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The top 10 ways to not win awards

Posted Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Winning awards is a lot of fun. It can also be tough. I could give you lots of advice about how to win awards, but I think it might be more instructive to explain how people fail to win awards.

Here are the Top 10 reasons why websites don't get awards (and annoy their visitors):

10. Broken images and links. Make sure all your images display properly, and your links actually go somewhere - or your application will go into the trash.

9. Spelling and grammar mistakes. If you don't take the time to get these right, don't expect the reviewer to take the time to give you an award.

8. Slow Pages. Your beautiful homepage is 500K and sited on a free website site like Geocities. The reviewer will die of old age before he sees your page.

7. Using a HTML generator program to make your pages. After you've seen enough pages, you know what pages were created with what programs; they have a "look" to them. Show you care enough to craft your own HTML.

6 Stupid Java applets. If it doesn't have a real purpose (and you didn't write it yourself), decaffeinate please. Same goes for JavaScript scrolling messages. Old hat, it marks you as a clueless net newbie. I can't tell you how many times I've had to suffer through some stupid Java newsticker applet that slowed my machine to a crawl (and I have a high-end G3 Mac!)

5. Colored text on a colored or patterned background. You want an award and the poor reviewer can't even read your page!

4. More than 1 ad banner on the page. The reviewer will click on the nicest banner and give that site an award! This is a serious mistake. Put 1 banner on a page, tops (or maybe 2 or 3 buttons). And if you're smart, don't put a banner on your main (home) page. That page should advertise YOUR site, not someone else's.

3. Your entire site is on a single 3-megabyte page. Books have more than one chapter - so should your website.

2. Extraneous content. Don't put up an animated gif just because it looks nice. If there's no good reason for something to be on your page, get rid of it. "Perfection is when there's nothing else you can remove."

And the #1 way to annoy a reviewer

1. Music. Let us count the ways this really annoys the hell out of a reviewer. It takes forever to load. It often crashes their browser. And if they don't share your taste in music, you're screwed. There's a reason silence is golden! Never, ever, ever play music on someone's machine unless they say they want to hear it (by clicking on a link, for example)

And finally, some of my personal pet peeves (as gleaned from the vetting I do every day for you people) Macintosh / Wintel Font Size problems. This is something to be aware of when using absolute font sizes; they are totally different on different platforms. In general, fonts are smaller on a Mac because it is a 72 dots-per-inch platform, whereas Wintel machines are 96 dots-per-inch. So a site that looks peachy-keen-perfect on a Mac may have fonts that are too large on a PC, in particular if you are restricting the size of a page. I ran into this little gotcha when programming this site, and have to recalculate font sizes each time I serve a page to make it look decent on both Mac and PC. If you are using Cascading Style Sheets (and you should be!) one solution that works well is to specify all font sizes in PIXELS (eg: 12px) as this makes them display the same on both Mac and PC. The Style Sheet for this site uses this technique.

The difference between it's and its. I get these confused all the time myself. Basically, "it's" is a contraction of "it is" or "it has". The same goes for spelling in general.

"I'm still working on this site" Then why am I reviewing it?

If you want to sum up my advice about writing a good website, it would be this: look at every element on your site, and ask yourself "Does this absolutely, positively, HAVE to be on the site?" If the answer is no, dump it. Be ruthless about it.

Consider this site, for example. The total amount of graphics required on all the pages of this site (except for the awards page) is about 16K. The design is built around functionality. When you visit the home page, you can see from what is onscreen on a 640x480 monitor what the site is about, without scrolling. In fact, my sole flight of fancy is the officecam on the home page, which is typically about a 1-2K image.

One final comment - always keep in mind that winning awards is mostly "ego-boo." Winning a lot of awards won't boost your site traffic that much. And whatever you do, don't display all your awards on your home page, put them on a separate awards page!


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