Are the Webby Awards in Danger of Losing their Credibility?

Did anyone else notice how annoying many of the Webby Award winners were this year?

From taking over your browser (plus numerous other examples), to playing annoying Flash intros to being slow to load, to taking over your browser and playing annoying Flash intros with music, many of these sites seemed deliberately designed to annoy, confuse and have the user reaching for the close tab button as quickly as possible.

I would guess that maybe 50% of the official winners were all Flash sites. Why? What is this obsession that -design- advertising agencies have with all-Flash web sites?

Is it because they are scared to write content? Or is it because the written word is a little too boring? With this latest round, the Webbies are in serious danger of straying into Communication Arts awards territory.

What’s also funny is that the only time I ever come across these sites is when I visit awards sites like the Webbies. They just don’t seem to show up on search engines — I wonder why?

I mean, how on earth could Sony have won the best home page award?
Their home page looks like that of any other electronics company except that they pointlessly built it all in Flash — what, so that the rollovers could look a little more sexy?

Thank goodness for the people’s voice, who in this instance chose The New York Times — they clearly know a lot more about web design than the judges. How can these two home pages even be considered in the same league?

I could go on but I think I’ve already made my point. And, yes, I do realize that a lot of traditional web design has been recognized. But the number of all-Flash winners is ridiculous.

But let me finish with one last rant. How could Ikea’s dream kitchen mini-site win for best navigation/structure? This is an insult to professional information architects.

Yes, it’s clever and gimmicky, but why not recognize a site that has to make thousands of pages easily accessible to a range of audiences — like the New York Times maybe. Now there’s a tough IA job.

Let’s hope that in 2008 the Webby Awards do a better job of recognizing the sites (and the people behind them) that have made the web the indispensable part of our lives that it is today.

11 thoughts to “Are the Webby Awards in Danger of Losing their Credibility?”

  1. Wondering that too for a bit.
    It’s just like you said, they’re nominated/voted for “all flash!”
    If I wanted eyecandy, i’ll go to netdiver instead.

  2. As the new head “Web Guy” at a traditional ad agency, I can tell you that the reason why most agencies are obsessed with flash based sites is:
    You don’t have to know code to make a flash site.
    Using a normal WYSIWYG editor has a negative connotation, but flash doesn’t have that yet.
    My boss thinks he is a “pretty good” web developer and he barely know the basics of flash. He has no clue about HTML, let alone JS, PHP, CSS, etc.

  3. Yeah, that is really lame that they are so Flash-obsessed. I completely agree that IKEA is not at all deserving of the “best navigation” award. There is so much wasted space! I wonder what the judges credentials are…

  4. Have you just figured out that these web awards are crap? Or is it getting worse???
    I do not even bother with them or even looking at them because they are so rubbish. I remember a Western Australian web award were the award for best validation was full of errors which is much the same as your rants.
    Do you think the judges were brought out??

  5. Absolutely. I thought the same thing when I was looking through them, especially “best personal web site” (something like that). I usually look at those kinds of things just to track design trends.
    I think the reason ad agencies use Flash is because they can’t stand laying out type in verdana, and they think that branding is more important than anything else.

  6. Well, the judges are all members of the “The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences”:, which boasts a membership of 500 interactive ‘luminaries’.
    Of course, it’s ironic that the web site of an organization to promote web excellence doesn’t use web standards or even a real doctype.
    It’s also ironic that considering one of their purposes is _”making technology accessible”_ their site doesn’t even employ the most basic accessibility techniques. [Sigh]

  7. They want something motion, but they forget about quality writing page.
    Even they clearly think the flash animation is the best suit of their brand, they should have professional people who will suggest what is the best choice.
    It is obsessive to see more and more full flash web site, maybe the judges are not so trained, or they are still in the past.

  8. What is it they say? “You get the most accolades and honors just before you die?”
    I think that is the case with all too many web-centric awards. Last month, the CODIE awards were a primo example.
    The entire conference was a shrine (wannabe) of Web 2.0 (whose conference was concurrently ongoing just down the street).
    Yet many of the awards were still for Web 1.0 type technologies and business models.
    Wonder if the Webby’s is running the same path?

  9. To take the other side and as someone who works in advertising you’re missing the point.
    Flash is a very flexible application and leads to more visually stimulating designs.
    The standard Drupal, Joomla/Mambo site, design wise, is just a variation of a print page as far as design goes. Just keep on scrolling down the page, sorry screen. Forget about updating, that is the functionality.
    No one thinks of the NY Times print as cutting edge design. It’s a very efficient design as hundreds of years of newspaper design has proved but it can’t be called new. It may be refined or evolving but it’s not pushing any design boundaries.
    Most of the comments on this page are complaining about the efficiencies, or lack, of delivering large amounts of information.
    As someone earlier stated, though as an argument against, flash communicates the brand better than paragraphs of long copy. No matter how well it’s written any user who wants to read a couple of hundred words on a product is probably already buying that product and not the target.
    The awards are also, not about the amount of traffic driven to the site but the impression it delivers. I know the navigation can be “esoteric” at times but is the site interesting enough to encourage investigation?

  10. I must disagree with the the choice of New York Times for the “people’s voice”. Although it is very well designed and layed out, I believe is by far better in how it handles, displays and catalogues it’s thousands of pages.
    I suspect fans of Khoi Vinh were the main driving force behind this “people’s voice” – and thus were bias.

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