The FWA Review is an ongoing series of articles providing a snapshot of each year at FWA and occasional specials focusing on certain styles and categories. These articles will be highlighting the main focus of the FWA project… websites who use cutting edge technology, together with inspirational ideas, that lead the way for future generations.

The FWA Review will act as a history of cutting edge web design and a reminder of those future-thinking sites, companies and individuals who have paved the way so far.

This first article in the series takes a look back at the first year of FWA, the year 2000…

Highlighting cutting edge

Full Throttle [http://www.davidgarystudios.com/v1/]

The year is 2000 and the month is June and FWA awards its very first site. Full Throttle from David Gary Studios (DGS). Unbelievably, Full Throttle was first designed and developed in April 1999, using Flash 3. It was way ahead of its time and quickly gained acclaim throughout the industry. Web surfers had never witnessed anything like the experience that was before them.

Did Tim Berners-Lee ever visualise the likes of the Full Throttle website when he made his program, WorldWideWeb available to the Internet on 17th May 1991?

So, Full Throttle was one of the pioneering sites that certainly set the stage for FWA. Straight off the bat the splash screen left the user in no doubt of the site ahead, with perfectly executed chrome graphics, 360* rotating orb and, the crucial ingredient… sound FX.

Now, you need to remember that a 56k modem was a fast connection at this time (most people were using 33.6k modems) and to overcome the whispers of people waiting too long for the “new wave” of sites to load, DGS innovated once again, this time with a customised game of Pong for users to play while the site loaded… genius.

The problem with the Pong loading game was that first time users were so in awe of what they could see already happening on their screens, with the chrome graphics and loading status, new to most surfers, that they didn’t even notice, yet even play the game until their second visit!

The site loaded and built perfectly, with a chrome interface boasting a complete exhaust system that blows out super-realistic flames and smoke. The atmosphere was set through wind noise, barking dogs and the sound of a revving Harley… the Full Throttle experience had arrived and so had the future of the web.

Peter Grafik – The Dubonnet Retro Experience [http://www.petergrafik.dk/dubonet_retro_experience/]

Denmark’s Peter Holm, now the Creative Director and Co-Founder of Titoonic, originally launched his portfolio/playground site in 1998 and version 2, known as The Dubonnet Retro Experience, entered FWA in 2000. The site was built with Flash 3 and 3D Studio R4 (3D Studio Max) and showed the true power of Flash for its time by being a 100% scaleable vector site. Web users had not experienced scaleable sites of this type before, making them wonder how, when they re-sized their browsers, the site looked exactly the same.

It was also very interesting how a site with a retro theme could be so progressive in its design and functionality. The site was fast to load, due to the use of vector graphics, had a very original navigation known as the “shuffling card effect”, complimentary sound FX and a very bouncy and fun approach. All in all, it was a true breath of fresh air.

Peter Holm was also one of the first to offer a lot of his source files for free download. He, along with others and new resource sites which were gaining huge amounts of interest, like Flash Kit, Flash Planet, Flash Wave, Flash Zone, Ultrashock and Were Here, by providing open source Flash files for free download, were instrumental in the rapid rise and near epidemic of people producing this new wave of websites.

KMGI Studios [http://www.kmgi.com/]

Whilst the current version of the KMGI website is not exactly the same as the awarded version from 2000, it still represents the original style and general look and feel. This was another site, which used Flash for its excellent vector production and boasted possibly the best Flash intro seen in its day (unfortunately no longer online), with exceptional animation and sound.

Sound was the key to the KMGI website, with voice integration giving this site a personality like no other. Had a website ever spoken to you before? No… but they did now.

Beckett Mediendesign [http://www.beckett.de/]

We were beginning to realise how many web design studios were quickly turning their attention to Flash and producing full-flash sites for their own web presences. From Germany, Beckett Mediendesign, driven forward by the talented James Beckett, launched their very original website (incidentally, one that still sports one of the earliest FWA award graphics).

This site was jam packed with thrills and spills, amazing animations and motion and four different themes, seamlessly worked together. The addition of sound FX, again, took this site and others to levels not seen or, more importantly, heard before.

Look and Feel [http://www.lookandfeel.com/]

Look and Feel New Media, the eventual winner of FWA Site Of The Year 2000, was one of the first websites to show a new and still rare trait for the web, that of personality. They pulled this off through using two cute matchstick characters known as Luke and Phil and an unforgettable intro, which also had a great, unforgettable and catchy soundtrack.

As Luke and Phil moved around the screen, getting themselves in to all sorts of mischief, the site demonstrated its unique gravity menus that dropped down and gave Luke (or was that Phil?), a headache.

What was particularly impressive about the site’s intro was that you didn’t have to watch it or choose to skip it, it just ran with the site and as soon as you navigated to new areas, Luke and Phil would make further appearances and performances.

Luke and Phil were not just an additional piece of fluff added because they could be; they were an integral part of this company’s web presence and personality. A lot of new websites were adding new elements just because they could, many of them pointless but these characters were unforgettable, an intelligent piece of marketing and one that would make lookandfeel.com stand out from its competitors.

Another noteworthy aspect of this SOTY winner was the colour-changing interface. Did this enhance the experience? Probably not but it was original and this made it attention grabbing and, with so many new multimedia style websites flooding the web at this time, attention was not easy to grab.

The lookandfeel website pretty much cleared up in 2000 on the National and International award scene and was probably instrumental in this company’s ongoing success and ability to land high profile clients.

Big footprint

The year 2000 left a big footprint on the web, with giant leaps being made from the days when websites were dull looking and the only colour came from blue hypertext links that turned purple when visited.

So, that wraps up the first year for FWA and a successful one at that, highlighting some truly awe-inspiring cutting edge websites from over 1100 submissions.

About the author, Rob Ford
Founder & Principal, FWA

Robert J. Ford is FWA’s Principal. Born and bred in England with a background in finance, sales and project management, working for companies like Halifax PLC and American Express. He has been focused on cutting edge web design and development since 1997 and oversees the day to day running of the FWA project.

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