random · usability

The McFarlane Prize for Excellence in Australian Web Design

Greetings from Koh Tao, Thailand (a.k.a. heaven on earth).

Just a quick note to help spread the word about this new Australian web design prize. For me, I think a lot of the current ‘awards’ are pretty lame at the moment (speaking from both the judging and the judged perspective). Hopefully this one will actually help to unearth, promote and reward real excellence in practice in our industry.

This prize is a little different from others in at least two ways.

Firstly – you don’t have to pay a fortune in entry fees to have your site considered. Too often, great work is not included in awards because the entry fees are prohibitive. Congrats to the Macfarlane Prize team for not following this trend and allowing everyone to be involved. However,…

Secondly. There are only four judges, expert in each of the critiera for the awards (Usability, Design, Accessibility and Coding). I hope these guys (and gal!) have nothing much on in the next few months, because they will have a mountain of entries to get through, I predict (especially due to factor one: free entry!).

I have mixed feelings about the small number of judges here and the fact that there is only one per category. Particularly Design and Usability which can be such subjective areas. (Perhaps accessibility and coding can also be subjective, certainly coding seems to be! I’m not so expert in those fields so I’ll leave others to comment). For me I probably would have rather see 3 judges per criteria, but perhaps that would start administrative hassles that the ‘Prize’ can’t afford just now.

Anyways, congrats to the team for getting it off the ground. Go check it out for yourself.

Here are the details as forwarded by Maxine Sherrin:

Named in memory of noted Australian web pioneer Nigel McFarlane, the inaugural McFarlane Prize, aims to recognize and encourage excellence in web design by Australian developers.http://www.mcfarlaneprize.com/

The Prize will reward excellence in web design in the broadest sense, from the appropriate use of technology, to design aesthetics, to its impact more broadly on the web.

Open to Australian designers or teams for a site launched or significantly upgraded between August 1 2005 and July 31 2006, the Prize aims to be a showcase of the best in Australian web design, and to inspire other developers in their endeavours. Nominations are now open.


The McFarlane Prize will be awarded by a jury of Australian experts in various fields of web design and development. Based on two rounds of judging, the McFarlane Prize shortlist will be announced on September 22nd.

The announcement of the winner of the inaugural McFarlane Prize will then be made at the Web Directions Conference Reception, September 28 2006, during Australian Web Design Week.

So, if you’ve been doing some web excellence lately, be sure to get along to the website and submit your site. I look forward to seeing an amazing showcase of great Australian work.

Meanwhile, for me, I have some snorkelling to do, followed by some lazing on the beach with a trashy novel.

I’ll be back online ‘seriously’ in a couple of weeks. Hope you’re all well! Until then :)

3 thoughts on “The McFarlane Prize for Excellence in Australian Web Design

  1. First of all, thanks for going well above and beyond the call of duty by posting this while you are in Thailand – impressive work.

    It is all at the site, but I probably should give a little more info here about the judging process. Yes, we did want to keep admin on this to a minimum, and we actually think we have come up with a pretty good way of doing so: a much fairer way in fact than making cost a barrier to entry. IN the first phase of judging entries will be assessed for their adherence to best practices in accessibility and standards based coding (correct and valid use of CSS and HTML). Doing this is in fact a fairly routine matter: you just run the site through a validator. Based on the results of the survey John did last year for his WE05 presentation,


    it is our prediction that a lot of sites will get knocked out at this stage. Many more in fact than if we had charged an entry fee. And the beauty is that adherence to best practices in accessibility and standards based coding is in fact an extremely important aspect of achieving excellence in web design in 2006.

    But at the same time your critique could well be valid – thanks for bringing it up.

    Now: back to your Pina Colada!

  2. Thanks Koh,

    What was the actual prize, nothing at all, a few web links to help google page rank!

    I had the same concerns about the linited number of judges and that one of them had wasted my time asking me to a job interview where he took copious notes on evaluating accessible design. I had no chance of getting the position, not because my skills were lacking, but because I am not so placid as to accept the staus quo and I do not suck up to the Australian government’s AGIMO for training work like Vision Australia seem to.

    A review of the Australian AGIMO awards:

    I do not have any confidence that anyone from Vision Australia is able to objectively evaluate any site for accessibility. I made a formal complaint to Vision Australia about their recruitment process which wasted my time.

    The award seems biased to me, especially from the small number of judges finding in favour of one company frecklecreative.com.au who had two entries in the final six sites. I have reviewed the finalists for accessibility, only one of them had a large text option.

    The only difference from the AGIMO awards is that sites used validated HTML and validated CSS, there was no higher standards of accessible design, there are some pathetic Error 404 pages.

    The award is better than the Australian government awards from AGIMO, but it does little for accessibility.

    My brief review of the McFarlane award finalists:

    Tim Anderson
    The Webmaster

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