As the 15th annual Webby winners celebrate their victories, designers ask if the awards are now irrelevant
The winners for the 15th annual Webby Awards have been announced. Winners included Wieden + Kennedy (Webby Agency of the Year), Happy Cog (People's Voice Winner in best Navigation/Structure, for Zappos.com), Brit outfit Sequence (People's Voice Winner in the Restaurant category, for Chipotle) and Behance (Webby Award Winner for Blog—Cultural, for The 99%).
Scott Belsky of Behance told us that "with The 99%, Jocelyn Glei—Editor-in-Chief—and our team at Behance are trying to create more discussion around how to lead and execute bold creative projects," adding that its namesake is the famous Thomas Edison quote: “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”. On the award, he said: "We are thrilled to win a Webby for our efforts to get people and teams focused more on the 99%—the execution of ideas."
But while the winners celebrate, other designers have asked questions about the relevance and perceived bloat of the Webby Awards. "Nearly 70 categories? How overwhelming," remarked experience designer & developer Aral Balkan. "And reading the members list of IADAS—the body that judges the awards, it's like a Hollywood who's-who, so is this Hollywood judging the web?"
Web developer Mike Mackay suggested that "the grandeur of the Webby Awards has fallen through in recent years," and that while recognition for outstanding websites is still a good idea, he thinks few people care other than "those sat behind big desks". This is an opinion shared by Andy Budd, founding partner and managing director of Clearleft: "The Webby Awards feature so little on my radar that I didn't even realise they were still going—that sums up how relevant I think they are."
Back in the early days of the web, said Budd, the awards were largely for experimental projects and interesting community sites, rewarding tech pioneers; and with relatively few great sites, they were a useful way of seeking out new content. "But fast forward 15 years and the Webby Awards are dominated by high-street brands and mega-corporations with millions of dollars to spend. They've become a brand popularity contest, rewarding the amount of money agencies spend on their social media campaigns rather than any tangible value or innovative thinking they bring. Oh look, Google won best art site for YouTube—Art? Really?—what a shock!" Because of this, Budd told us he thought the organisers like to think of the Webby Awards as the digital Oscars: "However, if I'm honest, they feel more like the TV Quick awards."
Developer Remy Sharp was a little more positive about the Webby Awards, in that he said "it would probably be great—for anyone—to be nominated," but he too questioned their value: "I don't think I've ever taken any notice, and I wouldn't be surprised if most freelancers or small companies don't even realise they are taking place. I'm quite likely to believe Google's search results when it says: [webby awards content] may be compromised…"