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Design Focus: Experiments & Visualizations

Check out these websites featuring code turned into fun, beautiful explorations—the ultimate interactive treats.

Designs of the Week

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Offpixel by Martin Pavely

Offpixel by Martin Pavely

You can draw on the webpage, and from the generated dots appears different projects the designer has worked on, all connected to one another in dynamic, 3-dimensional shapes. The more you draw, the more names and vertices get added. Hovering on each shows a pop-up circular thumbnail of the project. Another interesting thing I noticed is some projects are locked with a password.

ACTIVATION NODEPLUS Lab

ACTIVATION NODEPLUS Lab

The homepage is split horizontally into two sections and colors: experiments done in Canvas and WebGL. Inside is a grid of pixelated thumbnails of each demo, and hovering on them displays a more accurate preview. The labels are in various sizes and positions relative to the thumbnails and grids, reinforcing that theme of randomness and chaos from the experiments. The scrolling has also been replaced by a similarly abstract design element to match the design.

Code Sketch

Code Sketch

Here the thumbnails scroll horizontally from right to left, though you can also control the flow manually. A blue triangle circles the graph in the background, indicating the position through the list.

Christmas Experiments

Christmas Experiments

A digital advent calendar that reveals different experiments every day in December, with the 3D blocks of ice (?) showing crystallized thumbnails in the middle when you hover. The secondary pages like About and Artists are revealed with transitions that cover/uncover the main page in geometric portions. The latter page is a more organized way to view the calendar as well.

Numbers

Numbers

This visualizes different numerical sequences like Fibonacci, Pi, and so on. The thumbnails show patterns (or lack thereof) generated by the formulas, while the experiments delve deeper with geometric illustrations and sounds that can be controlled by different parameters.

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Web DesignWebsites of Christmas Past, Present and Future
“Traditionally, dynamic websites would execute such code on the server, and transmit a simple HTML file to the user. As far as the browser was concerned, this wasn’t much different from the first website, as the additional complexity all happened before the document was sent to the browser.”

Web TypographyState of Web Type
“Up-to-date data on support for type and typographic features on the web.”

CSSAutomating CSS Regression Testing
“It’s the type where you’re trying to test if a change you made to CSS resulted in any unexpected visual problems. This is made more difficult with responsive designs.”

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Design Focus: Light & Shadow

Mesmerizing interactions of light and shadow are on display for this week’s feature.

Designs of the Week

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Je Suis Unicq

Je Suis Unicq

Very editorial, but not static. Video plays while masked in a silhouette, while text moves, splices, and changes while overlaying brightly filtered photos.

Good Game Club

Good Game Club

A simple blocky layout with one over-the-top effect: interactive long shadows.

astronomyy.fm

astronomyy.fm

The kaleidescope animation is masked under the band name on first load, and clicking Launch loads the full view while playing the tracks—very trippy.

Thought.is

Thought.is

This one looks similar but also interacts with your mouse in 3D space. I also like the hover effect in the Updates section: a swift gradient slides behind the links, which feels like a ray of light streaming past.

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Web DesignWhat It Takes to Build a Website
“The web is important, so we need to build it right.”

CSS, TypographyTowards a more perfect link underline
“Accompanied with four text-shadows positioned to the left and right of the link text in the color of your background, you even get a nice descender clearing effect.”

Interaction DesignTop prototyping tools for interaction designers
“As with any gamut of tools, each prototyping tool has its strengths and weaknesses. I designed my own grading scale using five characteristics, on a scale of “terrible” to “awesome”.”

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Design Focus: Minty Fresh

The shades of green in this week’s feature are bright, peppy, and almost too harsh on the eyes, but it seems to be all the rage these days. How does it come into play with these designs? Let’s find out:

Designs of the Week

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Pennies for iPhone

Pennies for iPhone

Most likely inspired by the iPhone 5c’s color options, perhaps?

