By Maya Draisin, Executive Director of The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, which judges The Webby Awards
Each year The Webby Awards honors the best of the web. What separates the winners from the also-rans?
The winners stand out in six areas that The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences has established as the elements of great web development.
==> The 6 Key Ingredients of a Winning Site
>>1. Content: Good content is engaging, relevant and appropriate for the audience. It has personality.
* Develop copy for the web. Text should be short, clear and concise.
* Have a unique voice. Pick three to five adjectives that you want your visitors to apply to you, and speak in that tone.
* Know your audience and address them appropriately. If you are targeting large corporate clients, you may want to be more conservative. When seeking less traditional projects, have more fun.
* Keep your content fresh by featuring your latest work. This makes people feel as though the site is alive.
>>2. Structure and Navigation: Good structure and navigation establish trust. They guide users and leave them in control at all times.
* Plan your structure beforehand. Begin by creating a flowchart so you know what must be accessible from each page.
* Group your navigational links and order them. What is it you want visitors to see? What will they come looking for? Those answers are your priorities. Make sure they are easy to access.
* Be consistent. The goal for organizing a site is to create a structure that makes sense intuitively. Using familiar conventions like a navigation bar on the top or links on the bottom is a good place to begin. If you get more creative, make sure your structure is easily learned.
>>3. Visual Design. Good visual design is attractive, high- quality and supports the content, structure and navigation while adding an element of interest.
* While you may want to take your visitors' breath away, it is important to support, not overshadow, your work.
* Clearly understand the goals of the site, and use design to communicate and enhance those goals visually.
* Look professional and original. Choose images carefully, and make sure everything looks as if it were made specifically for your site.
* Keep your design clean and simple. There are a million ways to be distracted on the web. Do not let your site be one of them.
>>4. Interactivity: This is what really makes the medium special.
* Where appropriate, use interactivity to enhance the experience.
* Let visitors decide.
* Do not provide everything at once.
* Use hyperlinks to connect to related work or more information if your audience is interested.
* Use rollovers. They allow you to provide more information and make your users feel as though they are being heard.
* Provide direct access. Include e-mail links or forms so visitors can easily contact you with questions and feedback, or to express interest.
>>5. Functionality. Stand-out sites must work.
* Test your functionality using multiple browsers and platforms. While some features may work in Explorer, there may be inconsistencies in Netscape. Likewise, it might work on a PC, but does it work on a Mac?
* Make sure pages load quickly. Reduce page size and graphic size so that downloading is not painfully slow. If need be, offer a high-bandwidth and low-bandwidth solution.
* Check that all links are live. It takes only one typo for a link to lead nowhere.
>>6. Overall Experience. This is the intangible "vibe" of a site. Ultimately, you want to create a site that people want to explore, enjoy, learn from, admire and pass on to others.
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