Designers share how to create award-winning websites

Find out tips to make websites that win design awards and wow—so you can do it too.

readymag blog_designers share how to create award-winning websites

What matters most for an entry to win a web design award? Is it a stunning design, smooth animations, seamless UX, the narrative that weaves it all together, or all of these at once? We talked to five seasoned designers to gain insights that can help creators hit the mark in contests such as the upcoming Readymag award, The Websites of the Year 2023.

Meet the experts:

readymag blog_Jonas Lempa, Florian Lenz, Steffen Christiansen, Frederic Marchand and Jean-Francois Chaine
Jonas Lempa, Florian Lenz, Steffen Christiansen, Frederic Marchand and Jean-Francois Chaine

For them, web design awards aren’t only about winning, but about keeping their design skills sharp and inspiring others in the field. Their projects have been entered in major design contests such as Awwwards, Idea, CSSDA, Communication Arts, FWA, and more.

All answers are taken from Twitter Space, hosted by Readymag on September 28, 2022.

On why enter awards

Celebrate your team

Jean-Francois: It's great to celebrate together! That's one of the main reasons we participate. Of course, it's always awesome to win, but it's even better to celebrate together and praise the people who have been working weeks on the project.

Jonas: It's a great opportunity for celebrating with the team, getting the team more together and creating more visibility.

Join a very special club

Jonas: After winning an award, you have immediate access to a certain community: clients, designers, developers, and other companies to share ideas with. The time when we're trying to beat each other is over. Awards create great recognition and connect people.

Explore more tips in this article on using design contests as a self-promo opportunity.

On how to create an award-worthy website

Team up with your client

Florian: If you're doing a client project, it's important that you work together as one team, collaborate, and try to build something together. That opens many doors and pushes design to the next level.

Steffen: Any brief can be turned into a masterpiece, but creativity isn’t limited to design. It also depends on the originality of the idea and the relationship you build with clients. If they trust you, it can help.

Motivate yourself beyond rewards

Frederic: We shouldn’t be looking to receive awards just to receive them. I think it just comes down to the process. It might be pushing people to create something better—not just focusing on specific UX practice or accessibility, and trying to do something that will match both.

Jonas: It's important to consider the website's impact on inspiring people, as it can represent a groundbreaking idea in a new space or provide a really cool e-commerce experience. For example, how many times was the website used as an inspiration?

Steffen: My advice is to make work that solves a problem or tells a story while ensuring it's well-crafted and innovative within its respective category. Say you watch a movie, a really well-produced movie. I’m sorry to call out the Buzz Lightyear movie—it's so well produced, and so beautiful—but the story isn’t as good as a Pixar story usually is. It's just a good way to showcase how much you can actually do: a movie like WALL-E, for example, barely has any lines, and it totally makes you cry and stuff.

"We shouldn’t be looking to receive awards just to receive them. I think it just comes down to the process."–Frederic Marchand, Locomotive Co-founder

Content is still king

Florian: It's similar to cooking a fancy meal because there are a lot of ingredients that have to come together. You need to think about how users will interact with the website, the content, and the idea behind the project.

I emphasize that content is key. When you don't have good content, it's really hard. A client may be pretty unknown: for example, we built a website for Junges SchauSpielHaus, a theater in Germany, using Readymag. It's not known globally, but it's just super nice content. And that also helped win awards in a way.

Feedback? Yes, please!

Jonas: Drop your first idea, and rethink it with your team or trusted colleagues. Trust them, and then get nasty in the positive sense—and beautiful, and cool.

Frederic: Practicing and getting feedback is the best way to evolve. Find people whose work you respect, stick to them, and try to get advice.

If you're a newbie, start small

Frederic: It takes a lot of effort to get to bigger international contests: the trophies are shinier, but the fees are much higher. So putting your effort into smaller networks, especially for newcomers and freelancers, will get you more worth for your buck. This can actually matter in the long run.

Steffen: You'll be doing many projects throughout your career. As long as you approach each one with the right mindset, every project is an opportunity. Eventually, you may receive one of those big, shiny awards, but it's best to start small and gain exposure first.

Checklist for winning design contests

  1. Build a strong relationship with your clients based on trust and openness.
  2. Instead of working for awards, strive to create something worthy: inspire people, сraft captivating stories that take users by storm, and make websites that solve problems.
  3. Content is always vital—even lesser-known clients can stand out with stunning content.
  4. Feel free to ask for feedback from your team or people you trust—changes can make your project shine even brighter.

Feeling inspired to showcase your outstanding website? Or are you in the midst of creating one? If so, submit your Readymag website to the Websites of the Year award until October 27, 2023. There are five categories to choose from: typography, interactivity, storytelling, impact, and self-promo.

All winners will get a yearly Business plan subscription to Readymag, a digital badge, recognition through Readymag social channels, and a swag bag filled with design goodies. In addition, first-place winners in each category will receive prizes such as an Awwwards Professional plan for one year and a $800 gift card from TYPE01 font store. Second-place winners will get any fonts from Contrast Foundry with a total value of $400. Don't miss out on this opportunity!

We recently shared some tips and insights for those entering the Websites of the Year awards. You can also explore the previous year's award winners.