Bicycle Speed Shop

Bicycle Speed Shop

The background is animated in a familiar illustration style, and you can see the recurring choice to use black text and more rounded, geometric typefaces for a modern feel.

Canopy.co

Canopy.co

A similar typeface with thinner weights and a lighter touch produces this elegant, almost feathery look.

Dubbelfrisss - WTF Moet ik zeggen?

Dubbelfrisss – WTF Moet ik zeggen?

Less subtle is this color combo and retro robot motif, but still lands on that fresh look.

un Projects

un Projects

This shade almost blends into the whites and grays that bound the blocks of content. Another recent trend at play here are those rotated navigation elements on the sides.

Dollar a Day

Dollar a Day

Small logo, large intro text and button. There’s less green on this page save for the accents and calls to action.

High Tide

High Tide

Similarly, the green-tinted video background hides as you scroll down and you only see it resurface as link hover colors and other brand elements on the site.

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ProgrammingEvolving Code: From the Crust to the Core
“In the world of Object-Oriented Programming, there is a saying: “Make it work, make it small, make it fast.” This is an approach that we’re trying on for size and will hopefully create the right balance of code quality.”

TypographyOn Legibility – In Typography And Type Design
“To keep it simple, while reading, factors like grammar, word expectancy, word form and so on, are not to be excluded when we think about the reading experience.”

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Design Focus: By Hand

These websites feature prominent use of the human hand in their designs, and it’s an interesting study in paying tribute to what we really create with, while using it to convey information.

Designs of the Week

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The Mobile Index

The Mobile Index

The site is a dictionary of technology terms alphabetized, and the hand morphs into each hand sign per letter. It’s a smart connection between the mobile device and how it’s our hands that interact with it.

Studiobema

Studiobema

Bright colors with a dash of pastel gradients, navigation links in the corners, and a page-wide border. It’s a familiar look for sure, and it’s the imagery and projects that will leave an impression on you.

Mark Jaworski Studios

Mark Jaworski Studios

The page is essentially a very long poster held up by the artist. The logos could stand to be arranged more neatly, and the content typography would benefit from a bit more refinement.

Acapo

Acapo

It’s not as obvious as the other designs, but the photographs on these pages are almost always that of hands. Whether this is intentional or not, it’s a good motif.

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Design – Website Style Guide Resources
“A collaborative collection of resources for creating Front-End Style Guides and Pattern Libraries”

CSS, JavaScript – Let the Browser Handle Your UI Logic for You
“The next time you set out to build something new, look at its core behaviors and ask yourself if there is some pre-written, standardized part of the web browser that can handle some of the work for you.”

Design – Explained Visually
“An experiment in making hard ideas intuitive.”

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Design Focus: Halloween Special

Time to break out the costumes and candy ’cause it’s All Hallows Eve again. Will these websites do a good job of spooking the daylights out of you? Step inside and find out!

Designs of the Week

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The 7 Deadly Sins of Digital Marketing

The 7 Deadly Sins of Digital Marketing

This microsite is available in two forms: 2d and 3d, which is pretty cool. The effects are good and the copy is on point even with the Halloween theme. This is how interactive infographics should be done.

Halloween Party 2013

Halloween Party 2013

A simple party invite that puts kinetic typography to good use. It’s very flat and clean compared to what you’d expect out of “spooky” designs, which is a nice change.

Halloween Hub

Halloween Hub

Most sites look similar to this one, you got all the quirky fonts and figures representative of the holiday, but not as thoughtfully designed. The more fonts and colors you throw onto a page, the more chaotic and less accessible it feels, but this knows how to tread carefully and have fun.

Drop That Candy

Drop That Candy

This mobile app game about candy put on a slightly darker look for the occasion and put typica Halloween treats front end center, but still has that light personality. Unfortunately the inner pages feel disconnected to the homepage.

The Washed Up Dead

The Washed Up Dead

Besides the funky, zombified illustrations, I like that there’s a blur effect on the modal background when it shows up. I think one nice takeaway from this design is to embrace not just orange, but also the yellows, purples, and greens for Halloween. The typefaces are classic and not particularly eerie, but it’s the illustrations that bring the look and feel home.

