Interview with Helen Burgess from the Australian Web Awards

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Today we bring you an interview with Helen Burgess, chairperson of the Australian Web Awards.  If you would like to learn more about the Australian web awards, please visit their website:

Deque: Could you give us a brief description of Australian Web Awards?

Helen: The Australian Web Awards seek to showcase Australian-grown talent by recognising outstanding web design and development by businesses and individuals to the Australian Web Industry.

What criteria are the Australian Web Awards based on?

The awards are based on 2 stages. The 1st stage is based on validation criteria. The criteria for this is:

  • W3C mark-up validation using
  • W3C CSS validation
  • Link checking
  • A first pass Accessibility check using WAVE
  • web page load testing using

The errors and warnings from the criteria above are given a score and the combined total gives us an idea of what sites should go onto the second stage. This is so the judges from industry who do the 2nd stage testing are only judging the best compliant websites.

The 2nd Stage criteria are:

  • Accessibility - a closer look using FireEyes
  • Design - what it looks like
  • UX - does the user interface provide a good to excellent user experience, easy to use, easy to navigate?
  • Content - quality content, images, order of content, use of SEO
  • Fitness for purpose - does the site design fit the content model, i.e. e-commerce - shopping cart?
  • Credibility and validity - having the legal stuff like Terms & Conditions, privacy policy, copyright, etc.
  • Development - this is about the code development and using best practice techniques
  • Mobile - how does the site view on a mobile device? Has it had mobile devices taken into account for its design?

There are Three judges for each category: one design oriented judge, one development oriented judge, and one everyday user judge.

How did you develop these criteria?

The criteria were developed over many years, first as the WA Web Awards and then as the Australian web awards. Each year we take feedback from judges and the web development community on the judging process and criteria, which we then use through our quality improvement  program for the next year's awards. The criteria is also based on what the web development community at large sees as important, in addition to compliance to standards and best practices.

What inspired you and your colleagues to start the Australian Web Awards?

The Australian Web Industry Association use to hold an awards program for Western Australia only. This happened from 2004-2008. The main impetus for the awards was to reward developers and designers who were doing excellent work and apply best practice as well as being standards compliant. The awards were a way of encouraging the web development community to embrace best practice as well as standards compliancy. In 2007 we started getting requests for entry from Eastern States developers, so we took some time to see how we could expand and have all web designers and developers from Australia enter the awards. This finally happened in 2009 and it is truly a competition of best practice and standards. Our next goal is to make a web development community award for accessibility compliance just as we did with best practice and standards compliancy.

Who are some previous winners of these awards?

A list of our finalists and winners from the last 3 years is available at: In 2012 we introduced a special category of awards which focussed on specific criteria. That is: Best Overall HTML, Best Overall Visual Design, Best Overall Accessibility, and Best Overall User Experience. One of our finalists for Best Visual Design (Big Stories, Small Towns Freerange Future (SA)) also entered in SXSW awards and won the Best Community Site award.

How did you find the Deque tool set?

Our Judging Panel chair from 2012, Gary Barber, uses it in his work and suggested we use this tool in our judging process for the more in depth accessibility judging.

How does FireEyes contribute to your judging process?  

During the second stage, a more comprehensive accessibility assessment is undertaken after the initial WAVE report. We typically concentrate on main purpose of the site instead of incidental pages. So for an e-commerce site we look at the catalogue and shopping cart process in depth, and for a business we look at the site overall but concentrate on their offerings and products as well as contact page.


If you'd like to lean more about Deque and the services we offer, please contact us.


Caitlin is an "Accessibility Decoder" at Deque Systems. She joined the team back in 2011 and has taken on a variety of roles over the years. These days she spends her time exploring the best ways to communicate accessibility ideas and solutions to the general public.

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