Interactive Agency, and Organic.

I've seen plenty of agency websites, as I'm sure you have, and many of them are too simple, overloaded, or old looking. Thanks for the great post and inspiration!

Keith Magee
Keith Magee April 9, 2010 at 1:49 PM

All are quite interesting... as a large search engine company, we deal with a ton of SEO firms and Website owners asking us for advice... we always tell them three things:

1) Easy enough for my granny to navigate
2) Nothing that eats us so much bandwidth that I leave before it loads
3) Keep it fresh - whether is is RSS feeds, photos, commentary, blogs -whatever... make sure you give people a reason to come back again and again.

Keith Magee
www.nexplore.com
The Visual Search Engine

Keith Thomas
Keith Thomas April 8, 2010 at 1:59 PM

Some new 100 year old ideas still work.
Beermats or if you prefer Beer Coasters are the original social media.
Beermatman

Drew McLue
Drew McLue April 8, 2010 at 12:40 PM

For a small agency, Poplair Digital marketing have a pretty funky site: www.poplair.com

Michael Hubbard
Michael Hubbard April 8, 2010 at 8:19 AM

Not that I'm disagreeing with any of your assessments, but I tend to not give a lot of credibility to articles that self-promote themselves... Maybe next time, say you think your site is the best, but here's 10 others that are worthy of your praise :)

Mehmet Subasi
Mehmet Subasi April 8, 2010 at 7:40 AM

I am seeing more and more interim solutions as Publicis & Hal Riney site in the advertising sector, including our own Vodaco site. The fact behind this trend is that our sector and services are changing at the speed of light and it is really not feasible to provide our users with an up to date and inclusive site.