Simple and Stunning: 10 Website Designs that Inspire

February 11th, 2008 in Design Inspiration

by: Matthew Griffin

Most of the time, the aim of a website design is to present information in a concise format, both simple and pleasing. But a perfect balance of simple and pleasing can sometimes be difficult to achieve. It's not always clear exactly where to start. In moments of waning creativity, I find that a little inspiration can give me the surge I need to get over the initial hump. Over the past few months I've been collecting examples of websites with inspiring simplicity and dead-on application of style to content. I narrowed down the list to ten designs which have been added to a where they will be joined by subsequent examples in the coming months. In this article, these first ten designs are pictured and discussed.

The Morning News

Building layouts and styles that adapt well to constantly changing content is the most difficult task we face in website layout design. The Morning News is a site that evoked a jaw-hanging moment the first time I visited it. It's use of white-space and typography is close to perfect. And its style, reminiscent of a traditional printed newspaper, is applied flawlessly. As I returned periodically, I was even more impressed by the ability of the design to maintain its essence in the face of constantly changing content. The persistent photo in the center of the page sets a daily mood for the site and seems to contrasts nicely with the black logo regardless of its color palette.

Mark Boulton Design

Another study in absolute simplicity, Mark Boulton's website takes an approach that is purely  typographical.  He only strays from this rule to add horizontal breaks between content and to add screenshots of his portfolio designs. It's inspiring to see how much can be done with so little.

Vision Forum Ministries

The Vision Forum site is a great example of well-placed style. The contrast of color saturated photo content on faded parchment  is a wonderful representation of classical ideals mixed with emphasis on the work of the here-and-now.

Business Paper employs the quintessential web 2.0 style. The simplicity of the layout is the perfect match for the forward-thinking company. It's obvious that the purpose of this homepage is to illicit a response from the visitor and the solution is executed well. A highly visible statement of purpose and pervasive use of icons and buttons make the site easy and enjoyable to navigate.


A two-column blog site by Aaron Mentele, Charisma18 successfully combines a muted ornate vibe with utter simplicity. The logo is especially striking as the only element on the page with a dark background—a difficult stunt to pull off.

Duck Farm

One of two dark designs I chose for the list, Duck Farm is a website offering free desktop backgrounds and icon downloads. Navigation is a breeze on Duck Farm. Icons appear to be glowing against the dark gray background making it easy to find important links immediately. The neon wedge thrusting down from out of the page makes the whole site feel like zoomed-in view of something much larger.


The second of the dark designs on the list, monoroot provides a borderless layout that's the very definition of simple and stunning. The light-colored text is easily read against the dark background and, of course, the rainbow burst coming from the left side of the screen stands out as its defining feature. Special thanks to Vandelay Website Design for turning me onto this amazing site.

Mint Idea

Mint Idea takes us back to the web 2.0 style that applied so well. Like Business-Paper, Mint's highly visible and concise mission statement keeps visitors from thinking too hard about what they are looking at. Portfolio screen shots appear on the homepage, just above the fold, essentially rounding out the summarizing homepage.


Toggle offers a high-contrast design with understated background illustrations and gradients. We are definitely starting to see a pattern with the short and sweet homepage mission statement—Toggle joins in on the fun.


Rounding out the list is the odd site Oranges. Another Vandelay pick, Oranges is the only truly three-column layout on the list. The mathematical balance of content and whitespace in this design is stunning. I was immediately struck by its well-controlled use of emphatic red.



Posted By: Andy Murdoch on 02/11/08

I'm not usually convinced by dark layouts - too many people have old or poorly set up monitors. That said, both DuckFarm and Monoroot are stunning. Everyone should go to the Monoroot homepage and scroll down.

Posted By: Craig Kistler on 02/11/08

Great list Matthew. I've always been a fan of Morning News and Mark Boulton. Their use of typography is impressive to say the least. A couple of these sites I haven't heard but will definitely checking out in more detail. Thanks

Posted By: Tay - Super Blogging on 02/11/08

The moment I saw the Monoroot design I fell in love. Layouts with dark backgrounds are hard to pull off and make them look amazing, but Monoroot has done it. You're right, these are ALL designs that inspire. Great job!

Posted By: E. I. Sanchez on 02/12/08

If I were going to copy a style, I would say Oranges is the one to copycat. Simple. Pleasing to the eye. Easy to read.

Posted By: on 02/12/08

Thanks for the comments, everyone. I'm looking forward to building on this list.

Posted By: Aaron Mentele on 02/12/08

Hey Matthew. Thanks for the include. I've been digging Mark Boulton's site for a while, but you've got quite a few on here I hadn't seen before. Great list.

Posted By: Rob on 02/14/08

Nice selection, in my opinion The Morning News is the nicest design. The use of a different font for headings, as well as the gallery being off-center makes the page look less formal.

Posted By: moserw on 04/26/08

Wow. Really beautiful and breathtaking too. Thanks for sharing such awesome designs. You have a good blog here. Will be coming back for more. Thanks to Google I found you.

Posted By: Wilee Firdaus on 05/17/09

Wonderful stuffs. Very good blog. Love it

Posted By: Michael on 07/01/09

The problem with adding too many photos is that it begins to look like a page full of advertisements. Also, light text on black background is not as easy to read as black text on white background. But perhaps that is just me.

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