Legal Horror Stories

Legal Horror Stories

Not exactly the most brilliant design out there, but it’s fun and campy enough.

Halloween Horror Nights - Universal Studios Orlando

Halloween Horror Nights – Universal Studios Orlando

There’s a disconnect between the theme park logo and the rest of the fonts used on the site, but if you don’t think about that bit too much the pages are actually neatly executed – calendars, packages, social icons and all. Plus, the animated horror attractions in the slider are an excellent feature.

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Design, Business – Halloween’s 13 Scariest Clients
“Halloween is time for the undead to rise up and bombard us with woeful website requests. Fortunately, we can recognize the warning signs and exorcise the demons!”

Design – Monsters and Thieves
“Amateurs tend to be poor at imitation. When they see an idea, they clone the whole thing and offer it as their own work. The pro knows to chop these things into pieces and find new uses for them.”

 

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Design Focus: Shapely

Here’s a collection of website designs that display excellent use of shapes to style and present content, ranging from the quirky to the stunning.

Designs of the Week

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This Is Now

This Is Now

The mix of drawn portraits, bright colors, and shapes is a very interesting combination (parallaxed, of course), although in some places the text (which are all italics) is difficult to read on top of all of that.

Reform

Reform

This color-changing site is dedicated to the very same topic of exploring shapes. No text except for the about modal and tooltips.

TTMM

TTMM

Like the previous site, it’s an array of icons which happen to be features in the product. Clicking on each reveals an animated verison on the watch and the description in the opposite column, hiding the icons found in that location. The concept seems so simple for a site design, but perhaps the best way too.

Nat-Ant

Nat-Ant

This design shows scattered icons which look to be deconstructed logos of the companies they represent (and similar icons for those who use wordmarks) and has a lot of subtle animation effects, moving both text and icons as you hover and scroll.

Letters, Inc.

Letters, Inc.

Love the intricacy of these patterns, which also connect to other designs as you scroll down and they draw themselves along the way.

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User ExperienceUX Thought of the Day
“Five UX thoughts a week to inspire you to do something differently in your design work.”

Design – Stop asking design candidates to redesign your product. It’s unfair and (even worse) it’s ineffective.
“You’re not hiring a designer who goes off into a corner to magically create perfect solutions like she can read your mind. You are hiring someone who can work with a team to identify the right problems, create the best solutions, and test the real-world effectiveness of those choices.”

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Design Focus: Rotated Side Text

Another text-y trend this week: these ones appear on the edges of the page, either as navigation markers, or links to menus & subsections, all oriented perpendicularly. Is this an alternative to the hamburger menu in tucking away off-canvas navigation, a smart way in highliting important site features, or a cumbersome way of displaying text?

Designs of the Week

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Rogue Society

Rogue Society

Besides the text, you’ll see familiar elements like a centered logo and several graphics floating over others, while sliding in at a delayed pace. Vintage photos and illustrations are scattered all over the site, not to mention certain key words in bold.

Zack Sears

Zack Sears

Black, white, and bright green and blue. As you scroll down, the text on the left switches to describe the section of the page, whether it’s a project or contact info. Hover on and it reveals the next few links you can skip to—take note that it doesn’t show the whole menu, just the ones you haven’t scrolled to yet.

Weightshift

Weightshift

A relatively unusual color combination for this section, as the other top-level pages use neutral grays and creams. Each page also carries a slightly different layout to fulfill the functions the section needs, and that all happens with almost zero imagery. On the work page, you’ll find them as masked textures on the case study titles.

Make

Make

The scribblings in the center actually move according to your cursor movements, also in layers, while the rotated words on the side lead you to the rest of the site. Also another site that does not shy away from the purest shade of #0000FF.

Hunt & Co.

Hunt & Co.

