Design Awards? No, thanks.

Why it doesn’t matter if my websites ever win a single design award.

I’ve been creating websites since 1998. Over the years, I’ve designed and built hundreds of websites, and during that time, I’ve never won a design award for my work. And I don’t think I ever will.

Am I doing something wrong? Nope.

I’m not a bad designer. My sites have been called “pixel-perfect, elegant and beautiful.” In fact, I’ve been endorsed for web design on LinkedIn twice as often as I’ve been endorsed for any other category.

My formal education is a blend of fine art, art history and architecture, but I’ve been in web design since 1998. While in school, I picked up freelance projects and self-taught my way into getting hired at a “new media” house after graduation. Around that time, I surrounded myself with designers, wanting to be one of them. I long identified as a designer, wanting to most closely align with the visual side of websites. I’ve been heavily involved in AIGA — the professional association for design, including sitting on the executive board. I taught web design classes and workshops at RMCAD (Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design) and Metropolitan State University of Denver.

For me, design matters. I am proud of my design-thinking. But good design does not necessarily equate to winning a slew of awards. Sure, winning an award would be cool. But awards aren’t the reason I do the work I’m doing, nor building the company I’m building.

Are there awards for websites that deliver the highest ROI? Or websites that have transformed a company’s customer satisfaction? Or how about beautiful websites that exceed accessibility requirements?

Design is important, no doubt. But I want to be hired for what I consider the right reasons:

  • Can I solve your website problem?
  • Can I help you increase your web leads?
  • Do we share similar values?
  • Can I showcase your work in a way that represents you?
  • Can I improve your customer happiness?
  • Can I streamline your website to save you time?

Focusing on winning an award is distracting from the real purpose of creating websites. I don’t create websites to make my portfolio look good or experiment on someone else’s dime. I’m not one of those kind of designer. I’m creating websites to solve my client’s problems.

I care about clean, professional, simple, problem-solving websites. Sites where you can find an answer to your question quickly. My focus is on building a site really well. That means using Responsive Web Design. That means making a site accessible with higher-than-required accessibility standards. That means creating a clear, clean, simple user experience. That means optimizing a site for fast load times. Ultimately it means creating a website that provides my client partners what they need to communicate and work with their constituents and customers. It does not mean provoking customers with a cutting-edge design. In fact, I’d rather them not notice the website, other than to say: “That was a great experience. I found what I needed. It just worked. It was easy.”

When I hear things like “Our site is so much easier and smoother to update than our last site, it makes site maintenance a joy,” and that I am “a pleasure to work with throughout the entire process,*” that is all of the reinforcement I need to know that I am creating an award-worthy website.

*Actual client quotes. Here are some more:

  • “She harvests a constant flow of creative imagery, maintain superb attention to detail and easily finds creative solutions.”
  • “Susan is well-known for her creative talent, business skills and design sensibility.”
  • “Susan and her team are some of the most professional, organized, and creative people I have ever worked with.”
  • “Her work has been organized, efficient, creative and consistent.”
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