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Sonja Bernhardt on what she’s expecting to see

Sonja BernhardtThis time Gary Barber sits down with judge  Sonja Bernhardt, a veteran of the IT industry with almost an addiction for judging. They chat about judging the Australian Web Awards, innovation and what is that magic award winning factor.

Web Awards: You have had a good deal of experience in the judging arena.  What do you think the winning factor is?

Sonja: A site that draws out a reaction from me - a site that makes me want to look further into it, draws me to play, click, search.  

A few years ago one entrant that instantly drew a reaction from me (and took me by surprise) was food related and I wanted to physically 'lick' the site as the colours and words used were very appealing - may sound weird I know BUT that may help explain the reaction.  Another classic example for me is if I find I start wanting to buy things from the site that is a strong indicator of magic at work!

So in summary a site that goes beyond stating fact and info to one that visually and emotionally draws me in.

 

Web Awards: There have been a lot of new technology released in the last year.  This will bring with it new innovations.  Are you expecting to see a flow on effect with this years entrants?

Sonja: I'm still waiting for the day when a hologram appears from the site and steps me through what I need,  but putting that aside... 

I guess with the advent of iPad that rules out a lot of flash animated sites.  

In the end regardless of the technology used be it animated 3D talking assistance, social media tools, enhanced graphics etc.  as long as the site engages the user and relates a clear consistent message it achieves it's purpose:-)

 

Web Awards: User experience is a very big deal these days, what elements of a web site can spoilt this experience for you?

Sonja: If it takes me longer than a few second to workout how to navigate that really turns me off.  If I do not grasp almost instantly what the site is about I loose rapid interest.  In todays world we are hit with a lot of visual and audio imagery - so a site that neatly and clearly sorts through that delivering a message with clarity is tops in my books (oops or should I say in my iPad):-)

Questions on Validation, Categories and Judging

Every year there are a series of common questions that we get during the nomination process, here are a selection from this year so far:

Validation?

Q: Hey we have the cool site, but the boss insists we use this lame third party plugin that makes causes our otherwise perfect code to not validate.

Now if it is just a single third party plugin, like for instance - an ecommerce gateway, then you should be fine; as long as you don’t enter into the ecommerce category. 

However you have to tell us, up front so we can look a the issue.  I would even put comments in the code around the invalid code, so we know that “bad” segment is not your doing. 

Then again if your entire CMS code is full of validation errors and you are using tables for layout with inline javascript, I wouldn’t bother entering. Sorry but the Australian Web Awards is about promoting best practice.  The reality is you may need to go have a look at the right way to code your sites.

 

Q: I have a major concern over these awards, sites are winning that don't validate when I check them after they are announced.  Clearly something is fishy here!

Let me explain what we believed has been happening with this issue.  

The validation process begins soone after nominations close in July.  Now remember not every page on every site is validated. Yes, we use automated tools to do the validation and a standardised method  to select the random pages that are validated.  However you have to understand we have 100's of sites to validate, validating all the page is just not possible.  

If there are ZERO ERRORS and less than 3 WARNINGS in total on the pages tested for both HTML and CSS combined - then the site has passed validation. 

Exceptions are made for third party code blocks such as Google Ads, javascript widgets and client inserted code. We can very clearly see the bad client code verses the professional front end development code. 

Also remember we don't validate the Blogging category, and we expect things to break in the innovation category as well.

By the end of July all the validation is done.  Now no one looks at the validation again during the judging process.  

The award winners are announced in November, this is good number of  months later.  These sites will not have remained static during that time, they will have changed, they will have new content, maybe even the validation will have slipped a little.  

But the fact is at the time of judging they were, within a few warnings in the worse case, the best of the best. 

 

Q: I have a blog and it doesn't validate at all, its full of third party plugins that I don’t understand. Can I still enter.  I have heard if it fails validation it is out of the running.

Not so, blogs and sites that are based on content only are not validated and are judged on content only.   So go ahead and enter.

 

Q: All our sites validate, and we think they are awesome, leading edge in fact. So much so, that we are using elements of CSS3, HTML5 and proposed vendor specific CSS3 rules.   Does this mean our sites will not validate?

Fantastic.   It’s great to see you are pushing things. 

All we ask is that you tell us in your submission.  

We know that the validators for CSS3 and HTML5 are still in early alpha so we don’t expect you to have used them.

However please ensure the code for the HTML5 or CSS3 you use is valid and correct in syntax.   We will check, we are anal like that.

Now if you have a really amazing site, I would be entering it into the “Innovation” category at the very least.

 

Q: We have a site that is based entirely in Flash/Silverlight can we enter too.

Sure, no problem.

Please ensure it validates, and that it’s accessible and very usable as these have been the weak spots of RIA sites in the past.

You will note on the judging panel there are good number of usability and accessibility experts.

Which State?

Q: We have the client that is based in Brisbane, but we are in Melbourne.  So which state do we put the entry into?