On this site the sideways text span the entire height of the page and the whole area is clickable. To the left is the site menu, while the right side shows selected works. It’s only when you select a link from either side that the middle area gets filled, and it’s another approach to layout minimalism.

Faculty Department

Faculty Department

Accessibility-wise, I’m uncomfortable with the controlled scrolling (when the info section is revealed, you’ll still be scrolling the main content unless you use the scrollbar), the thin lines, the tiny text, but browsing this site feels like reading an elegant little book.

McColl Center for Art

McColl Center for Art

Lots of clever things here: that M-shaped image continuing the main photo actually displays the institution’s logo when you hover, how the lower content scrolls over the header and footer, even the way the event headings on the sidebar are designed, with specially-designed icons for their “spheres of influence”.

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Design – 13 Ways Designers Screw Up Client Presentations
“…and one weird trick you won’t believe works every time.”

CSS – Getting Started With CSS Audits 
“With these tools, you’ll be better prepared to clean up your CSS, optimize your site, and make the entire experience better for users.”

Typography – On Web Typography: Smart Quotes
“Punctuation is a system. That’s why proper quotation marks and apostrophes look like they’re part of the same family as commas, periods, colons, semicolons, and more, whereas straight quotes don’t.”

User Interface Design – The laws of shitty dashboards
“Hopefully, these anti-patterns can help PMs, designers and engineers reduce a bit the amount of time wasted building and looking at shitty dashboards.”

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Design Focus: Fill in the Blank

This design pattern also happens to live on the copywriting aspect of the website: a tagline that flashes different words or phrases, often to describe the target audience of their product or subject. You’ll see how each site chose to swap, highlight, or animate the letters into view. It’s another way to make the site more dynamic, and possibly even intriguing.

Designs of the Week

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Pixelapse

Pixelapse

A few combinations at work here: serifs & sans serifs, photographic backgrounds & “flat” vector artwork, static images & animated ones. I like to think it’s a mix between traditional and real-world concepts working together with the digital and modern flows & concepts.

Microcosm

Microcosm

I quite like the illustrated faces greeting you on the homepage, particularly with quirky, striking expressions that stand out. I think the features page could have focused on a screenshot-tour first before busting out that massive comparison table.

100 Years of Design

100 Years of Design

Very interesting to have the iconic art and design pieces flashing in part over the web page. The navigation goes sideways for the main sections, then downwards for its subpages. Don’t be fooled by the grays on the home screen – this site is not afraid to use bold, bright colors even with the text.

One Iota

One Iota

Newcomers get this “puzzle” screen (which has several variations) that expects you to drag the letters into the correct blanks to spell out their name. In a way this site also starts out as a screen with a massive logo first. Inside the color scheme changes to match each item in the portfolio, and the images are a mix of shapes derived from the graphic design used in the project, framed shots of that put the project in context, and standalone objects that “float” outside those photos. Feels playful and even a touch retro.

Sketch

Sketch

At the top you’ll find beautiful, detailed application icon design that Mac apps are typically known for, while the rest of the icons are simpler.

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CSSNaming CSS Stuff Is Really Hard
“Class names within a given category tend to share maintainability characteristics. If we make naming decisions with these categories in mind, we can make smarter decisions about what we’re calling things–decisions that will make our CSS more resilient to change.”

DesignJunior Designers vs. Senior Designers
“I like words a lot. But sometimes a few sketches communicate a point more simply and memorably.”

Email DesignEmail Design Workflow
“I’m not trying to achieve pixel perfect mockups. Emails never look the same across all clients, so I’m not going to waste time on pixel perfection.”

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Design Focus: Halftone

Adding a halftone graphic filter to images can quickly take your audience to that vintage, nostalgic place, and these websites use it for a couple different reasons.

Designs of the Week

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An Idea Lives On

An Idea Lives On

Elegant for sure, but I also like how the design feels light. What I don’t like, however, is the fact that after this tribute site had gone past its schedule, the inside links have gone broken and they just redirect to the main homepage of the JFK Library.

