“Concept Demo” Awards Program

CJSH.name/demo

Purpose (Required) – About and Awards (Optional) – Ethics (Optional) – Disqualifications (Required) – Criteria (Required) – Winners (Suggested) – Self-Test (Suggested) – Application (Required) – Privacy Policy (Optional)

This is not a real awards program. This is an experiment into how an award program can presented in a way that both protects the award program’s interests and provides a more graceful experience to applicants. You cannot apply to this program and get an award, even though it looks like you can.

Text that is part of the demo, part of the model of how to present an award so it protects reviewer interests while being kinder to applicants, has a standard white background. Commentary that is not meant to be included in a real program, has a khaki background. This text is an example of commentary.

But why streamline the awards process at all? Isn’t streamlining the awards process just awarding lazy applicants? I’d like to remind you that many applicants aren’t just applying to your program; your award program isn’t the only one out there. It’s important, yes, but I’d like to invite you to step into your applicant’s shoes. Your applicant doesn’t just see your program; your better applicants are probably applying to several programs. And seeing the same things again and again, often things which insult a good applicant’s intelligence, can frustrate applicants.

So what’s the point? Why is this needed?

I’m an award applicant. I have worked for years on my website, C.J.S. Hayward. It’s not perfect; there are still problems I’m trying to fix. But it offers something of genuine value.

An integral part of working on my website and making it the best I can is applying to awards programs. Awards programs are the #1 reason my website now receives over five thousand hits per day. I would not have anywhere near that traffic without awards programs. And I wouldn’t know as much about making a good website.

And I’ve applied to a lot of awards sites. I’m asking award reviewers to read what I wrote, so it’s perfectly fair for award reviewers to ask me to do some reading too. Especially as people who won’t read criteria submit terribly inappropriate sites and waste reviewers’ time.

So what am I asked to read? Some of it is distinctive. I’m asked to read about a program’s purpose, and that’s as it should be. Different programs have different purposes. Each site also wants me to read its criteria. Web awards criteria vary so much, or so I’m told.

Or so I’m told. I’ve read over a thousand awards criteria—yes, a thousand—and there are some things that aren’t unique. For example, the request not to submit porn. Or the request that I be kind to blind/text-only visitors and use ALT tags. And, well… I’ve lost count of how many sites seemed to think I didn’t know that an internal broken link is a faux pas, and I wouldn’t know unless they told me. There are real differences in criteria, but the difference is not between sites that don’t want racist material and sites that want racial slurs on every page. That’s not the kind of difference I encounter. There are differences, but not that kind. And another thing that happens a lot is that awards programs treat me as if I don’t know that if my website is excellent it won’t cause browser crashes. They treat me as if I don’t know a whole lot of basic things. If I’m going to apply to dozens of award programs, dozens of people want to sit me down and make me read that I shouldn’t submit porn, hate speech, coarse language and the like.

I don’t think I’m the kind of person awards reviewers had in mind. I think awards reviewers are frustrated by an unending stream of people who submit inappropriate sites. Very inappropriate sites. Porn. Browser crashes. Sites with no coherent theme. Exactly the kind of sites that the criteria are supposed to say, “Stop! I don’t want this! Don’t submit this to me until you’ve cleaned it up!” And it is this stream of people who are foremost on a reviewer’s mind.

But what about another stream of people? What about people who have read awards criteria carefully, and worked to polish their websites as much as they can? What about people who have taken advantage of the wisdom in awards criteria, and have squeaky clean websites with no porn, no JavaScript errors, no popups at all? Is it OK for them to apply to several different awards programs? And if they apply to twenty different awards program, do they need to read twenty different times not to submit porn, racism, pages that will cause browser crashes, and dozens of other items that I’m not going to ask you to take the time to read? What if they want to submit their awards to hundreds of awards programs? Do they really need to read hundreds of lists that tell them that porn is a no-no?

It seems that the awards criteria, as they are written, are designed to deal with people who shouldn’t be applying, but aren’t trying to be kind to the people they want. Most programs feel a need to bury a password somewhere… and there’s a reason for that. If you don’t see what that reason is, I’d encourage you to read The Administrator who Cried, “Important!”

