National Web Design Contest

As you are reading this, our national web design contest is happening in Louisville, KY. This will be the 13th consecutive year we have held this competition. We hold this in conjunction with the SkillsUSA national competitions. We provide a contest for secondary students and a separate contest for post-secondary students. Those participating have won first place in state web design competitions. Every 2 years, there is an opportunity for one of our winners to be selected to represent the US at WorldSkills. That event will next happen in 2017 in Abu Dhabi.

For those reading this, I thought you might like to learn a little about what happens “behind the scenes.”Let’s take a look.

As you may suspect, this competition does not happen in a vacuum, nor can it be put together at the last minute. We actually began the process in early 2016. First, we vetted our approach with practicing industry professionals. They reviewed the rubric we used in the previous competition and provided insights into recent changes happening in our industry. Of course, we have modified this year’s competitions to reflect these changes. For those who are curious, we ask for this feedback periodically.

We also assemble a set of judges (experts in their respective disciplines in web design and development) to review the work of competitors. These judges do not visit Louisville. Instead, I personally upload the files to a secure server at the end of each competition. Judges then review the work of teams (we ask for teams of two so we can also observe teamwork and collaboration). Judges focus on aspects of design and coding based on our specific rubric.

We also ask representatives who hire web designers and developers to interview each team. This interview is very similar to an actual interview. We have found this is often the first time competitors have been interviewed with respect to their knowledge of web design and development. We try to make this a significant learning experience to help each competitor when they actually interview for a job.

Actually, we try to use the entire event to help educate and inform those who participate (and their advisors). We try to focus on industry “best practices.” We even hold a mandatory training session before the competition to help participants understand what is currently happening in the industry.

We also ask participants to complete a written exam covering many aspects of web design and development. While this is not a certification exam, it does give participants insights into what kinds of questions might appear on such an exam. This also helps us better understand what students are learning (or not learning) in their respective web design and development programs.

During each competition, students are provided with a work order specifying their “client” and client expectations for a web site. A number of files (such as images and text) are also provided. Students are encouraged to ask questions of the client (we have representatives from our web design contest committee participating to address those questions).

Students are then provided with roughly 8 hours to complete the desired website. As you may expect, this is a very intense day. Lunches and drinks are provided. Students are not permitted to access nay Internet resources and must rely on their knowledge of HTML, CSS and JS during the competition. We do not allow frameworks as we want to focus on what students understand (not how they can use a framework).

I have been involved with this national competition since inception. Why do I do it?

  • It gives me a very clear understanding of what is happening in the world of web education in a number of states.
  • It gives me an opportunity to interact with a number of very dedicated and passionate teachers (and their students).
  • It helps us promote industry best practices.
  • It gives me an opportunity to work with practicing professionals (both judges and our advisory committee) to confirm what is happening in the industry.
  • And… it is a lot of fun. Although the contests are intense, nearly every participant indicates they “had a blast” at the contest debriefing each day.

Winners are announced on Friday night. If you are reading this and are a student in a web design or web development program, I encourage you to participate next year. If you teach these technologies, I encourage you to promote this to your students. It is a great opportunity to network and learn (and test your knowledge, skills, and abilities).

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