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Rating Criteria and Rules

By A Former AS! Rating Panelist --
September 15, 2000
This article is a sequel to Inside the Rating Panel, which was published in this site on June 1, 2000.

In order to be rated by Award Sites! an award program must meet the criteria for a particular rating level. The higher the rating level, the harder the criteria. Because every award giver wants to get a 5.0 rating level, this article will discuss in depth the criteria necessary to achieve that level.

How Do I Comply?

In order to answer the question, let's go through the criteria for a 5.0 rating one item at a time. Please visit the Criteria and Rules page at Award Sites! for all the wording of the various criteria points. Since you may want to have both this article and that page open at the same time, clicking the link will open a new window.

1. Well-defined purpose ...

Tell us your motivation. Read some of the purposes that impressed or inspired you. What was it about them that made you want to earn their award? Difficulty? Specific type of award?

2. Separate award page with detailed criteria ...

After I read your criteria do I have a crystal clear idea of whether or not my site will qualify for your award? Have you repeated yourself or talked down to me? Do you keep telling me how hard your awards are to earn? Yes? Then stop doing that! If your awards are hard to earn, genuinely hard to earn, then the criteria you set out and your previous winners list will tell me that.

I have read criteria pages that took a minimum of a master's degree to comprehend and two hours to read. Do you really think anyone will go through all that to get your award? I don't.

Break up the amount of information your viewers have to digest into small bites. Notice this page. None of the paragraphs are too long. The sentences are short and easy to understand. There are lots of headers so its easy to keep your place on the page.

3. Submit form ...

Don't abuse your submit form. You don't need my "real" name. Don't ask me to sign up for your newsletter or sign your guestbook, and don't ask me for comments about your site. If there is something you really need to know, that is pertinent to your site review, then ask.

Most award seekers can scan the criteria, find the password, and still never read a word. Or worse yet, they read it and know they don't qualify, but they submit anyway. Do you really need a password? If you use one, then by all means enforce it.

4. Separate winners' page ...

A new program must have at least 5 "quality" winners. Those 5 winners must be exemplary. Pick those first 5 carefully because they, above all other winners you will ever give awards to, will set the tone for who applies for your awards.

Descriptions of the winning sites should be a part of the winners list. Your viewers want to have at least a hint of what they will find when they get to a site if they decide to visit it. Use this description to tell your viewers why this site was awarded, whenever possible. Avoid time sensitive pitfalls to save yourself both rewriting these descriptions and the embarrassment of having them be inaccurate.

5. Overall site must be excellent in all areas ...

This is the killer criteria. Can your site, not just your awards program, stand up to that criteria? Is your site capable of earning awards at the level of rating you seek? Can your site earn it's own award? Do you have criteria about spelling and grammar and three sentences later you misspell a word? I'm not impressed by that. One misspelled word in your criteria and I'll stop considering your program for a 5.0 rating on the spot. Harsh? Yes. Do you want to be One of the Best?

Check your site with both Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer or get a trusted friend to do it. Download the latest versions — after all, they are free. I think many of you would be shocked at how your site looks in the "other" browser. If I use any browser at any setting, a 5.0 site still looks good.

6. Excellent designed award graphic ...

This is a real issue with some award seekers. Awards take up entirely too much bandwidth and they slow page loading. If your awards are about something specific, the graphic should reflect that. Can I read the words? Does the graphic reflect what level of award I earned or is this a color coded guessing game? Is the design of your awards so bad that I won't apply because I wouldn't want that graphic on my site?

7. Must have direct link to award's main (criteria) page ...

If your site is in frames and the navigation fails badly without the frames, be sure that you have a frameset that will load when the visitor clicks on the link from Award Sites! If you don't use frames, there should be a main or starting page to your awards. Think of it as a site within a site and you'll be fine.

8. Easy to find navigation link to the main award page ...

Don't make me hunt for the award program and don't call it something cute — make it simple! This is a serious requirement for a 5.0 rating. I should be able to get to your award program's main page from any page in your site. Be sure that the navigation within the awards section of your site is crystal clear.

9. No link requirement or password access ...

I should never be forced to link to your site before you will consider me for an award or need a password to get to your award presentation. Your potential applicants should be able to read your criteria without performing some other task first.

10. Email link as an alternative to form submission ...

There are sites out there where I defy you to find a way to email the webmaster. How difficult is it to add an email link on every page of your site? One line of code. Get it added! When someone contacts you, be courteous and answer their questions. Treat them as you would want them to treat you.

11. Stated review time period ...

Stating a time period in which the applicant can expect to hear from you is beneficial for both you and the award seeker. If you say it takes 4 weeks, then the applicant should wait 4 weeks before contacting you again. If you only notify winners, say so. Tell your visitors what to expect and they will be far more patient with the process.

12. Judging process via an experienced review panel ...

Please understand this: You do not need a panel. Many higher rated programs don't have a panel of judges. The criteria says it is not required. But having or not having a panel is irrelevant if none of the evaluators involved have any experience to back up their opinions on what makes a site worthy of an award. It would be preferable to have one judge with 10 years of experience rather than 10 judges with one year of experience each.

If you have a review panel, do you give them credit for their work on your program? Do you tell me something about why they are qualified to judge my website?

You need to keep control of the judging process. Ultimately it is you, the award giver, who is responsible for the quality of sites you award. Don't blame your judges. The quality of the awarded sites affects your rating level.

The members of the Rating Panel all run 4.5 or 5.0 rated programs. They know from reading your criteria exactly what type of site to expect on your list of winners. Don't disappoint them. Hold to your high standards even if it means you don't award any sites this week. There is no rule that says you have to give an award if you don't get any qualified applicants.

13. A period award will have an exceptional purpose ...

It goes without saying that to earn a 5.0 rating, your award program must be exceptional and the evaluators must demonstrate expertise in judging no matter what the award is for or who can earn it.

In Closing ...

I can tell you what to do to get a higher rating for your award program, but you are the one that has to do the work. You are the one that has to decide what sort of sites you want to award. You are the one that has to write the criteria. You are the one that has to design an appropriate award graphic that people will want. You are the one that has to check your site to be sure it meets all of the requirements for the rating level you seek.

You are the one that has to show the Panel you know what you are doing. All the Panel can do is decide if you have done a good job using the criteria as a guide. We compare what you have accomplished to what the other programs we have seen have accomplished. Are you as good as your peers?

Who's On The Panel?

In the previous article I told you I can't answer that question. The Panel members don't know each other. The members of the Panel run 4.5 or 5.0 rated programs. We have great pride in our accomplishments and in our contributions to the community.

We look at a group of around 20 award programs every week and rate them. We make decisions. Sometimes our decisions make people happy, and sometimes our decisions make them unhappy. We would much rather make people happy!

Who Runs Award Sites!?

David Bancroft, Award Sites! founder, spends untold hours maintaining and updating Award Sites! The work required to keep the site current for nearly 2,000 different awards is staggering! He encourages all of us to strive for excellence, not only for ourselves in creating better award programs, but also for those who seek out our awards. He has given his time and his talent to help the awards community.

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