The Webby Awards: What’s the Pattern of Selected Sites?

Upon venturing to The Webby Awards website (herein referred to as the Webbys) for the first time it is hard to gauge what to expect. Many sites are alike in professionalism and quality, but some break from the traditional pack. Target audiences and content of the sites that have been gathered differ greatly from web page to web page (e.g. PBS in comparison to Peter Pan's Home Page). In order to establish a pattern, therefore, criteria must be chosen that narrow focus for the sake of unwarranted bandwidth usage. The following factors will be taken into account: content, structure, navigation (with that ease of use), and functionality. The web is an ever growing and adapting resource. As a result, it is hard to narrow down the criteria that is used for website analyzation. The Academy of Webby Awards has chosen great criteria. At least one exemplary Webby award-winning website will be analyzed for each of the four criteria. The following will be analyzed for their content: National Geographic, VolunteerMatch and Yahoo! Finance. For structure The Dancing Paul Page will be evaluated and for navigation Travelocity and Requiem for a Dream will both be scrutinized. Finally, for functionality, craigslist will be examined. Travelocity and Requiem for a Dream will be contrasted because the former is easy to navigate, while the latter is purposely difficult to navigate. The major goal of this essay is to get a broader understanding of the web and how it works by using “The Ultimate Bookmark” - a.k.a. the Webbys.

One of the key qualifications for all the sites that have been selected is content. Every web page needs to respectively fill a specific need and arguably all Webby award-winning sites do. The content of all the sites vary, however. Some sites like National Geographic provide information and content in the same way a reference book in a library would. There you can find maps of the world and information about different cultures and countries. You can also find information about travel to areas you don’t know much about. On the other hand, some sites, were created to promote a call for action on a particular issue in society. One example of such a site is VolunteerMatch. It was created to work as the intermediary between volunteers and organizations that need volunteers. The notion of the site is very simple. It helps provide the opportunity for volunteers to work for organizations they believe serve a great cause. VolunteerMatch is a perfect example for content because it fulfills a niche that someone felt needed to be covered. Another site that serves as a perfect example for content is Yahoo! Finance. There you can find out information about almost all things finance. Such as: U.S. and Canada financial market and company information, financial news, insurance information, loan and mortgage rates, and even foreign market information and quotes. The websites content features a broad range of information that allows visitors to have a “wide array of financial resources [1]” at their fingertips. Arguably, every site that has won a Webby presents exactly the content the intended users will want.

The Webby-award winners will almost always without exception present content matching their respective categories. But different sites present their content better based on the category under which the site is located. Take for example the winner of the “Weird” category: Peter Pan's Home Page. The site is a home page for a forty-eight year old male that lives in Tampa Bay, Florida. The site most likely won best “Weird” category for his unhealthy obsession with Peter Pan. There is plenty of content in the site. But its content doesn’t have the same authority that a site would have in the “News” category. (this year’s “News” category winner) rightfully has much more credibility than Peter Pan’s Home Page does. The site focuses its content on national and worldwide current events. And in this way, the user expects to view a site with a much more professional edge in comparison to those sites found in the “Weird” category. Also, how the user perceives the word “weird” in comparison to “news” vastly differs. “Odd [2]” is one of the primary definitions of weird. The definition of news – “a report of recent events [3]” – has an entirely different connotation. It is for this reason that the sites in the “Weird” category will always get more leeway then sites in the “News” category. Implicit in the two words are what you are to expect when you visit the sites.

The second criterion for websites is structure. The layout of a web page needs to be flawless and complete so that the user doesn’t become dissatisfied with the site. Web pages are intended to capture their viewers first with their aesthetic beauty. The layout of a website is as a result always a significant component of beauty. Visual design is important. Good visual design is appropriate for the intended user. The Dancing Paul Page serves as an example of great layout. Navigating through the site is very intuitive. And by the same token, you have a good idea of what you are going to get when you click. By this, you should know where you are navigating to based on the text or images that serves as links. All nominated sites and chosen winners of Webbys have structure and layout that tailor to the site’s intended audience. The same goes for sites on the web. Successful sites tend to have consistent and intuitive structure. Intuitive meaning very easy to understand, even for the most novice of web users. When a website is intuitive, the user will be able to easily build a mental model of where information can be found within the site.