The point of this “concept demo” program is to demonstrate something different, something better. The point of this “concept demo” is to demonstrate a way that a program can communicate clear expectations, and screen out people who shouldn’t be applying, while being much kinder to the kind of people you want to be applying—the people who build a site that’s fit to win awards… and the people your program exists to recognize. It can be done, and I invite you to read on and see just how it can be done.

To explore the first difference, let me repeat the navigation:

Purpose (Required) – About and Awards (Optional) – Ethics (Optional) – Disqualifications (Required) – Criteria (Required) – Winners (Suggested) – Self-Test (Suggested) – Application (Required) – Privacy Policy (Optional)

At the opening, which is just navigation, we see the first real difference. What is it?

First let me ask, is your time valuable? If I drone on and on without telling you anything new, will you keep on reading in the hope that it will get better? Or would you like to only read things that you find helpful?

If you’d rather only read things you find helpful, let’s extend that same courtesy to your applicants. Most good applicants are trying to do two things:

  • Find out whether their site matches the award program.
  • If it seems to match, apply.

There was one site that insisted that I needed to read their privacy policy before applying for their award. I still don’t understand why. It was an ordinary privacy policy, and I think that person was just thinking, “Well, I wrote it, so I expect people to read it.” But that’s not a common problem, right?

Well, I can only remember one program that expected me to read their privacy policy. But I’ve lost count of how many programs have expected me to read their ethics code—an ethics code which happens to be copied on hundreds of other sites.

In many programs, something is made required reading if it could be useful to the applicant. Here I’m following a different principle. The principle is this: Only make something required reading if it helps the applicants in the two steps above.

I’m not hiding anything. It’s still easy for the applicant to read the ethics, for instance. But I’m trying to treat my best applicants kindly. My best applicants will have read other awards program’s criteria and used them to build an excellent site, and they’ll be familiar with the boilerplate code of ethics. And I’ve used bold, italics, and plain text to underscore which is which. I’m showing respect for the applicants’ time by making the least justified claim on their time. The principle is that instead of saying, “If it might be relevant to some applicants, the applicant should read it,” I say, “My time is precious. So is my applicants. I won’t require them to read things they don’t need to read to know if their site should be submitted. Each thing I require applicants to read is a claim on their time, and it needs to be justified.”

Purpose

Program temporarily closed.

This program is closed until the end of January 2005 to deal with a personal emergency. If it is February 2005 or later, please contact us.

If a program is temporarily closed, it should say so on the front page, and it should be unmistakable. (If there were no khaki comments, “Program temporarily closed.” would be near the top of the page.) Most visitors don’t read webpages the way we were taught in school, and the notice above is optimized for how people read webpages.

Furthermore, this requests contact if the notice is still up after the program should be up and running.

In a nutshell, we’re looking to award sites that do two things:

  • Present great content.
  • Let people enjoy that great content with a minimum of distractions.

We believe that good web design is like good acting: instead of thinking about it, you’re drawn through it into something else. And so we want to award sites that have great content, and that employ user-friendliness (usability) to let people focus on the content without the site getting in the way. (Our disqualifications and criteria spell out exactly what we mean by that.)

Purpose (Required) – About and Awards (Optional) – Ethics (Optional) – Disqualifications (Required) – Criteria (Required) – Winners (Suggested) – Self-Test (Suggested) – Application (Required) – Privacy Policy (Optional)

About and Awards

Several remarks:

  • This section is optional because an applicant doesn’t need to know all this to submit a great site. On my own website, I have an “About” section, but I don’t require people to read it. What the applicant needs to know is what we’re looking for, and the history of this program may be interesting to the people who run the program, but it does not help them in that task.
  • I am not including a sample “About” section because most people do a good enough job that I don’t see how to sharpen it.
  • In this case, I am combining this with the sample awards, also not included. It’s nice to have that information available, and people who are curious about what the logos look like will find them easily enough.
  • If there is a process page, that section should be made optional. It’s good to make that information available, but it doesn’t help applicants tell if the program is right for their site. If an applicant wants to know how many times you’ll visit their site in evaluation, they don’t need to be forced to read your process page.
  • If there is a rules page, it should be broken into general and program-specific rules, just as I have done with the disqualifications and criteria.)

