Web Design Contest Reflections

I had the opportunity to judge the Illinois SKillsUSA web design contest on Friday, April 20. I am always impressed with the creativity and passion of participants. It is most refreshing to see two rooms full of competing teams striving to do their best to create a website along the specifications provided in a work order. I hope everyone who participated had a great time (and learned a little).

I thought it might be appropriate to provide some general thoughts as to how the developed websites might have been improved. These comments are often things we overlook as we develop sites so these comments apply to everyone (myself included). Don’t overlook the details.

  • Each web page should have a unique title (never untitled document).
  • Each page should have appropriate meta information (for search engines and descriptive information).
  • Each page should have comments (author, date created, and so forth).
  • The initial page on the website should typically be either index.html or default.html (depending on the type of server the page will be deployed upon).
  • CSS should generally be used in place of tables for positioning elements on a web page.

In addition to the technical details, I offer the following thoughts about the contest as a whole.

  • I encourage everyone to use their allotted time. If there are an additional 15 or 30 minutes left in the contest, don’t submit your work. Review the work and see how it could be improved. Then make those improvements. Things like missing images are easy to overlook in the final rush to completion.
  • It was refreshing to see all teams giving serious thought to the overall design of the site (including storyboards and wireframes) prior to actually developing their code.
  • As a side note, I noted some teams spending a great deal of time developing a logo for the site. This should have been one of the last actions, not the first. If time permitted, a logo could be designed, but the emphasis shouyld have been on the site structure and navigation.
  • I would also recommend following the instructions/ requests of the client. For example, the client asked for help with an appropriate domain name, yet many teams did not include such information on their final submissions.
  • These comments are meant to help participants understand how their sites could be improved. I do hope to see the majority in the contest next year. This applies to both secondary and post-secondary contestants – well done. Keep up the good work and interest in web design.

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