This is simple; the state you select is the state of registered business office of your business.  

For example if you have three offices and the head office is in Sydney then the state will be NSW.  

The location of the client doesn’t matter; it is the location of the design team or the respective business that is the key factor.

If you are an international firm, then it's the Australian head office.

Giving Judges Access

Q: We have this new site, we think is kick-arse good!  However it’s still currently under wraps by the client behind their firewall.  Can we still submit it?

The site needs to be launched by the 30 June 2010.    If by the 1 July it is still behind the firewall and has not been signed off by the client, then sadly it’s not eligible for this year’s Australian Web Awards. 

However it will be eligible for next years.

If the site has aspects that are locked away from the public view, and these are critical to your submission.  In order to evaluate the site the judges are going to need to have access to these areas.   The best idea is to supply passwords and logins with you submission.

Which Category?

Q: We have a great mobile phone application we want to submit.  Can we, I assume it goes in the mobile category.

Yes, correct, it would go in the mobile category.  

However consider the judges, they have to access your application to review it.   If your application is on the open web and non-platform specific, then this will not be an issue.

But if it is platform specific then you need to supply a method in which the judges can access your app say via an emulator or the like. You cannot assume the judges will personally have the specific platform for you app.

If you can’t provide a means in which the judges can easily evaluate your site or application, then we will not be able to judge it. Still talk to us, we are open to suggestions, we don't like to exclude anyone.

 

Q: We have a really cool site, however we purchased the design exclusively and applied it to a standard CMS install or a CMS hosted solution.  Which category do we put it in?

In reality neither the code nor the design are yours or the product of a subcontractor you have managed.   Effectively you have an off the shelf product.

In this case the only element that really is yours is the content.   Hence this is the element on which we can judge the site, putting the design, functionality aside.  

The best category for this type of site is the “Blogging” category, were it will be judged on content, and community engagement.

Judge Duncan Riley’s take on the Australian Web Awards

Duncan RileyContinuing with the interviews. This time Gary Barber, the Judging Coordinator chats with the Australian Web Awards Judge - Duncan Riley, about his previous experiences judging and what he believes makes an award winning site.

Web Awards: The Australian Web Awards attracts web sites from all over the country, sites designed and developed by large design agencies, government  departments to single person shops.

You have judged a number of these web awards, what do you think is the magical winning factor?

Duncan: Primarily the ability to stand out and be different.

Imitation is easy, but innovation isn't. That can be innovation in design, content, or product idea. A winning web site or service stands out from the crowd.

 

Web Awards:  This year brings a good deal of new web technology. What innovative types of sites are you expecting to see in this years range of entrants. Do you think the newer web technologies with feature?

Duncan: Social has come to the fore in the last couple of years, and finally Australian sites are catching up. I'd expect to see strong integration of social media features in general entries, and in some categories sites that seek to extend or offer new twists on what we see coming out of the United States.

 

Web Awards: Finally what elements of a web site can really turn you off the site and  spoil the overall experience for you.

Duncan: Although it's not everything, visuals and design can and will cause a negative reaction, even when the idea behind the site is a good one. That doesn't necessarily mean bad visual design either; sometimes a design can looking visually stunning but doesn't work from a consumer/ end user perspective. There's a line there that needs to be balanced.

How the Judging Works

The judging procedures of most industry awards always seem to be veiled in mystery.   Well at the Australia Web Awards we aim to be as open as we possibly can.

Validation

The first step in the judging process is the validation for HTML and CSS for all the sites submitted this is done by the Judging Sub-Committee. It is a semi-automated process.

The entries that pass the validation process with NO ERROR and 2 WARNINGS or less are then assigned to Judges.

Assigning the Judges

The judges are selected by opposing state and their ability to judge the various categories.  Any localised bias is removed by not having judges of a particular state judge for that regional block. This is made easier when you have a number of international judges, as we do this year.

The judges are asked to look over the list of sites they have been assigned and declare if they’re in a conflict of interest. You may think this doesn’t happen, but it does. Let’s be honest here we are a small industry, the people at the top of their game tend to work together all the time. Hence conflicts of interest are bound to occur.

When there is a conflict of interest, we simply reassign the judge to another category.  We have found over the years that the judges tend to work professionally in silos of site types,  so avoiding the conflict is usually very easy.

After the judges are all settled into their categories they get to know who the other judges are, but that is it. Any official correspondence between them occurs with the knowledge of the judging sub-committee.

Judges are reminded that it's not public knowledge which category they are judging until the finalists are announced. Again this stops any incentives or the like.

The Judging Process

When a judge is scoring a category of web sites, they have no idea what scores the other judges are giving.  This allows total independence, and no collaborative bias. 

Judges this year will be encouraged to write a short comment about the site that may assist you if you’re not successful. Please note no correspondence will be entered into over these comments, this is purely a service to better the already high standard of the Australian Web Industry.

At the end of the judging process only the judging sub-committee knows the outcome and the regional finalists and the national finalists.

