There are a few commonalities in people who rise to the top of their fields: Not only are they hard workers who have a goal that drives them, but they’re able to see the connections between apparently unrelated things and to bring them into harmony.
Sometimes we call it creativity, or inspiration. Or a visionary approach.
Today I was introduced to two things that resulted from such an approach: 2) the new Louvre Abu Dhabi, and 2) the most interactive website I’ve ever come across, a work of art in itself.
Maybe you’re already familiar with the new Louvre. Since I don’t live in the States, I often catch on to the tail end of trends and top stories.
But this is one worth sharing, as it relates not only to art and culture (two of my favorite subjects) but also to web design.
So, What’s the Story?
The Louvre, the famous French palace-turned-museum, now has a sister museum in Abu Dhabi, UAE. “Sister” in the way that the Louvre licensed its famous name to the museum group and loans its artwork for display.
If you’ve ever been through the UAE, you know that they don’t do things on a small scale.
The Burj Kalifa, the Mall of the Emirates… building an immense commercial capital on reclaimed land…
The new Louvre Abu Dhabi is also built on reclaimed land.
A lot of the grandeur I’ve seen is too bedazzled for my sensibilities; the new “luxury market” is so over-the-top compared to how I was raised, that it seems like a spectacle.
But the UAE has succeeded in becoming the #1 tourist destination in the Middle East, according to travelers voting on Trip Advisor.
And if you like posh + family vacations + all the latest, Dubai might be your place. (Some major carriers there even have no-hovercraft signs at their counters.)
But for all that comes with the glamor, the new Louvre attempts to keep old traditions alive, alongside creating a culture that links the West and the Middle East.
A different aristocracy bringing ancient civilizations to a new land.
A Tale of Two Louvres
If you think of iconic western masterpieces, the Louvre, Paris, probably tops the list for the biggest collections.
I’ve only been there on a single afternoon. I saw Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and John the Baptist, wandered around the Assyrian section to please my roommate, and almost got stuck at closing time in a hall of Greek statues.
So, I can’t personally attest to the museum’s full grandeur.
Instead, I spent many afternoons just across the river, at the Musée d’Orsay, enjoying the way the light poured in through the domed glass roof and lit up the main hall. It was quiet and peaceful to walk around the old train-station turned art museum.
Maybe the new Louvre’s architect, Jean Nouvel, was also inspired by the Orsay and the French Louvre’s glass pyramid. His new creation is topped with a geometric steel and glass web that lets a “rain of light” pour through the museum.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi is covered by a floating dome of light and shade that lets “a rain of light” inside. | Image: Gabriel Jorby | CC 2.0
Now Introducing CNN’s Masterpiece Website
For such a monumental new museum, CNN has created a monumental website covering the new Louvre. If you haven’t seen it yet, I’d like you to take a look.
This is the first time that I’ve witnessed such an interplay of story, images, and video. This website is what the future of the web might be like.
Look at the author’s profiles. Can you see their eyes blink? It’s like Harry Potter in a real-life scenario.
Notice the amazing, magazine-style fonts and editorial layout?
See how the story alternates between using images, slideshows, audio clips, 360-degree virtual tours, and written text?
You’re not only surprised by every action — Wait, was that a bird that just flew by? — Ooh! Look how those images float up at different speeds! — you’re taken to new places by the thoughtful layout and immersive full-screen, full-sensory experience.
Of course, this site adapts beautifully to mobile, too.
It’s almost like being on a real museum tour. I wonder if this is what the future of the web will be?
What does this mean for your website?
It will probably be at least another 5 – 10 years before most sites (mine included!) even start to catch up to what CNN has achieved.
First, it will be the major news corporations. Then it will be the style trendsetters and forward-thinking lifestyle brands.
And lastly, it will be the small business owners who are just trying to keep up with the trends.
But, why wait? All of this is possible now.
If you’ve spent any time at all on Dribble, you’ll see that designers are coming up with these amazing ideas all the time. Web design is transforming quickly, and small businesses are often slower to adapt.
But it’s those that do adapt quickly who end up at the top of the search engines, and also those who create a lasting brand.
Neil Patel, one of the most prolific (and successful internet marketers), advises readers on how to stay on top of Google’s algorithm changes:
“Focus on providing an amazing user experience. That’s what will cause you to win in the long run.”