Purpose (Required) – About and Awards (Optional) – Ethics (Optional) – Disqualifications (Required) – Criteria (Required) – Winners (Suggested) – Self-Test (Suggested) – Application (Required) – Privacy Policy (Optional)

Ethics

I, C.J.S. Hayward, owner of all Awards Programs held at the Jonathan’s Corner web site, do hereby declare on behalf of myself and any other evaluator/s who may be contracted at any time by Jonathan’s Corner to evaluate for any Jonathan’s Corner sponsored Award Program, that we agree to advance and promote the website evaluator Code of Ethics in order to ensure fairness to all applicants and to maintain the honor and integrity of applicants, evaluators and awards.

We agree that all critiques given will be constructive in nature as positive comment is productive. We will refrain from criticism unless specifically requested by an applicant, and in such instances, will remain positive where possible in an effort to promote goodwill and advance the level of quality among Internet sites.

We agree to allow eligibility to all applicants who meet the posted online criteria of any particular award. We agree to be uniform in our eligibility requirements (criteria) and will fairly evaluate all sites/pages meeting our criteria which are submitted by any applicant. We further agree to clearly post these criteria.

We agree not to discriminate on grounds of race, gender, nation of origin, religion, profession, age, mental or physical handicap, or any other reason which is not globally viewed as an illegal trait or manner of conduct.

COPPA was written after websites targeted children with cartoon characters and the like, lured them into giving their email addresses, and sold the addresses to lists. So it made a very modest requirement: U.S. websites that:

  • Were geared towards children, or
  • Knowingly collected personal information from children under 13.

must obtain parental consent before collecting personal information from children under 13.

That’s it. That’s quite a modest claim. More specifically, it doesn’t require any age verification from 99% of awards programs I’ve seen. The awards programs I’ve seen aren’t geared towards children, nor (unless they ask age) are they knowingly collecting information from children under thirteen. But people have this vague idea of COPPA—linking to it without doing research on it, and something happens.

Some websites go above and beyond the call of duty and require parental consent for applicants under thirteen.

Others go further above and beyond the call of duty and require applicants to be over thirteen (if they don’t have parental consent).

Others go still further and jack up the age to fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, or eighteen.

Somewhere along the line, the parental consent gets dropped, and in the end, if you’re under eighteen, you can’t submit even if both your parents sign and fax a letter saying explicitly:

Dear Web Awards Program;

We hereby notify you that we give our full consent for our seventeen year old Pat to apply to your award program. If you have any questions, please call us at the above number.

Sincerely,

Oh, and one more thing. COPPA is not an international law. It’s a U.S. law affecting U.S. websites. COPPA has no jurisdiction over a Spanish site on a Spanish server. But just like parental consent drops out of the picture, any connection to the U.S. drops out of the picture. An overly sensitive reader could think that these awards programs assume that the U.S. is the center of the universe and the rest of the world is just the 51st state. (After all, they clearly assume that U.S. laws apply to everyone…)

COPPA is a fish story. Like “the one that got away,” it seems to get bigger and bigger. COPPA gets bigger and bigger the more I see people trying to go above and beyond the call of duty. I’m trying not to think about a scenario a couple of years down the road when I try to apply to an award program and am told, “We’re sorry, but some sociologists say that thirtysomethings are still basically like children, and in the interests of COPPA adherence, we can’t allow you to apply to our program.”

Perhaps you wouldn’t feel comfortable deleting all age discrimination. But it might be nice to stay close to the law (parental consent for applicants under 13) instead of telling brilliant teenagers, “We don’t care what the law allows! We’re discriminating against you because of your age!”

We agree to set forth awards criteria and to adhere to same. Proposed time frames for changes will be posted for one (1) week prior to the final publishing of same with notices posted on site so all potential applicants can view and understand the proposed changes.

We agree to evaluate web sites under the criteria which were in place at the time of any and/or all application/s. If changes are made to criteria after application/s is/are received, the submitted site/s will be evaluated using the criteria that were in effect when applicant/s initially submitted the site/s.

