2013 National Web Design Contest

During the last week of June, I helped run the WebProfessionals.org national web design contest (held in Kansas City, Missouri under the auspices of SkillsUSA). Details of the contest (as well as past winners) can be found at WebDesignContest.org. Over 30 teams participated at the high school level (secondary) and over 15 teams participated at the post-secondary level.In order to compete in Kansas City, each team had to win their respective state web design contest. Every 2 years, one winning individual is selected to participate in the international web design contest (this year was in Leipzig, Germany). Obviously, this was a team effort. We had multiple individuals on site helping coordinate the contest briefing and de-briefing. We also had teams of judges throughout the US who worked diligently to review the submitted entries. I am most appreciative of the efforts by everyone involved to make this a reality. This was our 11 year for the national web design contest. I thought it would be appropriate to include various observations (which were made at the competition) and comments received from the judges. These have been generalized as many apply to more than one team.Before going into the comments and observations, I wanted to share a few photos of the competition. I hope these give you a sense of what it was like in Kansas City this year. You can click on the images to see the complete set at Flickr (and can view them as a slideshow if desired).


Although we had two separate contests, I grouped all the observations and comments together. I hope readers find these useful. These are not provided in any order (just as I encountered them in feedback from others).

  • When you are interviewed, I encourage you to identify the one aspect that you do better than anyone else. What differentiates you from everyone? If you can answer this effectively, you have a great understanding of your strengths.
  • When submitting images, it is always a good idea to provide multiple formats and sizes. Several judges made similar comments on a number of entries.
  • Images and colors should be consistent across the site (they should also be legible at various file sizes).
  • Where possible, use CSS to format text (as opposed to creating text based graphical images).
  • Use whitespace effectively to enhance the user experience.
  • Watch out for typos (this includes typos in the names of CSS classes and IDs).
  • Don’t forget about SEO (incorporate this in your sites as much as possible).
  • Pages (especially forms) should be accessible.
  • Don’t use templates (such as those supplied with Dreamweaver).
  • Where possible, do not use inline CSS styles (link to an external CSS file).
  • Use comments throughout your code (in the HTML, CSS, and JS) to help anyone maintaining the site in the future.
  • It was great to see HTML5 and CSS-3 employed a fair amount.
  • Consider having a local validator (yes, internet access was blocked), but one should still have mostly valid pages.

In terms of feedback regarding the competition itself, here are some of the items we recorded and will work at improving upon next time. Yees, we really do listen to feedback and modify the competition each year (and improve it).

  • It would be most helpful if more stock images were provided.
  • Textures would also be helpful.
  • Liked having fonts provided this year.
  • Liked having images with a lot of whitespace so they could be easily manipulated.
  • There were several requests to use libraries (like jQuery and Twitter Bootstrap). We continue to evaluate this. We typically don’t allow these as we are interested inyour knowledge of HTML, CSS and JS (without using a library as a crutch). We do understand that any practicing professional would immediately use libraries to complete a production site.
  • There were a number of requests for a separate web developer contest. We are presently working on this. We don’t know when it will be available.

Overall, I found the level of energy, enthusiasm and passion to be most impressive. This is what has kept me coming back for 11 years. This is also a great opportunity to network with peers. I hope those who participated keep in touch and grow their network.

I look forward to your comments. Please understand that I must approve them (due to the level of spam received at times).

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