– Neil Patel
How to do this?
Write great content that answers your readers’ questions. Tell compelling stories.
Post clear photos and videos (your own, or someone else’s) that help explain your points or highlight your handmade goods. (Just be sure that you have the copyrights to use any images and videos. It’s still a shady line between whether you can use someone else’s social media posts.)
Use delightful animations and interactions to bring life to static images.
Create a custom theme that helps you stand out.
Constantly make improvements to your site so you build the most complete, immersive experience that you can.
You don’t have to make your own Louvre. In fact, you may prefer to make a petit Orsay if that more suits your style.
Here Are Three Paths That You Can Walk to Create Your Own Website Masterpiece
Path #1: Start With Your Website Architecture
I’ve often heard the metaphor of your website architecture being compared to a house: Without a strong foundation, you can’t build anything lasting on top of it.
Since we’re talking about brand-building, it’s fitting that your website must be even stronger to support your growth needs and beautifully house all of your creative projects.
To start with, you need good planning. Part of that involves making sure you’re building on a platform that keeps up with the trends, of even sets them. Something that’s flexible enough to adapt as you grow.
Is your architecture outdated? There’s only so much that you can do via renovation. Sometimes, it’s better to just start over with a mobile-first theme like Handy for Shopify, or at least a platform, like Squarespace, that figures out responsiveness for you.
As a side note, one thing I actually liked about using Wix as a website builder is that I could completely control the mobile experience: I could hide certain elements, change font and image sizes independently, and adjust all aspects of my navigation.
But as I mentioned recently, I couldn’t control the way the blog worked (it didn’t even have pagination on mobile!), so I switched platforms. I rebuilt from scratch on Squarespace.
And now everything’s SO much easier for me. I don’t have to worry about things floating around the screen, or unknown white spaces pushing around the footer. Everything stays in its place. Plus, the blog seems to play nicely with Pinterest.
If you’re going for a redesign, choose your platform wisely. And if you can, go totally custom. This will always set you apart.
And whatever you do, just make sure that you’re building for the future.
Path #2: Emphasize Your Branding
The Louvre Abu Dhabi might not carry the same weight if it were known by another name.
It would still be an amazing, world-class museum, but the words “The Louvre” conjure up such grand feelings that people around the world identify the new museum with quality, longevity, and the finest of culture.
What feelings do you want to be associated with your name? What do you want to be known for?
It takes time to build up a reputation — though hopefully not 800 years — but you can also ride the coattails of other well-established brands by partnering or associating with them. This can be beneficial for both parties.
For example, guest blogging can bring you and your host more traffic. Reach out to those with similar interests, in non-competing industries.
Offer to interview them on your blog, or pitch a post on their website. You’ll often have to pay for sponsorship, but it’s a super quick way to start growing your email list and get more eyes on your offers.
You’ll also get to start putting little “As Seen In” bars on your site to boost your brand!
Path 3: Make your website more immersive
Take what you already have and make it better.
This is something I always practice with my own site, and it’s the easiest way to keep things fresh.
Websites are living, breathing things and they need to be tended to, a little like plants. Prune here. Add fertilizer there.
If you’re not sure where to go with your site, take a look at your analytics. Which blog posts have the most views? Maybe those are topics your audience is interested in. Write more on similar subjects!
Which pages have fewer views? Can you add anything like more images, or make the posts more immersive (remember CNN’s epic example we looked at earlier?).
The point is that for any brand big or small, it’s not just the creations (or products) that take center stage; it’s also the light in which you show them.
It’s the entire experience surrounding them that brings them to life.
I’m not asking you to go out and create the next Louvre, or to try to replicate the scale of CNN’s visionary website.
But sometimes it takes seeing things done so extremely right before you’re able to envision something more for yourself.
So the next time that you have a lull in your business, or you’re wondering what to do to improve your search rankings, look through your website with new eyes.
Pretend that you’re an architect trying to weave together different stories. Find a common thread between what you do and what is going on in related fields or related brands, then think about how you can create links between the two.
It doesn’t have to take up all your time.
As the French Louvre’s director says, “… It took 800 years for the Louvre to become the Louvre and it only took 10 years for another Louvre to be born in Abu Dhabi.”
What’s possible for you in the next 10 years?