Agência Cleek

Agência Cleek

There’s a recurring theme here of industrial/revolutionary elements and stars, set in a very bold, graphic tone. As you scroll down the top navigation hides, except for the bottom part of the cog that reads “design”, which sways just enough to let you know it’s there.

Zises Strategic Communications

Zises Strategic Communications

I like this company’s take on the common slider/carousel element: free advice on communication strategies, which is their specialty. You get a taste of their services right upfront, which is very smart, and they’re styled in a peppy way to break from the usual corporate fare. I would have loved to see more of those illustrations elsewhere though.

Bright Bulb Studio

Bright Bulb Studio

The header is quite fun, but wait till you get to the contact form. I like the combination of these blocky fonts and just a touch of handwriting.

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CSSCommon practices do not necessarily mean best practices
“Be critical of everything. Do your homework. Think outside the box. Think for yourself.”

HTML, CSS, JavaScriptMedium’s CSS is actually pretty f***ing good.
“As we continue to grow our story pages and push them to the next level, you can imagine how getting accurate, reliable measuring tools around layout and rendering performance is incredibly important… and kinda just sad that we don’t already have in 2014.”

Typography, Webfonts, OptimizationMinimising font downloads
“When it works, this is a great feature, especially for sites that handle a variety of locales, sites that allow users can submit their own content, or even just for downloading that fancy-ampersand font only when it’s needed.”

DesignMichael Bierut On (Design) Bullshit
“In discussing design work with their clients, designers are direct about the functional parts of their solutions and obfuscate like mad about the intuitive parts, having learned early on that telling the simple truth — “I don’t know, I just like it that way” — simply won’t do.”

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Design Focus: Logo First

If the previous featured designs were practically wordless and filled with imagery, this week it’s all about the branding and their huge wordmarks splashed on the first screenful on their websites, above the fold. Is this web design trend more effective than the other one?

Designs of the Week

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H.L. James

H.L. James

The triangular area is made up of several video clips, and as you scroll below the shape is retained to frame the images defining each section.

Cyclemon

Cyclemon

Love the different pastel palettes and background illustrations (save for the “night rider” one) as they are uncovered slide by slide.

Present Plus

Present Plus

Interestingly, no navigation until you reach the footer. Also, the first screen is left-aligned while the rest is more center-oriented.

Nation

Nation

The logos just keep getting bigger. I think they’re going for a flag feel here? It’s cute how the arrow pointing right suddenly curves down when you hover. This one’s layout is also very centered, and every screen is made up of a photographic background, a short description in a monospace font, and an outlined button.

trois oiseaux

trois oiseaux

Another site that has the contact information sliding from the top, and that green is nowhere to be found after you scroll down.

Rotateº

Rotateº

There’s that monospace font again, but when you click on the “i”, the black box becomes a cube and “rotates” to the left, revealing a description on serifs. That’s all there is to the site, but I quite like it.

Promethean IT

Promethean IT

I’m digging this vertical navigation trend as well, not to mention the use of those gradients. Inside there are irregular polygons to accentuate the content. The white text and thin font weight might be hard to handle for some though.

Aquatilis Expedition

Aquatilis Expedition

Effective mood-setter, and I like the stylized button below. I also really like that the sea creatures are bright and colorful against the dark background that almost looks like outerspace instead of undersea. Also, the use of more aquatic textures in the Squad section, I really like.

Cultivated Wit

Cultivated Wit

Love the little wink that the owl gives. There’s also some lovely subtle texture going on in the logo. Below the text uses much more delicate weights and colors, with “witty” easter eggs here and there.

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Mobile Web Design, CSSMobile-first CSS
“You should use that to target the smallest devices with your default styles and override from there as your content demands it.”

JavaScriptA JavaScript Build System Shootout: Grunt vs. Gulp vs. NPM
“Deciding on a technology is always hard. You don’t want to make commitments you won’t be able to back out of, but eventually you’ll have to make a choice and go for something that does what you need it to do.”

