A Sad Farewell to the Web Standards Awards | May 30, 2006

A few years ago, when standards based sites were still a novelty, I decided to document all the well designed sites I could find. This was partly for my own benefit as design inspiration, and partly as a means to show fellow developers that well designed CSS sites were a possibility. That list is still in existence, and can be found in the links section of my site. Looking at the list now, many of the original sites look old and dated, but at the time, they were cutting edge.

The CSS Zen Garden had recently launched, and helped prove that CSS sites need not be dull. However, while this provided the inspiration needed for forward thinking designers, managers and clients were a much harder sell. These were the days when tableless sites felt like a risk, and decision makers needed to be convinced that other companies were embracing web standards and creating beautiful looking sites.

What I wanted to do was set up some kind of CSS showcase, highlighting the best designs around. Not experimental designs such as those found in the Zen Garden, but real world designs being used in the wild. However time is always the enemy of invention, and I never managed to get my idea off the ground. This is why I was excited when a young designer from Sweden sent me a link to a project he was working on called the Web Standards Awards. The design was super-sexy, and the fact that something was already in the works meant that I didn’t have to do it myself.

Every few weeks I would bug Johan to see how the project was progressing, but like most good web developers, he was far too busy on client work. After about three months of me hassling him, Johan admitted that he was too busy to complete the project and was considering dropping it. At the same time, Cameron Adams had blogged about the need for a web design awards site, so I told him about the WSA and suggested that the pair of us helped Johan out to get the site up and running.

The designs and CSS templates were already set, so while Cameron wrote the site copy, I knocked together a quick Movable Type blog to power the site. This took a few weeks to organise, and by the time we were ready to launch, a new site called the CSS Vault had appeared. Still, despite not being the first CSS showcase site out there, we were the first, and to my knowledge, the only awards site around.

When we started, myself, Cameron and Johan would award one site a week, and then, at the end of the month, our team of judges would vote for the best one. This process worked well for around six months, but after a while I started to run out of steam. I had no problem finding sites to award, as standards based design had really started to take off. My problem was finding the time to go through all the suggested sites and pick a winner. I struggled on with my workload, but after a while just had to give up. I passed the baton onto Andy Clarke, and retired to become a monthly judge.

The web standards awards ticked along nicely for another 12 months, but as the other weekly judges workloads increased, the quantity of awards decreased. We tried to get some fresh blood on-board, but everybody we approached were too busy with their jobs, blogs and other commitments. After much debate, we came to the sad, but inevitable conclusion that it was time to close the doors on the WSA.

I think Cameron final post to the site sums up our collective feelings.

Web design has come a long way in the two short years that the Web Standards Awards have been running. When we published our very first award (The 85th PGA Championship) we had to search high and low for sites that could meet our high expectations of both design and coding. Since then we’ve awarded exactly 99 other sites that have carried on that same spirit of technical and aesthetic achievement that we set out to highlight.

Now we’ve arrived at a situation where beautiful sites with beautiful code are being produced by the hundreds; every month, every week, every day. It’s no longer a myth that you can produce a stunning site with Web Standards, and the most that our team can hope for is that the Web Standards Awards played at least a tiny part in helping to dispel that fallacy.

Effect or not, we feel that our mission is complete, that Standards have now ensured their rightful place in the process of Web design. So, it’s time to hang up our spurs and focus our attention where it’s needed most.

As a testament to the work of the pioneers who we applauded, this site will remain open as a record of 100 sites that helped shape a period in the Internet’s development that we were — and still are — excited to be a part of.

Thanks for watching…

It’s sad to see the WSA go, but it was better to close it now than continue to watch it wither on the vine. I’d just like take this oppertunity to thank my fellow judges, visitors, and most importantly, award winners, for making the site possible.

Posted at May 30, 2006 11:16 AM


Rob Goodlatte said on May 30, 2006 1:51 PM

Sad to see the WSAs go away, but its probably for the best. It’s been a great resource, especially for convincing clients/co-workers that CSS designs really work. I no longer have to make those arguments in part due to your work.

Thanks for two years of inspiration.

Birgit said on May 30, 2006 2:51 PM

sad but truly understandable.
WSA is still a good resource to get inspired!

Richard@Home said on May 30, 2006 3:57 PM

I hope the site will still remain, even if its not updated. It’s still an inspiration even if some of the sites ‘look old and dated’.

Remember, these first steps are part of the shared history of Standards Based Web Development and as such should be archived for posterity :-)

Alex Farran said on May 30, 2006 4:07 PM

So the carrot has done it’s job, how about you get to work on the stick? Something like the daily WTF but for websites.

Andy Peatling said on May 30, 2006 5:23 PM

Thanks Andy for the work you put in to get this started back in the day. It’s sad to see it go, but it served it’s purpose as inspiration for many web enhusiasts out there, including myself.

Will the site stay up for reference?

Andy Budd said on May 30, 2006 5:59 PM

Hi Guys,

Thanks for the kind words. We will be keeping the site up as a reference, at least for the foreseeable future.

Luke Dorny said on May 31, 2006 3:24 PM

Excellent, it still serves me well. Thanks for all the efforts!

Phil Norton said on June 13, 2006 10:43 PM

Sad to see it go: I had one of my first attempts at a table-less site listed on the site back in March 2004, and it was a great thrill.

Thanks Andy, Cameron and all the others who worked on the site.