We agree to immediately inform any criteria compliant applicant in writing, of a ‘Refrain to Evaluate’ if it is found that a conflict of interest would occur in evaluating their web site – e.g. Such may occur upon being requested to evaluate the web site of a good friend. We will offer such applicant a choice of evaluator taken from CEM/CEMA membership listing.

We agree to maintain a professional, friendly and positive manner in any and/or all correspondence and/or communication held with any applicant/s.

We agree to evaluate all submitted sites within ninety (90) days of receipt of submission. If this deadline cannot be met, we agree to suspend submissions until we can again work within this timeframe.

We agree not to divulge any information about any applicant to persons, groups, or agencies not directly connected to our Awards Programs, and only then for the purpose of evaluating submissions and notifying winners. All information received from applicants via e-mail submissions or submission forms will be deemed private.

We agree to encourage and promote the use of original material for Awards Programs criteria and evaluation processes. We agree to assist any person requesting advice concerning ethical evaluation for and disbursement of awards. Please note: The awards evaluation processes in use at CPSnet Web Awards are copyrighted material and written authorization is required for their use.

We agree to maintain any owned individual web site/s that includes Awards Program/s to a standard that meets the criteria of the Award/s given. In the case of any Award/s offered that is/are outside the main subject of our web site/s, any and/or all such web site/s will be maintained to a high standard of integrity in all its/their main areas.

We agree to maximum dimensions of awards given in courtesy of web sites that will use them. If the maximum dimensions cannot be adhered to then a text only link will be permitted for graphics larger than maximum size; maximum size dimensions offered from this web site are: no more than 80 pixels height and 100 pixels width.

We agree that there will be only one obligation for winning awards from this web site beyond meeting the criteria. It is not, and never will be, mandatory at this web site to sign a guestbook or to join a mailing list. It is a requirement that any awards granted from this web site must be linked back to our web site in a method that will be outlined in award notification e-mails.

We agree that we will not grant awards to, or in any other manner endorse or promote, any web site that endorses, promotes or contains content which is considered globally to be illegal or discriminatory against humans.

Another minor change. I’ve changed the ending, “…discriminatory whether same be against humans or wildlife.” to “…discriminatory against humans.” That means that I don’t have to discriminate against Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, a good many atheists and agnostics, etc. who discriminate between humans and wildlife. (Even most strict vegans recognize that there is an important moral difference between killing a human and killing an insect. That’s because they discriminate between humans and wildlife.)

I am slightly puzzled why “…whether same be against humans and wildlife.” appears unaltered in so many awards criteria. Sometimes it’s left me wondering if the awards program actually have actually read and thought about the ethics code, or just copied it and required me to read it. If you’ll think a bit, this doesn’t present the best image to applicants.

(But I’m nitpicking. I’ll stop.)

We agree that we will not accept favors of any sort in exchange for preferential treatment of submissions. We will at all times maintain a high standard of honesty and integrity.

We agree that we will take all measures necessary to maintain the honor and integrity of our Award Program.

We agree that we will use an application process that respects the applicants’ time.

This last item is new. And it adds something that I, as an award applicant, value.

Submitted on this day, 16 February 2005

C.J.S. Hayward

Purpose (Required) – About and Awards (Optional) – Ethics (Optional) – Disqualifications (Required) – Criteria (Required) – Winners (Suggested) – Self-Test (Suggested) – Application (Required) – Privacy Policy (Optional)

Disqualifications

The disqualifications and criteria are each broken into two parts, with an important difference between the two parts. The first part has rules, such as no porn and no browser crashes, that are important, but they’re things you probably expect if you have read the criteria for several of the top Award Sites! programs. If you know your website meets all of those requirements, you can safely skim them, or skip to the program specific disqualifications. If you don’t know what I’m referring through, I ask you to read through all the disqualifiers. One disqualifier, on either list, will bring the evaluation to a screeching halt.

