Website Design & Functionality Awards

Hey everyone. I was working on my team’s prototype website (yes, during summer, I can’t help it :D) and started thinking about the website award. It seems a little too general to me, I guess, since a great site combines both form and function. I thought maybe FIRST should have an award for each- one for the aesthetic quality of the site, and one for functionality.

I realize one issue is that many teams would end up winning both, if they’re used to creating a “best website” from previous years.

Please tell me what you think- I’m particularly interested in how other webmasters feel it would work out.

On the contrary, I find it to be more specific and more selective for the same reason. Many websites have good form and many have good functionality, but a good website must have both, and there are fewer that do.

I agree but, the design is the part that if your team did it in the summer so the functionality will be just a kids game.

you just need to work on your team’s website before the build season.
As I am working this days on my team website, the only thing I will have to do in the build season is to write information om our robot and some updates from day to day.

I don’t think there should be two awards. The point of the award is to praise something that would work in the real world; something that’s nice to look at, informative and functional. It’s relatively easy to make a functional, bare-bones website that’s easy to navigate or a beautiful looking website that’s kind of a mess to get around. The challenge is to do both and draw people in so that they want to learn more.

How is a website worthy of an award if it has one but not the other? Websites need to be accessible and easy to read but at the same time without information they are worthless. I don’t see how you could justify rewarding a team that neglects either of these.

After reading all of your comments I find myself agreeing with them. It does make sense that the award should be for websites with both attributes, since a site isn’t really good without both; my thinking was kind of reversed, it seems. Thanks for weighing in!

Personally FIRST needs to make sure that teams that win website awards are not pre-made sites like wordpress and etc. I hate when a team obviously uses a pre-made system and just has a crap load of content. Anyone can type words into a text field.

…and yet so few teams do even that much.

Function is good form. If the information people want to see is available and organized, that’s all that matters.

A few things.

  1. Websites are not evaluated based on the amount of content. Too much content laid out in a confusing manner is a common criticism. What’s more desired is content that’s organized and laid out properly, with accessible navigation between pages.

  2. If my pre-made website lets me focus more on content that is concise, easy to find, and plentiful, while my site is easier to navigate than a custom solution, why should you get the trophy for having, for all intents and purposes, a worse website?

  3. When you visit Wikipedia, Chief Delphi, the White House, PostSecret, the Huffington Post, The Drudge Report, or FiveThirtyEight, along with nearly every blog on the internet, is your experience on these websites made at all worse by the fact that the engines powering them were not written from the ground up for that website?

Sorry about the long post, this is a bit of a touchy subject for me.

I agree there are some awesome pre-made systems out there. However in the spirit of FIRST students should do the work.

Also, one of FRC’s main goals is to give students a feel for the activities that surround a successful business. I have never seen any company that uses a premade system for their websites!

Several companies do just that. I had a bunch of examples above, but I’ll go ahead and pull a few more up.

Fast Company, MTV UK, The Economist, and The White House all use Drupal as the basis for their web site. Samsung, Wearable Print, and Radium Labs are great examples of Wordpress sites. Countless more are edited with both of these tools, Dreamweaver, or other CMSes.

While what you say is correct I have one thing to say about the process.

When it comes to the website award a lot of the scores are subjective. Where it says rate them 1-4 it’s completely up to the person to set standards. So you can have two different people rating two different websites. If the guy on the left thinks this website is worthy of an 80 while the other one is worth a 90 it doesn’t matter because he only rates one website. While the other guy might say his website, the one the other guy said was a 90, is an 80 and the other is a 70.

The problem comes that the judges don’t get to rate all the websites. They are given a batch to grade and that is that. They aren’t given standards or other websites to compare it to. I’ve seen teams that whole heartedly deserved to win with a beautiful website, great flow of pages, amazing content management systems, and enough content to knock your boots off lose because only one-two judges looked at it and graded things harder.

There needs to be a rehaul of the system in which standards are set and all judges are judging on a level playing field while being well informed.

It’s not fair to the teams that spend months building a website to be judged by a person without website experience not being able to recognize how difficult things are. While some things that look difficult but are deceptively easy will not fly with a well informed person.

But that’s just my two cents.

I thought this was a really interesting concept based on the feedback our team got this year…

1511 has spent the past 6 years building up the site we have. We have many many pages of content & documentation, a forum, a wiki, a blog and SVN all built into our site. We were going for function and usefulness to our team, our sponsors and other teams. Several of our pages are linked on the FIRST website. It ranks the highest of any FIRST teams I know in the “how much is your site worth”. We added a few “pretty” details… fancy buttons, the front page slideshow, etc. But for the most part, we kept the style and layout that our freshman student put together after our first year. The site is built for function.

Our feedback basically knocked us down for not “redesigning” our site every year. So stating it simply, that’s how you could win function and not form.

