Arguably, the most important component of a website is content. However, quality presentation of the content, good overall design, and good technical operation are also essential components of a good website. We examine all of these components during our review. The specific elements are listed below.
Your site will win an Ultraweb Award if it meets the basic rules and achieves an 80% score. The required score for each level is as follows.
*The Level 3 and Level 4 Awards are World's Top Awards.
First, second, and lasting impression: "You can only make a first impression once" may be a cliché, but it is a fact of life on the Web. If you want people to look at your entire site, be sure to develop quality pages throughout. A compelling and relevant introductory page can significantly add to your site's overall impression.
Quality, consistency, and professionalism: Whether your site is a commercial site or a personal homepage, the more professional your site appears, the higher it will score. Strive to maintain a consistent look and feel throughout your site, especially within single sections. And remember to pay attention to the details.
Character: We especially appreciate sites that exhibit unique qualities. You don't have to reinvent the wheel, but you should put your own character into your site.
Original work/original research: Whether your site is commercial or personal in nature, it will do well in this sub-category if it displays high quality original thinking and original graphic work. Topics are limited only by your imagination. Note, however, that our judges award few points in this category to sites including little or nothing more than portfolios of personal or professional work and descriptions of services provided.
Subject matter: Your site should contain more than links to other sites, and it should be more than an "infomercial" with a lot of hype and little substance. Is your site interesting, entertaining, fun, educational, informative, funny, artistic, resourceful, creative, or poetic? Does your subject matter tempt people to return to your site over and over again? Do you present your subject matter in an entertaining as well as informative manner?
Amount: Your site does not have to exceed a particular number of pages. However, it needs to contain the essential information required to get your message across to your target audience plus additional relevant and valuable content that would be worth coming back to view over and over again.
Completeness: The majority of each section of your site should be complete and thorough.
Interactivity: Visitors enjoy active participation. Active participation comes in many forms. For example, one website we reviewed encourages you to submit a line of poetry to help create a new poem with other people. Keep people active and you will keep them at your site longer and keep them coming back.
Grammar, spelling, writing style: Good writing is a foundation for effective communication on the Web. You will lose points for bad grammar and spelling mistakes.
Sound: Music and sound effects, which are popular on Flash sites, can be interesting, lively, and fun. However, short repeating sound loops quickly become tiresome. If you add music to your site, consider using original full-length music.
Links: Your links may enhance or reduce the quality of your site. Your links should relate to your subject matter and reflect the good quality of your site. Your links should not contain illegal, pornographic, racist, profane, or hateful content.
Keeping current: Updating your site keeps it fresh and interesting. Even if you don't have a professional staff to update your site 40 hours a week, you can still add something new each week or each month that will make people want to return.
Individuality: Hundreds of thousands of webmasters use cookie-cutter templates and navigation scripts for ordinary personal and business sites. Top webmasters design sites that reflect the unique content and purpose of the sites they develop. Are you a trend setter or just a trendy follower?
Layout and spacing: White space simply makes it easier for people to read your content. Too many people try to cram 45 large pictures and 2500 lines of text into one page. Select what you really want to show on one page, then place graphics and text on the page so that they compliment each other. Are your graphics too close to the text? Are your graphics too far away from the text? Also, leave plenty of margin space between your text and the borders of your pages.
Colors: Background colors should contrast with text, and background and text colors should not cause eye strain. For example, a lot of white text on a black background is very difficult to read. However, white text used judiciously on a black background can be effective. Also, remember to consider the overall color scheme of your page when inserting graphics and photographs.
Font: Make sure that your text is clearly readable over the background. Because many viewers may not have unusual fonts on their computers, choose a normal font style. We recommend a sans serif font like Arial (size 2 or 3 for body text), which is easy to see on a monitor. Headers generally should be larger. If you choose an unusual font for your headers, which can be very effective, place them on the page as images to ensure that your visitors can see your text as intended.
Page size: Add a logical amount of content per page and add "Top" anchors to longer pages. Generally, your visitors should not have to scroll horizontally to see content on your pages.
Graphics: Graphics add to the quality of a site, but be careful to not add too many to a single page. Try to avoid cheap blinking graphics. Instead, consider adding a dose of "Flash" to perk up a page. If you have a graphic-intensive site, use thumbnail pictures to give viewers a preview of your work. Finally, remember to add alt tags and height and width tags to your graphics.
Frames: We are not fans of frames because they often reduce the viewing space on a screen significantly and can hide important text and graphics if your coding is not accurate. If you use them, allocate sufficient space in your main content frame.
Ads: Keep ads to a minimum and properly integrate any ads you display into the look and style of your pages. Too many banner ads on a page detract from your content (and make each ad less effective).
Load time: Quick loading is important. Our judges are impatient, and will not review your site if they have to wait more than a few seconds for your pages to load.
Links: All internal links should work, and generally should open in the same browser window. External links should open in new browser windows.
Navigation: The navigation system should be easy to find and use. Your viewers will have a more pleasant experience if they have ways of going to and from pages without using their browser's navigation buttons. Make sure that people can get to your main sections from almost any page on your site so they cannot get lost on your site.
Use common technology: Do not make people download unusual programs to view the majority of your site.
Annoying features: Page transition effects, cursor tricks, or other such annoying features should not appear on your site.
Sound: Viewers should be able to turn the sound off easily from your site. (People might be listening to their own music when visiting your site.)
Graphics: Graphics should be optimized and load reasonably quickly. If they don't load, you will usually see a red "x" where the graphics should be. If you see the x, make sure that you typed in the file name of the graphic correctly and that you uploaded the file to your server.
Error messages: The vast majority of the pages of your website should be error free during the time we review it.
If you do not receive the Ultraweb Award this time or if you win the award and want to apply for a higher award level, you are welcome to reapply one year after the date you submitted your application. For more information on website development and tips for winning the Ultraweb Award, click to our resources & links page.