Lots of organizations issue awards for the well-designed websites, from niche societies within a particular industry to those focused exclusively on web design across all fields. For example, BigCommerce lists ecommerce sites that have achieved excellence in design, while Awwwards lists entries in a variety of categories.

There are several perks you or your business can enjoy if you win an award:

  • You’ll get external validation that your design is top-notch. What does this mean from a practical standpoint? You can now use the same themes, imagery, and approach in your other marketing campaigns, and be assured that your concept is worth its salt.
  • Winning an award is often accompanied by some pomp, even on smaller award sites. Your website will be listed as a winner, and you’ll probably get some extra visibility in the press, which should bring more traffic.
  • Being able to assert you are an award winner is valuable for your online reputation: It suggests you’re a thought leader in your industry, and might serve as the tiebreaker for a potential customer who’s been debating whether to purchase from you.

Is It Worth Chasing an Award in the First Place?

The benefits are certainly appealing, but should you set out to pursuing a design award? Though form and function often go hand in hand, you could find yourself optimizing a site for design award judges rather than your actual customers.

If you stray too far from your users’ experience, you could wind up alienating more people than you attract. But as long as you keep your customers’ best interests in mind, you could do all right in attempting to chase down an award.

How to Win an Award

The following are the criteria most design experts look for, so they’re what you should focus on if you want your site to have a shot:

  1. Think outside the box. Award winners don’t necessarily follow the year’s hottest trends. They don’t take what someone else has done and improve Instead, they produce something that’s unique. It’s hard to think “outside the box” when so many web design institutions come out of proven strategies and design traditions, but it’s what you’ll have to do if you want to stand out from the crowd.
  2. Take creative liberties. Along the same lines, you’ll need to flex your creativity if you want your site to break the mold. Think about colors that aren’t typically used, new ways to arrange your layout, and maybe even new interactive tools to help users navigate the web. Push the limits of what’s possible in web design.
  3. Avoid templates and stock photography. Web builders, templates, and stock photography sites make it easy even for total amateurs to build a site, but these aren’t the sites that win awards. Some examples of stock photography aren’t inherently bad, but for the most part, stock photos will make your site look unoriginal and uninspired. The same is true for templates, which award judges will have seen thousands of times. Start from scratch.
  4. Rely on powerful visuals. Though audio can help and interactive experiences are attractive, websites are visual artifacts first and foremost. Rely on powerful visuals, such as images and video, to make your website pop. Employ minimalism to draw attention to your strongest visual components, and try not to overwhelm your visitors.
  5. Remember usability. We already mentioned the importance of user experience over artistic inspiration, but your judges will be looking for usability as much as your customers do. Everything should be intuitive, from the navigation to your interactive elements, and your site should load quickly and be responsive. Test everything, on every device you can think of, to ensure maximum usability.
  6. Make ongoing tweaks and improvements. First drafts are always iffy. Don’t accept your first design as is. Instead, go back and start tweaking and making improvements as you come up with new and better ideas. Your website should be a shifting and ever-improving creation if you want to see it reach its full potential.

Without these elements in your design, you won’t have much of a chance of earning an award. Not every site is an award-winner, and not everyone needs to be, but if one of your goals is to achieve notoriety with thought leadership in branding and design, these are the fundamentals you need to target.

Regardless of whether you work for an award or not, remember your number-one priority: your customer.

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