Lessons learned as a Webby Judge

It’s a great honor this year to be asked to serve as a judge for the Webby Awards, the world’s most prestigious web and interactive award.

Considered the Oscars of the interactive industry, Bean Creative has received six Webby nods, so I was particularly excited to get a peek at the best of the best and offer my own critique honed by years of experience.As you can imagine, it’s a very competitive field – I reviewed known brands such as Salon.com and some cool contenders like Politicsdaily.com. Here are my takeaways on what makes a website a Webby award-winning one:

Content

It is not just text, but music, sound, animation, or video – anything that communicates a sites body of knowledge. Good content should be engaging, relevant, and appropriate for the audience. You can tell it’s been developed for the web because it’s clear and concise and it works in the medium. Good content takes a stand. It has a voice, a point of view. It may be informative, useful, or funny but it always leaves you wanting more.

Structure and navigation

This refers to the framework of a site, the organization of content, the prioritization of information, and the method in which you move through the site. Sites with good structure and navigation are consistent, intuitive and transparent. They allow you to form a mental model of the information provided, where to find things, and what to expect when you click. Good navigation gets you where you want to go quickly and offers easy access to the breadth and depth of the site’s content.

Visual design

The appearance of the site means more than just a pretty homepage and it doesn’t have to be cutting edge or trendy. Good visual design is high quality, appropriate, and relevant for the audience and the message it is supporting. It communicates a visual experience and may even take your breath away.

Functionality

Good functionality means the site works well. It loads quickly, has live links, and any new technology used is functional and relevant for the intended audience. The site should work cross-platform and be browser independent. Highly functional sites anticipate the diversity of user requirements from file size, to file format and download speed. The most functional sites also take into consideration those with special access needs. Good functionality makes the experience center stage and the technology invisible.

Interactivity

Good interactivity is more than a rollover or choosing what to click on next; it allows you, as a user, to give and receive. It insists that you be a participant, not spectator. It’s input/output, as in searches, chat rooms, e-commerce and gaming or notification agents, peer-to-peer applications and real-time feedback. It’s make your own, distribute your own, or speak your mind so others can see, hear or respond. Interactive elements are what separates the Web from other media. Their inclusion should make it clear that you aren’t reading a magazine or watching TV anymore.

How does YOUR site measure up?

Layla Masri

About Layla Masri

Layla is a co-founder of Bean Creative. She leverages her ad agency background and 15-plus years as a marketing and web copywriter to maximize interactive impact for strategic planning, usability/accessibility, and digital promotion.
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