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How To Build A First Class Award Program
by Donna Snyder -- February 16, 2005

Decide if you are ready for the commitment:

Building a first class award program is not an easy task.  It takes time, patience, hard work, dedication and commitment to own and operate a successful award program.

Many award programs do not manage to stay up for more then a year, so, you must first ask yourself this...


Donna Snyder

  • Do I really have the time and commitment that it takes to run a successful award program?

  • Am I willing to give up a few hours of the day or nights, to review applications sent to me?

  • Will I have help with the applications and evaluations if I receive to many?

  • Will I be able to maintain my winners list, update my site regularly and offer tips or suggestions to applicants who request it?

  • Do I have a genuine interest in reviewing websites?

  • Would my website win my highest award offered?

If you have answered yes to these questions, then Congratulations, you are ready to become part of the Awards Community.

Do a little research before launching your own Award Program
The best way to get an idea of how award programs work, how they are constructed and what they look for when evaluating and judging sites are to visit other award program sites before taking the plunge to start your own award program.  I suggest visiting Award Sites! at:  which list some of the world's best award programs.  Award Sites! is a premiere rating service, launched in 1997.  It's Motto, "Bettering The Net By Striving For Excellence".  Setting Standards - for website award and review programs so that interested submitters know the quality of the award relative to strict criteria and rules. 

You may have seen rating banners listed on some award programs, which display Award Sites! rating banners or rating banners from other rating organizations.  You can be assured that any site rated with Award Sites! has gone under strict review to be listed with AS!  You may want to consider applying to Award Sites! for a rating, once your award program has been up and running for awhile.  A rating from AS! will bring even more credibility to your award program, for as I mentioned before, AS! list some of the world's top rated award programs.  AS! is also the oldest and most respected web award rating service on the internet today.

After visiting other award program sites, the number one rule is:  NEVER COPY ANOTHER AWARD PROGRAM OR THEIR CONTENT!  The idea of visiting other AP's is to get an idea of how they work and not to infringe on another's copyrights!  Copyright infringement will only get you in trouble (with a possible lawsuit), not to mention ban your site from ever receiving an honest rating of your own.  Be as unique as possible with your own ideas and set of rules that you would like your applicants to follow.

Getting Started:

Before you start building your award program and posting it to the web, you should decide on the "types of websites" you wish to invite to apply for your awards.  Some award programs choose only to invite websites which are of specific interest to them, while others decide to invite any type of business, personal or commercial websites.  The types of sites you allow to apply, may possibly determine the number of applications received monthly to your award program.  Example:  Your award program invites only "music sites" to apply.  Chances are, you will not receive as many applications as an award program that invites ALL TYPES OF WEBSITES TO APPLY.  This may be the deciding factor of what types of sites you may want to invite to apply and how many applications you feel that you can handle each month.  Keep in mind that many award programs, consist of 1 evaluator that reviews all applications, while other AP's have several evaluators who assist them with applications and judging.

Choosing A Name For Your Award Program:

Most award seekers are looking to gain recognition to their websites by applying to credible award programs.  More then likely, webmasters, designers, businesses, government agencies and ITT companies will apply to an award program with a prominent name; (Like the World Wide Web Awards for example) verses an award program called "Kitty Kara's Kitty Kat Awards".  A name of an award program can make or break the success of your award program.  Choosing the name of your award program, is like choosing the title of a book.  Try and choose a name that will be taken seriously, relates to the type of awards you are offering, as well as a name that will catch the serious award seekers attention.

If your award program is only a hobby site for you that reviews only pet sites or sites about cats, then a award program name, like "Kitty Kat Awards", may be suitable for your after all. It all depends on the type of websites you are trying to attract, to apply for your awards.

Gathering Your Content: (constructing your award program)
Here is where things may get a little technical and detailed.  A good award program will consist of more then a "submit a site" button, to be taken seriously.  We have all seen those "free market me awards" which consist of nothing more then right clicking your mouse, saving their award graphic and linking back to the award program and "Tada" , you've won your first award.  Award Programs such as these, bring absolutely no credibility to your website or award program.  A credible award program will offer more details to assist applicants with web designs and offer solutions.  Its criteria consist of a constructed list, which list more then the do's and don'ts, but also offers tips and suggestions to their applicants.  On most credible award programs you will see the following.

  1. The Award Program will state its purpose clearly. (Why they are offering their awards)

  2. The Award Program will let applicants know, who is eligible to apply for their awards.  They will also list a set of rules for applicants. Who may apply, who may not apply, reasons a site may be disqualified, etc.

