Founder of the Favourite Website Awards, Rob Ford spills the beans on hooking up with Adobe, how things have changed in the last 12 years – and whether beauty or technical prowess wins out
This article first appeared in issue 235 of .net magazine – the world's best-selling magazine for web designers and developers.
.net: The FWA awards. What are they?
RF: The Favourite Website Awards, or FWA, is now a network of showcases and digital recognition programs. Established in 2000, we’ve been showcasing a Site of the Day for over 12 years, and have a Mobile of the Day, Site of the Month and our yearly awards, Site of the Year and People’s Choice Awards. We also have a TV platform where we showcase videos from previous FWA winners, plus a photography showcase where we feature one amazing photo every day on the main site.
.net: You’re partnering with Adobe. What’s the significance of this move?
RF: Once a week Adobe presents The Cutting Edge award (via the FWA website) to the project that best highlights the newest capabilities of the web. The digital landscape has changed and evolved so much in recent years, as has The FWA, which was known as a Flash showcase until around two years ago. That was when we started to give awards to more non-Flash work, and now the scales have tipped the other way: more than half of the work awarded is created using HTML5, CSS3, WebGL – or even outside the browser, like installations. Adobe’s model has evolved and it now has tools and services for creating a modern, beautiful web.
Discussions with Adobe led us to The Cutting Edge award – that weekly frequency is perfect for harnessing and showcasing the nascent and exciting era of digital design and development we find ourselves in. When I founded The FWA, Flash was hitting the big time and there was a buzz around the web and what could be achieved; today we’re entering an equally groundbreaking era. With that in mind, our dedicated award page for The Cutting Edge works seamlessly across desktop, mobile and tablet platforms; each week you’ll find a new project.
.net: There are loads of awards online. What makes The FWA something to covet?
RF: I did my ‘apprenticeship’ in internet awards in the 90s, judging a number of what were supposed to be the ‘world’s top awards’. In reality, they were more about the people behind the awards than the work they were showcasing. My passion has always been in showcasing and rewarding amazing creative work; everything else is a by-product.
Creating something that becomes coveted isn’t easy. Anyone can buy a URL and set up ‘XYZawards.com’, the tough part is getting agencies and industry members who make the best work to take you seriously. You have to make them want to win your awards, and the toughest part is getting them to submit work in the first place. It probably took The FWA four years to be respected; now I’d like to think it’s an industry household name. Individuals have been offered great jobs after featuring on FWA, and agencies have won big clients.
.net: Do you award beauty or technical prowess?
RF: It has always been about creative beauty, but the line between stunning design and technical prowess has blurred so much that The FWA is now about the entire experience – the complete package, if you will. You don’t see outstanding work every day – maybe once or twice a year – but when you do it’s a great feeling. I get a definite buzz when I see a project that blows me away.
.net: Can you name some notable winners?
RF: From 2012, I would say Terry Crews’ ‘Old Spice Muscle Music’, and the Chrome Web Lab. A couple of my all-time favourites are Vodafone’s Future Vision from 2004, 2Advanced Studios from 2001 – and ‘the daddy’ has got to be the Gabocorp website from 1997.
.net: How can I enter? And how can I win?
RF: You can enter a project for FWA, and also for Adobe’s new Cutting Edge award, via the form on our website; and for mobile projects enter via www.thefwa.com/submit_mobile. The process is simple: once we receive your submission, it will be vetted by me and then passed to our team of more than 65 judges. They’re all people from within our industry – art directors, creative directors, CEOs and so on. My ethos has always been that if a project is good enough, it wins – which comes down to getting enough ‘yes’ votes from the judging team.