Over the past years numerous conferences and online events took it upon themselves to rate and judge websites. Be it as a primary focal point of an event, or just a side deal to the main event, they would one way or the other dish out "The best in category" awards to the websites that applied. And that is just ridiculous. Why?
Lady Justice. Crying.
The jury has no understanding of backend logistics
If Amazon.com applied for any website contest today, they would win zero awards. It looks pretty bad by today's standards, the checkout process is weird – it takes you to a completely new almost hostile layout, and looking through source code it is all chaos. However, everyone could agree that Amazon is one of the best online shopping places with stellar revenue. Shipping is precise, returns function, everything works. The jury has no clue.
The jury does not get access to the content management
A website that does not need content management is not a website. It is an online postcard – it serves a short term purpose and is then shut down or forgotten. Normal long(er) term projects require content management.
And the jury cannot know how do editors input new content and organize it around the site to create a living and breathing entity that serves some purpose. The most beautiful websites are usually the ones that are so hard to maintain that the owners usually decide to redesign stripping away needles beauty in favor of functionality and ease of management. They get an award, only to be taken down 3 weeks later replaced with simpler design that's easier to maintain.
The jury does not know if the site is making money
Website owners will not disclose any actually relevant information. Amount of cash the site makes, number of inquires the Contact page made, number of leads generated via different mechanisms, number of newsletter subscribers or basically any relevant number for which the site was created in the first place. Once again, sites that exist for the sole purpose of their existence are not considered valuable at all.
Take a look at this beauty: vg.no – it is one of the most visited websites in Norway. By no standards – typography, graphic design, layout, semantics, photography quality, even information architecture would it win any awards. Yet it is making some serious money. And the "design" they use is so influential that other sites in Norway decided to embrace it. Today, Norway ranks as the second wealthiest country in the world in monetary value, with the largest capital reserve per capita of any nation. Owners of vg.no could easily hire the best of the best in online newspaper design agencies and redesign. But why would they? They make money, the site serves its full purpose. And the jury will not know that.
Book & cover
All that website contests do is quite literally judge the book by its cover. They subjectively rate how the page looks like without taking into consideration the main purpose of the site and the results the site generates. If we were to dig even deeper; into website security, code execution speed, Google ranking, user testing and long term design choices we quickly discover that…