Face it. Today, you can’t do without a website — for business. Or, anything else. And, the worth of good design is so significant that there are even awards for the best ones

They were simple e-pages of educational and research information till caught in the world-wide web. Then websites exploded, got dynamic and interactive. Now no business — online or offline — can run without them; for some, the website is the business! Yours could be personal or about philanthropy, photo-sharing, fun, finance, fitness. It could be promotional or a record of blog posts. It could build communities or simply disseminate information. It may be one for mobile devices. On these billboards for e-commerce, you say it with pictures, texts, active ticker-tapes, podcasts, live streaming and whatever is next digitally. Websites defy clear-cut categorisation — commercial ones have blogs; personal ones have ads; newspapers have videos!

A growing industry

Predictably, web designing is a huge industry. “We analyse client requirement, match it with current technologies and suggest ideas as per online norms,” says V.G. Subramaniyan of www.amrithaa.com, a web-designing firm. Industry study, comparative analysis, target audience, their category (domestic / international, age, social profile), and clients’ budget are all inputs for a website blueprint. The final design should consider site flow and colour schemes. “For hospitals, we suggest light colours, an entertainment site will have dark colours with lighting effects.” User friendliness and easy navigation are must-have features. “The landing page should be attractive, informative and easily accessible (in terms of loading time). The client’s experience, expertise, awards / accolades and USP must be present on the opening page.”

With that primer in web designing, try rating Madhuri Dixit’s online dance academy. Dance With Madhuri is not commerce; it’s free. Dixit appears and takes you through the steps of a smash-hit song, making them look like cakewalk. “As I see it, there should be no age, gender or geographical barriers to learn dance,” she says. Enthusiasts can enrol through Facebook, Gmail or Yahoo. The website got 25,000 hits in the first 48 hours of its launch. Responses came from 124 countries with 1,200 people watching the website per minute.

Or Qyuki, by Shekhar Kapur, AR Rahman and Cisco. ‘Create’ it tells its visitors. You upload your story, poem or video on a given topic, readers rate it, comment on it, and click to show what feelings the creation evoked. Your work gets ‘handpicked’ for attention. Writer Chetan Bhagat, filmmaker Imtiaz Ali, music director Ranjit Banot or photographer Suresh Natarajan critique the work, and you could be spotted by film / ad makers, event managers, publishers or musicians! While Shekar Kapur sees it as a place to catch the latest social trends and talents, Qyuki’s CEO Poonacha Machaiah labels it a marketplace “where talent seekers and talent givers come together, and we get a share of any transaction between them”.

Design your website well. Online research agency MetrixLab (and partners) shortlists websites for a people-participated Website Of The Year-India award. “We want to bring attention to the best websites within the industry,” says Laura Vromen, project manager, Website Of The Year-India. “And let the real users of the websites decide which sites deserve this honour.” Started in The Netherlands over 10 years ago, the award is ‘organised’ in eight countries, she says. “Last year, the awards attracted 1.7 million votes from around the world.

Large websites and brands from these eight countries participate and endorse the award.” The new edition of the award will start in a few months, but the registration for wildcards is open (www.websiteoftheyear.co.in).

Winners all the way

The website lists Indian winners for 2012 under various interesting categories. It’s an online people’s choice award, voters decide which websites will win an award; no jury is involved. Voting per category will lead to two prizes — the Most Popular Website (MPW) and the Best Website (BW). The MPW is one that gets the highest number of votes in a certain category. For the BW, voters are asked to judge content, navigation and design. The BW winner has the best average score with at least 1,000 votes.

In India, 181 websites were nominated over 22 categories — including Automotive, Career, Communities, Dating, Entertainment, Games, Housing, Travel, Sports, Mobile Telecom and Search. Government websites are also in the competition. More than 31,000 votes were cast between October 15 and November 23, 2012. Car Dekho took the top prize in both categories. For News & Information, The Hindu won the Best Website award.