Though, I’m not sure we need a longer awards ceremony, and there are certainly a lot of sites that have form & function out there, so I guess it gives us something to shoot for. (Though I still dont think I agree with having redesign your site every year)

Neat idea, but I guess I see it from both sides.

I agree with your concerns (likzuz), but I also thought all of a regional’s websites were judged by the same people. I think that would solve most of those concerns if this wasn’t the case.

I also disagree with redesigning your site every year. I notice a lot of the comments on Shaker’s website were of the variety “you used iWeb so your site is terrible”, and it seemed either judges LOVED the website or abhorred it. Still enough to get a shiny trophy though.

(Emphasis Mine)

A website is a tool, precisely how you use that tool lies entirely within your team. While 397 had a website we used Wordpress. This is not because we didn’t have mentors or students more than capable of writing a webpage from scratch (I did websites professionally for the last couple years). We used it because we wanted to have a functional website that was intuitive for any member of our team to add information to. Remember what I said about it being a tool? The purpose of a website is to allow people to access the data they want in an efficient manner. We felt the most efficient way was to utilize a framework designed for that.

Now, for the part I emphasized. FIRST is not about education. You can argue this all you want but until FIRST changes its name to FERST (For Education and Recognition of Science and Technology) I will stand by that my job as a mentor is to inspire and not always educate. FRC should never be all mentors or all students but a mixture of the two working together inspiring each other. That is the spirit of FIRST.

Ironic then that FIRST just sent out an email about voting for them in the TakePart Challenge as listed under Education](http://www.takepart.com/membersproject/vote)…

I don’t disagree with the mentor/student balance thing, just bringing up a point that it is about education. Education can be in many forms: lecturing, showing, doing, etc. We are educating students in what it is like to be an engineer, and exposing them to science & technology.

Not sure I have a formal opinion about canned websites & awards. Coding HTML is becoming ancient. Just like we don’t sit down and write assembly to program our robots. If someone can efficiently use a tool to come up with a great design that conveys their information, that’s just like real life.

I agree with Andrew. I used Joomla for our site but I’m now thinking about switching to wordpress. Even though I’m not on the team as a student but as a mentor/helper, I’m still planning the site. We are a small team, and need a website that can function. I’m sure I could hand code a site from scratch (I have experience) but that would limit me and the programming student to being the only one to update it. I’m sure the students are still inspired to do the work, but they also learn the fact that they can use pre-built frameworks. It’s all about choosing the right tools for the job. Imo that is what should matter the most in the website category. Using a CMS doesn’t mean you don’t know how to “code”, but it shows that you can evaluate the situation and choose the best tool to complete your task. And plus you can add custom plugins and a custom theme.

Just my thoughts.

True, viewing inspiration as a form of education is a new concept to me. Thanks for pointing that out.

(And as a brief aside, I actually was writing assembly code earlier today…ok, it was for a class.)

To Chris is Me, Not everyone at the regional judges it. The Web/Animation/Graphic Mentor for our team judged at Kansas City this year and he was given only a few websites to look at. Seeing as Web was his job he graded fairly critically knowing what to expect out of these websites. The one team he said had it all ended up losing to a team that was judged by an easier judge. It’s just not fair to them.

As to those who are talking about Content Management Systems, eg. Wordpress, Joomla, Etc, it’s up to you. Team 1710 has built their own CMS for the last two years and it is an amazing learning experience. I think it’s fine if you use a CMS that is already made but if two websites are equal in terms of content, graphics and functionality but one used a CMS while the other made theirs. I think the one who made theirs should win because of the effort.

As for FIRST not being about educating, I must whole heartedly disagree. I’ve learned so much from my mentors and this is what has made FIRST unique to me. What’s the point of building a robot/website/animation/business plan if you never learn anything from it? You can inspire people all you want but until they are educated it’s all useless.

The evaluators spend 45-60 minutes per site, minimum. It’s difficult to find enough judges who have knowledge about websites, but no connections to individual teams so that each site gets the required 4-5 evaluations. The Regionals that I am involved with have many teams submitting so each evaluator is assigned anywhere from 12-20 sites. An advantage is that the evaluations are done online so I can use people from other parts of the country who are not affiliated with my teams, but the disadvantage is that we’re completely anonymous - no recognition is ever given, the judges are not acknowledged in person.

http://www.usfirst.org/uploadedFiles/Community/FRC/FRC_Documents_and_Updates/2010%20website%20criteria%20section%20of%20team%20manual.pdf our evaluation system is almost exactly as written here in your criteria for the award. The custom coding question is only one of many things that you are ranked on. I don’t think the intent was to exclude CMS use but rather, to encourage web design and not using a template commonly available (I know I didn’t say that correctly…) But I can see where you’re coming from and will mention it to FIRST.