  3. The Award Program will not accept tasteless sites or sites that contain adult content.

  4. The Award Program will not accept sites from children under the age of 14.  They abide by C.O.P.P.A regulations. (Children’s online privacy act)

  5. The Award Program will have a "code of ethics" statement, showing their applicants that their standards for reviewing sites are high.

  6. The Award Program will display a privacy statement, letting applicants know, that any information they send to your application form (other then the URL and name of the applicants site) is confidential.

  7. The Award Program will display a copyright statement, protecting their content, award graphics and all the hard work they have put into constructing their award program.

  8. The Award Program will give credit to anyone who helps with their site.  Any graphics, content or donations made to their award site, will give appropriate credit to its creator.

  9. The Award Program will offer custom award graphics for their winners.  The graphics are usually optimized for fast loading and no larger then 200x200 pixels and under 20kb. (.jpg or .gif format)

  10. The Award Program will display a "Statistics" page, in order to let applicants know how many applications have been received during the year and what their chances are of winning an award from your program.

  11. The Award Program will display a winners list with the date the award was giving to their winners, as well as the country they are from.

  12. The Award Program will display a prominent winners list.  Gold Award Winners or special awards giving, usually displays a screenshot, country the winner is from, description of the winners site and the date they have received the award.  (This is considered good marketing.)

  13. The Award Programs winners list will always be up to date.

  14. The Award Program often times will be listed with a prestigious rating service or ethics organization. Most high rated award programs will display a "Membership or Affiliates Page".  We will talk a little more about this in our next section, "Memberships, Ratings and Organizations."

  15. The Award Program will be able to win its highest award offered:  Example: If an Award Program expects applicants to show advanced technical skills with flash, scripting, coding, correct use of tags, etc., then the AP should show the same and be able to win their highest award offered.

  16. The criteria of a credible Award Program will consist of more then just a few statements and a short bulleted list.  Example: (give detailed explanations and tips)  If Award Programs requires applicants to "Optimize Graphics", they should explain the reason why.  They should offer solutions such as, slicing images or creating thumbnails to cut down on loading time.  If the Award Program require horizontal scroll bars not to be present,  they should explain how not all browser settings are the same.  If they require ALT tags be used, they should explain the use of ALT tags and how they are used to name graphics, while hovering over the graphic, etc.  They should explain more then just the do's and the don'ts.  By doing this, you they are also teaching applicants and beginner designers something they may not know.

  17. The Award Program will display a "judging or scoring" page, that can be easily understood and explain to applicants how points can be achieved as well as deducted.  This will give applicants an idea of what they need to show on their sites, to gain the highest points possible.

  18. The Award Program usually displays, "Award Title Descriptions".   AP's should explain what the "Award Titles" represent.  Example:  How many points it will take to win your Gold, Silver or Bronze and  a brief description of the overall meaning of each Award Title.

  19. A good Award Program will offer tools, resources or links to assist applicants with web designs.

  20. The Award Program usually offers an "Award Process" page.  Explaining to applicants the award process, how long it takes to hear back, who is notified and who is not, as well as what happens if they do not win an award.  AP's should provide applicants the option to email your AP for tips and suggestions if they do not win an award from their Award Programs. Award Programs should show their applicants that they care and are willing to further assist them in gaining a higher Award Title, if they request suggestions on improving their sites.

  21. The Award Program should list credentials they may have or an Evaluators/Judging Panel Page.  Applicants are quick to ask, "Who is judging my site and what qualifies them to evaluate my site?"

  22. The Award Program should display legitimate contact information and not just a form for applicants to fill out.

  23. The Award Program should provide an alternative application process.  Example: For applicant’s browsers who do not support forms, they should provide you with the option to email your applications and what information you would like applicants to enclose with the application.

Memberships, Ratings and Organizations:

You may have seen rating banners, ethics banners or membership banners listed on some award programs, from different organizations.  These banners may represent different things, such as being a member of an awards ethics program, being a team member of the awards community or listed with a prestigious award program rating services.  There are many reasons why an award program may belong to different memberships and organizations.  Below is a list of some of the most respected organizations that award programs can be listed with, or belong to as a member.  Being a member of, or listed with, any of these organizations below, you can be assured that your award program will undergo a review, before being accepted into these memberships.

Ethic Programs

APEX - Their mission on the Internet is to increase the credibility and professionalism of all website owners, designers and users to set ethical standards, encourage professional practices, and promote fellowship amongst internet users.  APEX exists to promote the ethical exchange of all ideas, goods or services where the internet is used for the exchange.

