Even if you’ve never built a website before, you’ve probably heard of HTML. It’s the foundation of the web and the first coding language any aspiring web developer or designer has to learn.
One of the cool things about learning HTML is that you can take inspiration from any of the millions of public websites up and running right now. And not just that — you can also peek at the underlying HTML of these website to find out how they’re are built, then use those same techniques to build your own projects.
In this post, we’ll check out some stunning website examples that leverage HTML to its fullest potential. We’ll also discuss some ideas for building your first HTML website. But first, what actually is an “HTML website”?
HTML, which stands for Hypertext Markup Language, is the primary language of the World Wide Web. An HTML document sets the content and structure of a web page. When you view a page in your browser, what you’re looking at is your browser’s interpretation of an HTML file that was retrieved from a web server.
The latest version of HTML is HTML5. Released in 2008, HTML5 notably contained several improvements to handle multimedia content like audio and video, as well as semantically rich elements to describe page structure.
If you want to know more about HTML and how to write it, start with our Ultimate Guide to HTML. You’ll learn everything you need to know to fully understand this post.
Ideas for HTML Websites
Here are some ideas for beginner HTML websites you can try building:
A personal website: Create a personal site that shows off your resume, work experience, interests, skills, and personality. This is a project you can return to and revise over time as your skills develop.
An informational site: Pick a topic you’re interested in, then code up a simple website that teaches visitors about it.
A blog: While there are many great blogging platforms out there, consider making your own.
A portfolio: Want to show off your other creative works? Try building a portfolio, be it a photo gallery, a video showcase, or a collection of your writing.
To get started creating your first HTML site, we recommend following this excellent tutorial from freeCodeCamp:
As you grow more comfortable with HTML basics, you can begin to branch out to bolder, more unique design choices. But still, even elaborate websites can often be boiled down to a handful of HTML features working together to make a cohesive experience.
Next, let’s look at some examples of HTML websites that use HTML elements creatively and unpack what makes them tick.
What we like: Gloutir is a design and development studio based out of Houston, Texas that features a vibrant, immaculately crafted website. The designers are clearly flexing their chops here with impressive attention to detail and a near perfect balance of style and content.
It’s worth digging into the source code of the page if you’re curious. Check out our guide to inspect element to learn how.
This sampler website is a great introduction into some cool interactive effects you can achieve with HTML canvas, like dragging elements that snap back into place, or guiding the movement of an element by drawing with your mouse.
What we like: Our next example is itself a showcase of design, the website for the 2021 Melba Design Festival. Visitors are invited to explore the site by clicking its interactive jars, the theme being that the best designs of 2021 are “preserved” for you to see.
Each “jar” is a canvas element containing SVGs representing different produce. Try hovering your mouse around each jar and notice how they respond to the movement, as if floating in liquid.
This use of the canvas element is essentially a version of what we saw in Canvas Study, applied in a clever way. It’s simple but unique, and achievable through built-in HTML technologies.
What we like: Project Lima is an inclusive design initiative that launched its Understanding Neurodiversity project to educate the public about neurodivergent individuals, how they operate in society, and some common myths associated with these individuals.
If you have the time, I recommend giving this experience a full watch. It’s a touching blend of illustration, visual texture, music, sound effects, and meaningful storytelling to provide a better understanding of neurodiverse people.
In particular, the website’s use of scalable vector graphic (SVG) artwork is stunning and adds a visual framework for communicating the site’s information. Each screen transitions smoothly to the next with animated graphics. As far as online storytelling goes, this is as good as it gets.
What we like: The HTML5 video element was another major step in making HTML more robust, with the goal of becoming the standard for playing video on web pages.
Today, many websites employ this element for autoplaying videos, fullscreen videos, and video backgrounds. Take this great example from Intelligent Video Solutions — its homepage meets you with a full-width video background and overlays text, graphics, and a gradient to smoothly transition you down the page.
If you want to achieve a similar effect on your site, the HTML5 video element is the best way to go. It’s a much cleaner alternative to, say, an embedded iframe from YouTube on your page. For accessibility reasons, it’s a good idea to let users pause videos, and also to let them choose whether or not the video plays sound.