Common Disqualifications

  • There may be no rude, offensive, or dangerous content, or content that incites dangerous, offensive, or illegal activity.
  • There may be no pirated software (warez) or links to sites with warez.
  • There may be no cracking (breaking into people’s computers) or materials that encourage or help cracking.
  • No occult (Wicca, Satanism, New Age, etc.)
  • Your site may not cause a browser crashe at any point in the evaluation.
  • Your site may not contain any internal broken links. (I will check it with Xenu Link Checker.)
  • Your site may not contain porn or nudity.
  • Your site may not defame or promote discrimination against any people or group of people.
  • Your site may not contain plaigarism, copyright infringement, or bandwidth stealing.
  • Your site may not contain or promote malware, including requiring Comet Cursor, which is spyware.
  • Your site must have a clearly visible, child-save privacy policy.
  • Your site must be rated with ICRA/PICS, and must give a child-safe green light on validation.
  • Your site must contain at least 10 pages of actual content, excluding guestbooks, collections of links, awards sections, and administrative pages like privacy policies, copyright, and terms of use.
  • Any page that fails to load in under 30 seconds on my broadband connection, after three attempts on my part, will disqualify your site.
  • If you have a Flash introduction, there must be a “Skip Intro” link.
  • No spam.
  • No scams, multi-layer marketing/pyramid schemes, etc.
  • Your site must be in English or French, or have a complete English or French version available.
  • I will visit your site at or above 800×600 navigation. If I see a horizontal scrollbar, your site will be disqualified.
  • I will visit your site at or above 800×600 navigation. If I see a scrollbar after 7 clicks, your site will be disqualified.
  • Your site must make use of alt and noframes tags (if appropriate).
  • Your site must not have popup windows. This includes i.e. GeoCities popups; popups are annoying, and if your web host uses popups, you should consider moving to a host that doesn’t make your website seem offensive.
  • Your site must not contain copyright violations.
  • I must be able to reach you and your site with the information you provide, exactly as you type it.
  • I must not need a password to access your site. It is not enough to give me the password because you’re still excluding almost everyone else.
  • If you run an awards program, your website must meet the standards of your highest award.

Program-Specific Disqualifications

Both the program-specific disqualifications and program-specific criteria draw on knowledge that many awards programs do not incorporate. Especially in the area of usability (user-friendliness), there is a lot of good knowledge that awards programs do not yet incorporate. If one of my disqualifications surprises you, please read the stated reason. You may learn something new.

What do I know about usability? Well, I have two master’s degrees, and both of them involve heavy lifting in issues related to usability (making software user-friendly). And I know who to pay attention to. If there is one usability author I wish web awards people (and webmasters) would read, it is Jakob Nielsen. And I’m not the only person who respects him. Even if I have two master’s degrees, he knows a lot more about usability than I do. The New York Times calls him “the guru of web page usability.” U.S. News & World Report calls him “the world’s leading expert on web usability.” Stuttgarter Zeitung calls him “the world’s leading expert on web usability.” And the Chicago Tribune says he “knows more about what makes web sites work than anyone else on the planet.”

Note that I am visually separating the criteria from each other and from the reasons. An applicant who doesn’t want the rationale, but just wants to see if their site qualifies, can scan through and skip the reasons. This is a minor feature intended to save applicant time.

