I’ve been a judge for many things over the last few years. I’ve judged the Telly Awards, Davey Awards, Covey Awards and even the Mr. Romance contest. Judging takes time and commitment and a good attitude.
I don’t volunteer to be a judge because I think I’m better or even the best, I do it because it is a way of giving back to an industry that helps me. I go into open minded and with a willingness to let people impress me. I want people to succeed and to be acknowledged for that.
This year I was asked to judge the W3 Awards. I would be judging 100 websites. I went into this with a little trepidation because I’m not a web designer. How can I judge without knowing what goes into something? So, I prepared by chatting with the web designers I know, getting a feel for trends, new technology, marketing ideas for sites and needs of site visitors. I also received some great instruction from the great folks at International Academy of the Visual Arts who put on the W3 Awards. Their instructions gave me a great insight into what makes a really great website. I wanted to share those instructions with you and let you know my thoughts about it.
Website Judging Criteria:
Includes the content/information provided on the site and how well in what way it is related to the viewer. It is not just text, but music, sound, animation, or video-anything that communicates that site to the viewer. Should be engaging, relevant, it may be informative, useful, or funny but it will always tweak your interest.
My notes: I found that creativity really influenced me a lot. If it was something unique or clever I was more likely to spend additional time reviewing the site.
I loved how many of the sites had interactive components to them so people visiting the site could participate with them somehow.
I loved the sites with clever video that was truly integrated with the site and not just a welcome message.
Usability relates to the structure and navigation of the site and the organization of content. Sites with good usability allow you to form a mental model of the information provided and allows you to get where you want to go quickly, with easy access. It provides an interactive experience that allows the user to take full advantage of site functions and features.
My Notes: Just because a site looks good and has fancy interactive bells & whistles doesn’t make it a good website. You can’t be all flash and no substance.
When I went to the site I wanted to be able to tell immediately from the landing page what this company was, did and offered. I didn’t want to search around for that information.
So those sites that had a few sentences that gave me that information and then linked to the page that gave in-depth details were impressiveto me.
The use of technology on the site. Good functionality means the site works well. It
loads quickly, has live links, and any technology used is functional and relevant to the audience. Highly functional sites can accommodate various browsers as well as those with special needs.
My Notes: This is a pet peeve of mine and I’m sure all judges bring with them some kind of “filters” or predisposed notions of good and bad sites. That’s why they ask you to be a judge, because you have your opinion based on your experience and knowledge. Functionality had to be good or the site would not get a good score from me. To me, this is basic stuff and you must have a site that works throughout. If the site took too long to load without letting me know what was going on I got impatient. I have a very fast internet connection and a top of the line computer so I have high expectations.
I absolutely checked links. I don’t know if other judges do this, but it was important to me. Luckily for me, all the sites I judged had working links throughout. I realized that the smart sites had technology that was appropriate to who their expected audience is. Brilliant! You can try a lot of bells & whistles to make yourself look great, but if your intended audience is not likely to have a fast internet connection you just sabotaged yourself.
The appearance of the site. High quality, appropriate, and relevant for the audience and the message it supports. It communicates a visual experience and can help with navigation and structure. Visual Design should elevate the overall experience of the site and leave the user with a pleasant experience.
My Notes: Having an aesthetically pleasing website is important. People have been on the internet for a few decades now and they expect a site to look good. But, if you have a site that uses the visual design as part of the message or function that was extremely impressive to me. I found I really liked to see beautiful colors and color schemes. I liked video and pictures. But, if it the visuals make the site lag I was put off by that.
Ease of Use
Is the site user-friendly? Easy to understand and comprehend the overall intent of the site. Sites should be well laid out and responsive to the needs of various users. From those with a broad knowledge of computing and technology to those who are virtually computer illiterate, the best sites can accommodate everyone. The site should be accessible and easily navigated from start to finish.
My Notes: I already touched on the fact that you need to think about your intended audience. There were a couple of sites that did something I really thought was clever. On their homepage they had you identify either what kind of
visitor you are or what you needed.
For example one site said, “I am a….” and you chose if you were a doctor, client, vendor, etc. From there it took you to where you needed to go that was specific to you. I loved that! One site said, “I need…” and you chose what your need was from a list and that took you where you needed to go.
I liked sites that were clean and clear on the landing page with not too much text or even too many pictures.
There were things I discovered about myself during this experience. I found myself looking for icons of social media, like “Follow us on Twitter” or “Like us on Facebook”. I tended to appreciate those things since, to me, it says they care to stay in touch with those who seek their services. If a site did not have that and could have I found myself docking them half a point. It mattered that much to me. Now, if the site was a type of company that those things weren’t really appropriate to them I didn’t dock them anything.
I wanted, quick, simple, easy, clear and pretty. If it could “wow” me with creativity that put it over the top. Judging something like this is a great way to learn what’s going on in the industry, what other people are doing that they think is worthy of submitting for an award. I learned things about myself and I definitely learned some things I will be applying to my own company website later this year!