Lest ye be judged

21 June 2010 | admin | 72 Comments

We know there’s a lot of interest in how the judging for FullCodePress was carried out. Philip Fierlinger, one of the judges, explained some of the process.

The experience of being a judge at FullCodePress has been a really wonderful and rare opportunity to observe how some of the best talents in the business practice their craft.

As judges, we had a special opportunity to interact directly with the teams and their clients, to learn about their process and the thinking that led to the final results.

It was extremely fun having this behind-the-scenes perspective, but it was unexpectedly unpleasant having to pass judgement on peers that you admire.

We thought it’s worth sharing the thinking that led to our decision. As someone who has been judged in the past and even as a bystander, I often wonder how these decisions are made.

All of the sites were designed and built to the highest standard. That’s clear to anybody, and a major achievement in and of itself. All of the sites excelled in some areas and the winning site isn’t flawless. None of the sites are, nor can anybody expect them to be. It’s the overall package that put the Aussies over the top.

Although we didn’t formally discuss our judging criteria in these terms, this is essentially the criteria we used:

  • Does the site serve the needs of the audience?
  • Does the site serve the needs of the client?
  • Is it crafted to a high standard: aesthetically and functionally?
  • Is the content appropriate, compelling and accessible?
  • Will the site endure: can it be easily maintained without significant effort and with limited resources?

Here’s a breakdown of the key factors that made the Lions Hearing Dogs site so exceptional:

  • The site content and design is perfectly aligned with the target audience and the brand, plus it’s very approachable and very compelling to a broader audience.
  • From the homepage you instantly know exactly what it’s about, why you should care and you learn a lot about the organisation and the people it serves.
  • The content draws you in, you start reading and you can’t stop. It’s emotionally engaging, sincere and personable. It tells great stories.
  • The navigation anticipates and addresses the primary questions people are likely to want answered in a simple and engaging way.
  • The site is very basic: it’s only two levels deep. This makes it easy to get around and easy to maintain.
  • Audience participation is encouraged with features like user stories, name our dogs and online donations.
  • The functionality to submit content is a very simple form, which is easy to use for both the audience and the site adminstrators.
  • The underpinning technology is relatively stock standard, making it easy to update and maintain.
  • The technology is robust and relatively future proof. Careful attention was given to the longevity and sustainability of the site.

As we were interviewing the teams and their clients it became clear that a contributing factor to the Australian’s success, the thing that probably made their site so cohesive and compelling, was the close collaboration between the client and team. In fact, the client was essentially a full fledged member of the team for the full 24+ hours duration.

That’s not to suggest the other client-team relationships were anything but awesome – it was clear, from all accounts, they also had great relationships. Nor are we suggesting therein lies a secret formula: force your client to be a working member of your team. That’s just as likely to result in a painful mess.

However, the close collaboration clearly paid off

  • The team originally planned to build a blog, a calendar, and a forum. But the client felt that wasn’t a good match for their audience, so the team wisely abandoned those plans.
  • The client didn’t have much content prepared. But the team was able to extract amazing stories throughout the night and weave them into the fabric of the site.
  • Through the long hours of discussion, revelations were made that were turned into nice features like name our dogs.

The key to success, comes back to that old chestnut: keep it simple, focus on the basics:

  • Tell a good story
  • Help people understand what’s important and why
  • Build on a strong foundation

That might sound like a formula for mediocrity, play it safe, avoid risks. Not true. You can be innovative within the constraints of simplicity. Look at Apple. Sometimes innovation is so simple you don’t even notice

Judging aside, something far more important was achieved: all of the charities now have a site that will serve them extremely well and that they can be extraordinarily proud of.

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