What we like: Caffeine Post is a post-production video studio that, as you might guess, also makes great use of the HTML video element. The homepage immediately confronts you with a chaotic but immersive video montage of the company’s work and dares you to watch more.
The selected works page is a series of thumbnails, each itself a video element. Hover your cursor over a thumbnail to watch it play in a loop and click on to watch a longer video preview with sound. Plus, you can filter the works by category (commercial, films, etc.).
For such an impressive website, it might seem surprising that its key features can all be made with pure HTML. It just goes to show how far even simple web technologies have come over the past decade.
What we like:Microsites allow brands to experiment with new web design techniques while promoting a product. Mailchimp’s Dumpling Delivery website is a prime example of this: Visitors can play nine holes of virtual miniature golf in an attempt to deliver dumplings to hungry customers.
What we like: This microsite from Adidas was made to promote the company’s global World of Sports headquarters in Herzogenaurach, Germany. It leverages video and crisp images to help you experience the space from every angle.
The website does a good job of putting visitors on a pretty defined path for the whole experience, starting with a video (displayed with the HTML5 video element) and following up with an image slideshow to highlight the best parts of working for the company.
What we like: Some websites use video to show, while others use it to immerse. This website, created by Danish videographer Nikolaj Juhlsen, drops you on the seat of a mountain bike as you’re taken down treacherous trails across Europe.
This site is about as close as you can get to a real mountain biking experience through your desktop, and it’s accomplished with HTML video alone. If the quality of your content is high enough, you don’t need crazy effects to pull off a great site.
That said, the homepage of this site does layer on some interesting cursor effects and scrolling effects for some added flair.
What we like: As we saw with the Understanding Neurodiversity website, music can add a layer of emotional depth to any browsing experience. Let’s now turn to another example in which music is the focus, the website for composer Ayako Taniguchi.
The HTML5 audio element allows websites to embed music and other sounds into web pages. You can also set audio to play on a loop and provide controls for users to control playback of the sounds, as is the case with this site.
Each music sample is visualized with an interactive canvas background. The canvas was configured to react to both the music and cursor movements, giving the music more of an emotional impact than a simple pause or play button.
What we like: Here is another shining example of the audio element in action: Earth Eclipsed is an award-winning science fiction podcast with an award-winning website — both were designed to transport you to a different place.
One highlight of this site is its unique player interface. The progress bar is laid out in a circle and the time displays as a countdown over a looping video background of a rippling globe. This creates an extraterrestrial atmosphere to accompany the audio.
What we like: Pencilvania is a digital project that shows you the latest dogs that have been put up for adoption in the US and Canada. The entire site is a draggable canvas that updates daily with new data, and will hopefully encourage a visitor or two to adopt.
This simple concept can be translated to other kinds of websites — you could have visitors explore your own virtual town, look for treasure, or feature different “landmarks” on your canvas that link out to other pages on your site or to your different projects.
What we like: This website for this martial arts dojo displays mastery in controlling each design element to create an atmosphere. By employing web textures, color gradients, parallax scrolling effects, and a fascinating full-screen background animation on the homepage, the designers have achieved harmony between each element.
This site is also notable for its in-depth storytelling, detailing the history of the full-contact martial art of Kyokushin Karate and its founder, Mas Oyama. Of course, you don’t need programming experience to know how to tell a great story. But, when combined, they make for a powerful website.
What we like: Let’s end with something truly unique: La Guía de Cirugía Cardíaca is a Spanish-language website that teaches patients and their loved ones about heart operations. The goal is to guide the visitor through the process and alleviate any concerns they may have.
Craft your perfect website with HTML.
We spend so much time on websites that we may not realize what goes on behind the scenes. But, if you understand the frameworks for your favorite websites, this gives you invaluable insight into how the best online experiences are made. With that knowledge, you can build your own online experiences that engage, captivate, and delight your new audience.
Originally published May 17, 2022 7:00:00 AM, updated May 17 2022