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Design Focus: Let the Art Speak

It’s common these days to use big, bright images for the top section of your site, but there’s a growing sub-trend where there’s little to no text accompanying it. As if to let the art speak for itself, and for you to bask in its distraction-free glory.

Designs of the Week

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brigsdigital

brigsdigital

There are things in here that I find less than polished but I like the emphasis given to the portfolio images.

United Visual Artists

United Visual Artists

There’s actually some navigation links in the top middle, but you can barely make them out because they fade into most of the slideshow’s photographs. What’s curious is they didn’t choose to add the name of the site/collective in that same area. For the inner pages they adapat another portfolio trend of images arranged asymmetrically, while text and descriptions appear beside the mouse cursor when you hover – which is a very “retro web” design pattern for those who caught it in its original incarnation of custom cursors.

Maddison Graphic

Maddison Graphic

The whole screen is there for you to click on and view details about the work. Inside, you get a dark gray, centered content block with few words describing it, then you scroll down and go back immersed with more pictures.

Perturbator

Perturbator

The “art” on this site is technically the music, but there are some cool stuff going on with the thin, 3d wires and the background, designed to bring the spirit of the record to life. Then the bottom navigation links flicker with an interesting texture, like a textured, neon stream of light. The color scheme and gradients carry over to the other pieces of art inside and the contact form.

Humoristas

Humoristas

There’s that bordered look again, as well as a split layout/animation going on for individual pages. And I’m sure most of you are familiar with this blue and red treatment on a portrait. I find the controlled scrolling a bit unwieldly but one nice feature here is being able to download the faces as SVG vector files—what a cool tribute.

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Design, BrandingGeneric and overused logos (avoid them!)
“Because of their overused logotypes the company is not able to establish their brand in the marketplace. In this way they’re going straight in the opposite direction than to distinguish themselves from others (which is the whole point of having a logo).”

Responsive Web Design, OptimizationHow we make RWD sites load fast as heck
“I’ve reaffirmed my belief that we don’t need to compromise the well-known benefits of a responsive layout in order to make our sites load as fast as heck.”

CSSCSS Triggers
“I figure we needed a definitive reference for what work is triggered by changing various CSS properties.”

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Design Focus: Type Guides

Here’s a resource roundup to sharpen your typography skills. This week we’re looking at sites that curate beautiful applications of webfonts, so get inspired!

Designs of the Week

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Free Faces

Free Faces

My favorite of the bunch — the designer’s own application of the glyphs as featured “posters” is just lovely. On the homepage they make one tall abstract painting.

Typewolf

Typewolf

Pastels seem to abound not only in the base design but the featured ones. Content is set in a utilitarian narrow sans-serif and monospace fonts, and one nice feature here is documenting where you can get your own copy of the fonts. Further below there are top 10 lists for different typeface categories.

Just My Type

Just My Type

With muted, organic colors and zero images, this site is all about the fonts from headlines, to paragraphs, to to footnotes.

Fonts In Use

Fonts In Use

This archive covers not just sites but printed material as well, and you can view inline the names of the fonts used, also typeset for demo purposes. Since this is a more comprehensive compendium, the advanced search and view options come in handy.

Typ.io

Typ.io

I like that the samples or screenshots here are much larger than the rest. The look feels less “designy” than the others as it adapts the traditional blog format, and it works nicely.

Beautiful Web Type

Beautiful Web Type

I love the diverse text samples for each typeface: big quotes, small quotes, multi-column passages, or graphic posters, you can see that they are all inspired by the fonts being used. No meta information needed either: all the words link directly to their respective Google Fonts page.

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CSS, JavaScriptPixels are expensive
“How pixels get onto your users’ screens is something you should know about. Not for the sake of knowing, but because in order to be effective as a modern web developer you’re going to need to optimize for it.”

Design, User ExperienceDesign is the Experience
“Visual design is just as important as Information design, Interaction design, Strategy, Prototyping, Content design, etc. They’re all tools that enable good design. Parts of the process.”