CEM/CEMA - Organization of Webmasters that offer Website Awards and we support the concept that Website Award programs with serious criteria should themselves be compliant with that criteria and the fair issuance of their awards.

The Ethics Pledge Program - The Ethics Pledge Program is for serious award givers only. If you are accepted for membership, we are not endorsing your site or the content of your site. We are only endorsing your Award Program, verifying that you have taken The Pledge ( or any other ethics pledge of your choosing ) and that you have agreed to judge all sites with honesty, integrity, fairness and dignity with no prejudice against anyone.

Rating Programs

Award Sites! - Premiere rating service, launched in 1997.  It's Motto, "Bettering The Net By Striving For Excellence".  Setting Standards - for website award and review programs so that interested submitters know the quality of the award relative to strict criteria and rules. 

Web Awards - Providing award seekers access to serious award programs of integrity and objectivity offering fair evaluations.

Olymp Award Index - Any qualified applicant can achieve a rating between 1 and 6. Level 1 being the Beginner and Level 6 being the Expert! The Olymp Award Index is also always ready to lend a helping hand to any webmaster trying to learn the awards program business. Accepting applications in German and English only.

The Academy Of Fine Awards - Promoting the most beautiful awards on the internet.  Also is a rating service for web award programs.

EURO Award Index - Euro Award Index EAI - International Award Index with Rating System. (In English and Dutch).

UWSAG - United Web Site Award Givers is a concept which began in 2001, whereby those who offer website awards and the web site owner or designer seeking an award could be part of the same community.  This joint effort for excellence in web design has allowed for a large group of men and women who have devoted a great deal of their time for superior web design in all aspects

Award Listings-

Bandit's Award Listings - The purpose of the Award Programs Awards is to reward the hard work and dedication that is needed to create a top quality Award Program.

Treasure Of The Web Award Listing - A Web Award Listing Service for both rated and non-rated Award Programs.  The Award programs must meet the TOWA criteria, in order to be listed.  TOWA also has it's own Award Program rated 4.5 with AS! 

Royal Awards University - Their aim is to lift Internet to a higher aesthetic and ethical level thanks to joined efforts of all participants and respecting the differences between us.  Their basic mission is a significant introduction of aesthetics into the Web and the Internet, which means higher quality of the Internet, higher standards, design, criteria, evaluation.

Website Awards Worksheet - The Website Awards Worksheet is a free resource!  It helps you apply for Web awards and track your activities.  Apply to hundreds of Award Sites around the world!

Award Program Certifications

World Wide Web Awards Certification Program - To promote Award Programs that demonstrate high ethics, fairness, an exceptional criteria and wonderful recourses to assist applicants in gaining credibility to their websites.  These award programs truly are "Best of the Best" and should be commended for their wonderful contribution to the internet community.  Donna Snyder - CEO, World Wide Web Awards

TOWA Certified Evaluator - By becoming a TOTW™ Certified Evaluator, you are committing yourself to upholding the TOTW™ Certified Evaluator Creed which means you will always evaluate sites according to your criteria, or the criteria of the program to which you are evaluating.  You will always be fair and base your evaluation solely on the criteria.

Family Safe Programs

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Are you ready to build your First Class Award Program?
Now that you have an idea, on how to build a First Class Award Program, just be sure that you are ready for the commitment.  An enormous amount of time and effort goes into maintaining award programs.  Keep in mind that your applicants are looking to gain credibility to their own websites, by applying to your award program.  Your award program should be able to win your highest award offered on your site.  We expect a lot from our applicants and require them to have a certain amount of development and software skills to achieve our higher rated awards, so it is important that your award program is well constructed, designed, written and can win your highest award.

Our Final Thoughts - A Little Bit, Can Go A Long Way!

Offer your applicants something extra with your Award Program:
Award Programs should offer tools and resources to benefit applicants.  The reason for this is, if your site is a standalone award program, it should be extremely beneficial in helping the internet community.  AP's should be assisting applicants with tutorials, tools and resources to give them a helping hand.  This will be beneficial to both your site and to applicants. (It may even bring more traffic to your site, by offering some useful tools).   These tools can consist of links to graphic programs, scripting sites, interactive tools or tutorials.  You may want to consider adding a page with "Webmaster Tools or Resources".  Show your applicants that you are more then just an Award Program site and that you care in assisting them with site design and ideas.

Good luck with your Award Program!

Donna Snyder
Copyright © 2005
All Rights Reserved
About the Author
Donna Snyder is the CEO of The American Association Of Webmasters  and the World Wide Web Awards™ .  She has been a website designer for more than five years and owns / operates two full service web related companies - including DDD Web Designs headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona.

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