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Digital creativity: the web’s your oyster

18 September 2012

Marketing and design teams are constantly coming up with innovative ways to express ideas and information. The good news is that, given an open mind and the right developer, new technologies mean the scope for online creativity has massively expanded in the last two years.

It’s just as well because as users we’re expecting a lot from our website experiences. With frequent exposure to functionality-rich smartphones and tablets, we’re being conditioned to expect the same excitement and interactivity online as we experience with apps. Happily, web technology is now catching up.

There are countless examples of entertaining and inspiring web experiences out there. I’ve picked out a few favourites. To enjoy the impact of any of these you’ll need to be reading this in a modern browser compatible with HTML5 (the latest version of the ‘language’ of websites, which is particularly good for interactivity such as games and applications) and CSS3 (the means by which the objects on the page are styled – this newest version opens up a lot more opportunities for web designers). Both of these are emerging technologies and web browsers are constantly trying to keep up with the latest releases. You’re best off using the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox or Safari, or Internet Explorer 9.

Chances are you might have played with this very simple interactive cartoon already. It’s a brilliant example of a simple idea developed to great effect using HTML5, which lets you draw the central character before the game animates it. The result is a deeply satisfying user-centric cartoon which went viral on Twitter and Facebook last summer.

For every second that passes, an hour of film is uploaded to YouTube. The video-sharing site recently released this animation showing a variety of illustrations of how this impossibly huge figure could be quantified. It’s a pleasing thing to watch, and it’s also an animation entirely generated with CSS3, so no flash, movie files or animated gifs here. This is particularly significant with the rise of iPads that don’t currently have the capability to play flash items. Tip: it’s worth turning your speakers on for this one.

This is a very pretty implementation of a simple idea. There are 16.7million possible colour iterations which your monitor can handle, and Unicef is encouraging you to ‘buy’ one and name it, with the proceeds going to charity. The lovely triangular response to your mouse moving around the page is HTML5 in action – it’s deceptively simple, but wouldn’t have been possible two years ago.

At the moment the real power of HTML5 is for online games. There’s some way to go before fully interactive behaviour on websites matches the power of apps, but games offer more leeway for playfulness and development. Microsoft developed Cut The Rope to show off Internet Explorer 9’s capabilities, but it’s a magic game in its own right and has been a huge hit. It’s recognised as the most ambitious HTML5 game to date, and shows the kind of smooth and engaging user-experience we should all be aiming for.

It’s an exciting time at the moment: creativity is being paired with technology which lets us make more experiential and visually attractive websites, games and apps. The latest web developments do require a certain level of investment, but they also offer a real opportunity to put your users firmly at the heart of every online experience and, ultimately, create more successful campaigns.