  • Every link, including external links, must open in the same window.Reason: It’s common to require that external links open in a new window. And also wrong for a couple of reasons. First, it’s handicap inaccessible. Opening a link in a new window is much worse than a missing alt tag. Because of the limitations of nonvisual browsers, opening a link in a new window often causes blind people so much trouble that they can’t get back to your site if you want. Second, it’s confusing to inexperienced visitors. It causes problems on lower-end computers, and some people may wonder why their back button is greyed out and they can’t get back to your lovely site. This is why Jakob Nielsen not only says not to do it; he ranks it as one of the top ten mistakes in web design.
  • Most text, including all navigation links, must be the default font size or larger. On all pages, the user must be able to control the size of the text by normal browser mechanisms.Reason: Most web designers have excellent vision. That is a good thing, because it means that graphics are crisp and clear. But it’s not so good when web designers forget that their vision is above average and design as if everybody can see as well as the designer can. What is meant as a good way to save space and makes the pages smaller means that, for many visitors, the entire page is hard to read. (This happens on many awards sites.) Before linking to more of Jakob Nielsen’s articles, I would point out that his site uses the default font size. This is not an accident, nor is it an accident that my site uses the default font size.
  • Do not destroy the browser feature of making visited and unvisited links different colors.Reason: As others have said, making visited and unvisited links the same color to achieve an aesthetic effect is like painting a stop sign green so it will match the color of a nearby building. Making visited and unvisited links the same color is one of the easiest ways to mess up visitors’ navigation abilities by confusing them about where they’ve been and where they haven’t been.
  • Your URL must not contain a tilde (~).Reason: Large numbers of users do not know how to type a tilde.
  • Your website must work under any browser I try to visit it with and must not tell me that I should use a particular browser/version/resolution to see it. Furthermore, all navigation must work with Flash, Java, and JavaScript turned off.Reason: My site is not so good that people are going to download another browser so they can see it, nor are they going to buy a larger monitor. Neither is yours. Flash, Java, and some JavaScript navigation has been called “mystery meat navigation” because if you don’t have the technology installed—for instance, if you’re blind and your browser doesn’t show cool-looking Flash menus—then you can’t tell what you’re selecting, if you can use it at all. Add to this many people in the first, second, and third world who do not have state of the art computers and who do not feel comfortable enough with technology to upgrade their browser and install plugins, and what you have is navigation that includes people. Standard HTML navigation is inclusive. Mystery meat navigation is inappropriate because it excludes people. (An exception is made if there is alternate navigation so visitors can move about the site even if their browsers won’t let them use the mystery meat navigation.)
  • Your design must be similar to that of some other sites I’ve seen, including major sites.Reason: Why am I reccommending this when most programs want a distinctive design? The answer to that can be seen in my own article, The Case for Uncreative Web Design. A new design is one that users will have to figure out. An old, or in other words, familiar, design is one that users already know how to use. Besides bluntly saying, “Zero learning time or die,” Nielsen observes, “It has long been true that websites do more business the more standardized their design is. Think Yahoo and Amazon.” He’s talking about commercial websites, but for the same reason personal pages work better if new visitors already know how to use them. Instead of trying to invent a navigation system that no one has thought of before, it adds value to a website to learn to make effective use of things that are proven to work well, things that your visitors will already know how to use.

This list is just where these disqualifiers are written down. It is common practice to have an awards program meet the criteria of its top award; this site is meant to do far more than tell about the criteria. This site is meant to put the pieces together and show what they look like in action. Are you wondering why this site employs a standard design? Couldn’t I think of something more creative? The last disqualifier explains why, and I try to practice what I preach. And to show what it means to practice what I preach.

Purpose (Required) – About and Awards (Optional) – Ethics (Optional) – Disqualifications (Required) – Criteria (Required) – Winners (Suggested) – Self-Test (Suggested) – Application (Required) – Privacy Policy (Optional)

Criteria

The disqualifications and criteria are each broken into two parts, with an important difference between the two parts. The first part has rules about content, design, and the like that are important, but they’re things you probably expect if you have read the criteria for several of the top Award Sites! programs. If you know your website meets all of those requirements, you can safely skip to the program specific criteria. If you don’t know what I’m referring through, I ask you to read through all the criteria. If you pass the disqualifications, you will be scored from 0-100 points as listed below.

These criteria are quite concise. In a full-fledged, functioning award program, the criteria would be much more extensive, and the difference in applicant frustration due to reading the same thing over again would be significant.

Common Criteria (50 points)

  • The HTML should be hand-coded and should validate. Any JavaScript should be free of errors (5 points).
  • There should be a balance between text/images and whitespace (5 points).
  • There should be no music unless I specifically request it (5 points).
  • Your content should be at least 90% original, with explicit attribution of non-original content (5 points).
  • No disabled right click, including photography and fine arts pages, no full screen mode, and no unethical use of JavaScript to keep me on your site (5 points).
  • You have a separate awards page, even if it is empty at the moment (5 points).
  • You have no blinking text and no more than 2 animated GIFs per page. (Both of these can cause problems for viewers with epilepsy.) (5 points)
  • I will visit your site at or above 800×600 navigation. If I see a horizontal scrollbar, or I have to click down more than 7 times, you will lose points. Long pages (or, if you prefer, all pages) should have a “Top” link at the bottom (5 points).
  • Correct grammar, spelling, and nO teXt liKE ThIS or 133+ (“leet” speak). You may find ordering The Elements of Style to be well worth the price in knowing how exactly to do this (10 points).