A third criterion is navigation and ease of use. Almost all of the featured sites have multiple modes of navigation. The reason for this is simple: people use different methods of interacting in the online world. A perfect example of great website navigation is Travelocity. At the top is a navigation bar that has all the major categories of the site. Categories are complimented with clickable images. This website therefore serves as a notable example of a site with a small learning curve. On the web, sites that are easy for anyone to learn how to navigate will always do better than their ambiguous (what you see isn’t always what you are going to get) counterparts.

Conversely, other sites are purposely difficult to navigate. Requiem for a Dream is such an example. When you first go to the site it seems like you are going to your typical movie online presence. But then there is a flashing image that says "CLICK HERE NOW!" You click the flashing image and you are whisked away to a spurious infomercial whose host is "Tabby Tibbons." The website was created within the context of the movie, so those who haven’t seen the movie might be thrown off. If you have seen the movie, you would know that "Tabby Tibbons" is a character that plays a very important role in the movie. Those who aren't annoyed by the lack of navigation will learn something from the site. Persistence will guide you to various addictions that people face in life (like net, gambling, and weight-loss). Both the Travelocity and Requiem For a Dream sites demonstrate the importance of how navigation is a huge factor in the experience of the user. The Webbys consistently recognize this as something crucial to the web.

With the advent of new technology, functionality will always be a key criterion for websites. According to the Academy of Webby Awards, “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 [4].” Every person accesses the Internet differently. People use different types of Internet browsers to view the sites (such as Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator) which interpret website html and coding differently. Other non-traditional browsers may also be used (e.g. talking browsers for vision-impaired persons). Some people also may not have the most current versions of browsers, whether they are traditional or not. Because the technology of web coding is constantly changing certain people may not have programs current enough to view the site the way the author intended. Sites that wish to cater to their largest possible audience must therefore utilize simplistic technology in the creation of their layout. One such example is craigslist. In order to ensure that the broadest amount of users will be able to access the site, no images are used. Text and information are displayed within tables (which are supported by a majority of currently used browsers). People use a wide variety of connections that operate at different speeds. Broadband is still a relatively new creation while the 56k modem is still how the majority of Internet users get online. Only when users are able to properly view the site will they begin to navigate through the site’s content. Sputnik7 is a great example of great functionality. Keeping the intended audience of broadband users in mind the pleasing and interactive layout isn’t excessive. If it were intended for 56k users, there would be a problem -- lack of bandwidth. That is why the site won best site in the “Broadband” category of the Webby awards. Sites that were nominated or won Webbys all cater their functionality to the users who will access the sites.

The Academy of Webby Awards judges recognize that “web critique, like web development, is not an exact science. The medium evolves too rapidly-powerful new ideas and applications arise hourly, reshaping old ideas or paving over them.” In this way, criteria can change and molt as the web does. But the basic tenants of web development remain for the time being. An example of a tenant of the Internet from its inceptions is that it is a constantly growing and expanding resource. The number of categories for Webby awards began with fifteen. Currently there are than thirty. The Webbys and its nominees are a microcosm of the Internet and must continuously adapt to the growing needs of the Internet. In 1997 for example, there was no need for a broadband category. The Webbys attempt to reflect an ideal Internet. With the sheer amount of websites it is a daunting task to narrow nominees. The Webbys patterns can be found which exist throughout the Internet. There is a fundamental basis for all websites: they are generally made with the user in mind. In conclusion, the Webbys are outdated the moment the awards are handed out. But the model that the Webbys creates of the Internet is not.


[1] Yahoo! Finance:, Copyright 2002

[2] Merriam-Webster Online:, Copyright 2002

[3] Merriam-Webster Online:, Copyright 2002

[4] The Webby Awards:, Copyright 2001