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Objectivity and Site Purpose:
Key to Setting Criteria and Judging a Site

By Betty Malheiro -- April 4, 2001
In applying for awards for my site, I've come across many awarding sites who have set their award criteria so high that no one could possibly meet their requirements--not even themselves.  Many even attempt to limit/restrict a designer's creativity with their "must have music turn off controls, "must not have more than one animation per page", or threaten "immediate disqualification if entire site doesn't load within 30 seconds on a 14.4 modem"--and yes, this last one is a requirement of one of the awarder's on this site.  What amazes me is how this person can determine how fast a site loads if he doesn't go beyond the first page.

Betty Malheiro

But upon inspection, many of the web sites that these people have rejected on criteria similar to the above, feature outstanding navigation systems, have great content and "squeaky clean" HTML code, great layout, view equally well using various browsers, show no javascript errors, no pop-ups, etc. yet no award forthcoming. I've even found that some of these same awarders have bestowed some of their highest honors upon sites with flagrant copyright violations and "Flash" sites which take 5+ minutes to load. Duh! What's wrong with this picture?

Deciding on who does or does not win your award is subjective at best, and I agree that a certain level of standards needs to be defined and met in order to keep an awards program meaningful. But when developing your criteria you need to: (1) keep it as objective as possible; (2) add enough flexibility in it to take into consideration a site's purpose; and (3) don't include a particular criteria just because the higher rated awards include it in their's, your thinking being "well, they're the experts, they must know". Well, the experts don't know everything.

Just because a site uses midis (without turn-off controls) and animations, doesn't mean it lacks good design principles and content and isn't that what awarding a site is all about? I'm sure you have at least one television in your home. Would you bother to watch it or even have one if what was displayed on its screen was static and it produced no sound? I think not. The world isn't static and a web site is a form of media similar to a TV. If you wouldn't expect a television to be static and sound-free then why should you expect that a web site should be static and sound-free in order for it to be called award-winning?

Let me elaborate on two of my biggest pet peeves in award criteria--"must have music turn-off controls" and "must not contain more than one animation per page" (or similar) using my own designing ability and site as an example.

My career background includes 5 years in printing, 30 years in literature design and 3 years in web design. When I design a site, I spend hours selecting or creating the right backgrounds, graphics and music to enhance it. By the time I'm finished with it, it becomes an extension of me--who I am. My purpose in designing my site was to create a site that contains something for everyone...yes, it contains areas of slow-loading games and puzzles, animations, some pages with embedded midis with no controls, as well as pages and pages of content with no midis at all. Despite this, hits range from 400 to 800 a month--not bad would you say? And yes, I have won some awards which were given in total objectivity.

First let me talk about the "must have a way to turn off music". As a designer of both print and web sites, I find the music controls of MSIE and Netscape extremely ugly to look at destroying the image I spent so much time and energy to create. I have, on the other hand, in an attempt to meet that criteria half-way indicated those sections which contain embedded midis without controls (including duplicating some of the sections without midis) so that if a person doesn't like them they can choose to visit them or not--the choice is totally theirs. Should my or any other well designed site be rejected because turn-off controls were not placed on ALL such pages despite the fact there are 250+ others without midis that they can view and be entertained by? Perhaps those who believe there is no place for sound on the web, should turn off or disconnect their speakers all together.

I also believe that animations can add to a site's theme and in some cases are created especially for the purpose of entertaining those who do enjoy them. Is it logical to not award a site because the webmaster wanted to entertain the masses just because you don't think there should be more than one animated image per page? Where is the objectivity in such a decision? One of my biggest sources of pleasure when I first went on-line was viewing sites with animated scenes and envying their ability to create them. When I finally learned how to create my own, I (not unlike most) wanted to share that pleasure with others.

Graphics arts is a skill much like painting or sculpting. Creating these images requires a lot of time with the artist often having to manipulate the graphic pixel-by-pixel to get the desired image--and animations can range from 2 to 16 different images to create its effect each having to be modified pixel-by-pixel. And quite to the contrary, graphics play a major role in a site's overall design. Not every one has this ability and it should be acknowledged, not condemned.

Now, I must admit, if a site sells nuts and bolts, then snowglobes or snowflakes fluttering down the page is a bit far-fetched or if the topic is a dissertation on the effect of heat on cactus in the desert and you display a lake applet with dolphins, a mirage maybe?--well enough said. But on a personal site, where a designer wishes to share those animations with the thousands of others who do appreciate them and where the animations do relate to the overall theme, is it fair that their well-designed sites be rejected? You watch tv and go to the movies; aren't these animations of sorts? Don't these forms of entertainment qualify for awards such as the Oscars, the Golden Globe and Emmy's to name a few. Why should a web site be judged any differently?

If it had been intended that the web be totally static and sound-free, soundcards, and programs such as Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro, Flash, Animation Shop and others would never have been created. So what have we learned here--yes do set your standards for winning your award, but keep them objective and more importantly consider a site's purpose before rejecting it. As I stated previously, a site's use of midis and animations doesn't mean that it hasn't met the highest of design and content standards.

Set objective and reasonable criteria and judge a site on its own merits, not against your likes and dislikes or those of someone else.

Copyright © 2001
All Rights Reserved
Betty Malheiro

About the Author
Betty Malheiro is the owner of Logic's Awards and is a Sales and Marketing Coordinator.  My background includes 5 years in printing, 30 years in literature design and 3 years of web design.

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