Program-Specific Criteria (50 points)

Usability Criteria

  • Your site should have an intuitive overall information architecture (5 points).Remark: This is a fundamental issue in making a website that people will use and come back to. If you’re not sure how to do this, you might order Information Architecture for the World Wide Web.
  • We should be able to easily navigate each page without stopping to search for navigation elements, without guessing, and without using the browser back button (5 points).Remark: If we have trouble navigating your site, the average user may have trouble as well.
  • Not only should the text contrast with the background (2 points), it is preferable to have dark text on a light background (3 points).Reason: As the eye ages, seniors lose photoreceptors and everything seems to darken. This means that light text on a dark background is much harder for an older adult to read than it is for someone younger.
  • Does your web design draw attention to itself, or does it smoothly draw our attention to focus on the content? Do we leave your site thinking about web design or thinking about what you said?

Content Criteria

The secret phrase, which will be requested on the application, is “I respect your time.”

Some of these appear subjective, in that they’re hard to quantify. I believe they’re important enough to include even if you can’t measure them with a ruler.

  • Your website is about at least one major subject. (5 points).
  • Your website shows deep thought about that subject(s) and tells me something I didn’t know (5 points).
  • You communicate difficult concepts in an understandable way (5 points).
  • Your content is a joy to read (5 points).

At my option, I may award up to 5 extra points for something special when a website goes above and beyond the call of duty in a way that my criteria do not anticipate.

Purpose (Required) – About and Awards (Optional) – Ethics (Optional) – Disqualifications (Required) – Criteria (Required) – Winners (Suggested) – Self-Test (Suggested) – Application (Required) – Privacy Policy (Optional)

Winners

I have no suggestions for improvement here, because people already do a good job. I haven’t include a sample Winners section.

Purpose (Required) – About and Awards (Optional) – Ethics (Optional) – Disqualifications (Required) – Criteria (Required) – Winners (Suggested) – Self-Test (Suggested) – Application (Required) – Privacy Policy (Optional)

Self-Test

I have three basic comments to offer.

First, if an applicant reads the criteria and still needs the self-test to know if they’re eligible, the criteria have failed. Self-tests don’t tell anything new; they just mean that the candidates you want have more work—after they have read the criteria and confirmed they have one of the websites you want to honor. What about the people who ignore the criteria and want to submit porn? That’s simple. They’ll ignore the self-test too. A mandatory self-test is one more thing that adds to the time taken but doesn’t add any value from an award applicant’s perspective. And doesn’t stop people you wish wouldn’t apply.

Second, this is an HTML self-test instead of a Flash self-test. There is a reason for this. HTML loads quickly and most people can read it quickly. Not to mention that it’s handicap-accessible. Cool-looking special effects make a Flash self-test slow. Flash is cool the first time, but most serious applicants have seen a Flash self-test before—and the impression it makes is not, “Cool!” The impression it makes is, “Slow! I want to take the test without being slowed down.”

Third, I have used radio buttons () rather than checkboxes () for “Yes” and “No”. It is very common for awards criteria to have two checkboxes, one for yes, and one for no. It is also wrong. (You don’t need to let your applicants answer “yes” and “no” to the same question.)

You want to be able to answer as many of these questions “Yes” as you can.

Question Yes No
Is your site child-friendly?
Is your site free of illegal and offensive material?
Is your HTML hand-coded and well enough done to pass validation?
Is your site free from browser crashes, JavaScript errors, popups, etc?
Is your site handicap accessible, including use of alt tags and opening links to the same window?
Do you try to use a standard design well instead of reinventing the wheel?
Do you try to have design that is like good acting? Does the design draw people into your content instead of drawing attention to itself?
Is your site intuitive to navigate?
Does your content reflect expertise and serious thought?
Does your site express that thought well?