From the national finalists the overall winner is selected. If there is no clear overall winner then the judges are brought back to discuss the top finalists and the clear winner of the Most Outstanding site.

As you can see the process is very regimented and strict. With no collusion, and minimal bias.   At no stage does anyone sit around a table drinking a few beers trying to decide which one of their mates will win a awards.

The Australia Web Awards are won through hard work, blood, sweat and tears, oh and talent too!

Bam Creative Hints at its Winning Formula

Entering the Australian Web Awards isn't really that hard. 

Gary Barber, the Judging Coordinator for the Australia Web Awards has been busy chatting with some of last years winners on what it takes to win an Australian Web Award and the benefits that can flow on from that. The first informal chat is with Patima Tantiprasut from Bam Creative, who won last years Sell to People Category, aimed at non ecommerce sites with a primary non corporate audience. 

 

Web Awards: It can be a little overwhelming entering the Australian Web Awards for the first time. Given the awards nature and reputation of being tough and focused on industry best practice, web standards; plus being judged by practising web industry peers. Taking all this into account what advice would you give to any first time entrants?

Patima:  I'd say to anyone thinking of entering the AWAs, go for it! A big part of it is having the confidence in the work you submit and being proud to showcase it. Yes, of course the awards are tough and the criteria strict, however if you're passionate about it and love crafting awesome websites, you'll want to be creating work that is going to (at least) meet that criteria anyway.

 

Web Awards: As a previous award winner (for Selling to People), what benefits has entering and winning the web awards brought to your business?

Patima: Sure it's great to say that we've won awards, but it's more than that, we see the benefit straight away in the quality of work that we produce. We're constantly challenging ourselves and each other to adhere to best practice while at the same time trying to push the boundaries and approaches where we can. Throughout the year, we often look at our finished work and suggest that we should enter it in the awards.

 

Web Awards: Finally what styles and types of web sites are you expecting to see entered into the Australian Web Awards this year?

Patima: Like every year, we're expecting the criteria to be even more strict and quality of the websites submitted to therefore be even more awesome. That's the beauty of it though; raising the bar higher can only mean that the things we see out there are going to be more inspiring. We're proud of the Australian web industry and the great work it creates. To us, while AWAs is a prestigious award and a fantastic event, it's also a chance to showcase the work that both we and our clients are proud of.

 

Web Awards:  Thanks Patima and good luck with this years awards.

Two weeks to go: Have you entered?

Time is running out to enter the 2010 Australian Web Awards.

Entries closed at midnight (WST) on 8 July 2010, so get organised, the registration form and everything else can be found at  webawards.com.au.

If you have not yet entered, this is your chance to be recognised as having the best Website in your category for your state! And with 13 categories for you to enter so you're sure to find the right one to meet your site's purpose.

Remember that you can register to enter your site now, set up the category you would like to enter and complete the rest of the information by the closing date. That means you can show your intent to enter and can save your work along the way. You don’t even need to worry about payment right now, you will be notified for payment in due course.

Imagine the look on your CEO's and your clients' faces when you tell them your online work has earned a prestigious Web Award! Think of the marketing opportunities you could create - but you need to enter to win!

*A Website says "you're here". An Australian Web Award winning Website says "You've arrived" *

With only two weeks left, now is the time to go to the online entry form and get the recognition you deserve.

Judging Panel close to finalisation

Helen and the Judging committee have been hard at work sourcing judges to evaluate the hundreds of entries that will come in.

With entrants from all states of Australia, the job of judging is going to be bigger and more difficult than ever. 

Check out who is currently on the Judging Panel, and something new for this is that for those sites that make it through the validation process will be given feedback from the judges. 

Keep in touch with the latest on the Web Awards

One of the best ways to stay in touch with the Australian Web Awards is through Facebook. It is amazing how many award winners each year tell me they never got the winners announcement email! If you are on Facebook, please Become a Fan of the Australian Web Awards and join our Facebook Group.

If Twitter is your thing, you can follow us at @AusWebAwards

Or if you like to read RSS feeds you can read ours too.

It’s time once again. Announcing Australian Web Awards 2010

After a well earned break the Australian Web Awards committee is back at it again. Yep that's right the Web Awards are on again. The following dates should be kept in your diary.

  • Nominations open: 7 June 2010
  • Nominations close: 12 midnight (Western Australian Standard Time) 8 July 2010

The categories are as follows:

  1. Student
  2. Blog
  3. Virtual – for small and micro businesses without a “real” shopfront
  4. Online Retail – online transactional site (payment methods varied) B2C, C2C (with shopfront)
  5. Enterprise - for non transactional services for commercial use B2B, B2G, G2B
  6. Selling to People - for non transactional services focusing on the general public (non commercial) sector, typically catalogue and brochure sites
  7. Government – local, state & federal
  8. Education
  9. Media
  10. Arts & Events
  11. Not for Profit
  12. Innovation
  13. Mobile – for sites seen in mobile device

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