Purpose (Required) – About and Awards (Optional) – Ethics (Optional) – Disqualifications (Required) – Criteria (Required) – Winners (Suggested) – Self-Test (Suggested) – Application (Required) – Privacy Policy (Optional)

Application

Thank you for reading this far. This is the last “real” page; the privacy policy doesn’t have any further comments. I would like to close by addressing an objection.

I’m being a bit hypocritical, aren’t I? I mean in what I say about time. I’m asking reviewers to look at websites, and a good review is a very involved process—much more than applying for an award. Isn’t it hypocritical of me to say all this?

A fair enough question. Let me answer by giving you another question: Would you rather read ten pages of an interesting story or one page of the phone book?

I know how I’d answer. I’d rather read ten pages of an interesting story than one page of the phone book. For that matter, I’d probably prefer to read a hundred pages of an interesting story than one page of the phone book.

There’s a difference here, a difference between taking time and wasting time. An award applicant that submits a site with major HTML errors is wasting the reviewer’s time. Period. An award applicant who submits a polished and fascinating site will probably end up taking much more of the reviewer’s time (instantly disqualifying a site is a much faster process than reviewing and granting an award)—but reviewers don’t resent those applicants for wasting their time. Those applicants are asking them to read ten pages of story, not one page of phone book. And the same thing is true for applicants.

I’m not sure if you noticed, but the program described here would have more reading that is requested of an experienced applicant. It takes more time. It doesn’t ask the experienced applicant to reread that browser crashes, porn, and internal broken links are disqualifiers, but it does say several things about user-friendliness. These are things that the applicant may not have learned from any other program, and they’re something new for the applicant to learn. It’s OK to ask the applicant to read things. It’s even OK to ask for a password or secret phrase to confirm that the applicant has read what good applicants should read. I’ve done that too. But please, pretty please with sugar on top, only ask me to read things that will tell me something new. Please, pretty please, if I’ve done my homework, don’t treat me like I need to do it over again. Telling me something I don’t already know is using my time appropriately. Telling me things I’ve read hundreds of times over (literally), and treating me as if I don’t understand those ground rules is wasting my time. There is a difference, and it is important.

It could make a world of difference in how you present yourselves to those webmasters you want to meet.

Name:
Email:
Website Title:
URL:
Age: I have my parent’s permission
(If you are under 13, you must get your parent’s permission to apply because of how we interpret COPPA.)
Secret Phrase:
Brief Description:
(Submit button here.)

There is no real submit button because this is not a real award program.

If you are unable to use this form, please e-mail the requested information (your name, email address, website title, URL, age and your parent’s permission if you’re under 13, the secret phrase, and a brief description of your website) tochristos.jonathan.hayward@gmail.com with “Award application” in the subject.

Two basic comments:

  • I have intentionally not added a “clear form” button. Many web awards programs seem to take this easy step so they can provide a nice extra. To an applicant, a “clear form” button doesn’t say “Here’s a nice extra we’ve provided.” A “clear form” button says: “This looks like the submit button you want to press, but if you press it, you’ll lose all your typing and have to start over again.” However well-meaning the intent may be, it functions as a nasty decoy. Applicants don’t need this kind of decoy to fill out your application.
  • Because most awards programs feel they’re not doing their job unless they add “something extra” to comply with COPPA, I’ve requested the name and parental consent. But please, if someone is 13 or has parental consent, there is no additional COPPA compliance if you add additional discriminatory measures. You’re not being more legal if you refuse applications from any applicant under 18. You’re just being more discriminatory.

Purpose (Required) – About and Awards (Optional) – Ethics (Optional) – Disqualifications (Required) – Criteria (Required) – Winners (Suggested) – Self-Test (Suggested) – Application (Required) – Privacy Policy (Optional)

Privacy Policy

This is a sample privacy policy and may not be the current privacy policy for Jonathan’s Corner. The real privacy policy for Jonathan’s Corner is available here.

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