If your association conducts an awards program, then it is essential for you to know the fundamentals of creating an effective and engaging program website.

Designing the Optimal Association Awards Program Website

What Roles Do an Association Website and AMS Play for Awards?

An association’s AMS is a critical point of record and the association website is an essential platform for marketing the activities within the association. Having an effective awards program requires both a software portal for application submission, as well as a public-facing website for promotion.

Oftentimes the association’s website will dedicate one page to promote the awards, as a homepage, and then the awards website will be on a separate platform. Most associations view their main website as an entry point for the awards program. The awards management software will then use a public-facing website to detail the association’s submission process, categories and deadlines.

When it comes to the AMS, the awards program creates a lot of useful data. If the AMS and awards website are not speaking to one another there is a tremendous amount of valuable membership information that remains siloed. In addition, an AMS can enable judges and applicants to seamlessly log in using their same AMS credentials, otherwise known as the single sign-on.

Designing the Optimal Awards Program Website

There are two schools of thought when it comes to the design and aesthetics of an awards program website:

  1. Keep it really simple and focus on the reliability of the platform. It just needs to work.
  2. Branding and custom design is essential.

One is not better than the other, but it is important to decide where your priorities are because that will influence how you approach optimizing your website and content. There is also a significant difference between having a website dedicated to a single awards program versus having a website that encompasses many programs at once. 

In the following article we will cover everything from a basic site to advanced custom site design to help you identify the best possible approach for your own organization.

The “Keep it Simple” Approach

If your organization’s priority is simplicity and functionality, then a basic design is the approach you will wish to take. Below is an example of the American Geophysical Union’s Fellows program landing page. They are utilizing OpenWater’s default look and feel that comes with a standard navigation banner. You can also upload a banner of your choice.

Take a look at this simple, function awards program design from Union Fellows.

The landing page content is dedicated to the Union Fellows program with a call to action in the navigation bar to “Nominate a fellow”. You may also wish to have additional navigation bar items that include FAQs, policies, rules, or contact information for administrators.

The benefit of a simple design like the above keeps the applicant focused on just completing the work required and reduces any clutter or distraction. It also reduces the burden of implementation by requiring a banner and some content. No other design items are required.

About half of all OpenWater customers go with this default look and feel.

The “Match Look and Feel” Approach

The next most common approach is to do what is known as a Match Look and Feel. This means that your awards program submission form and website match your own website. There is no differentiation between your awards website and your regular website.

This approach is best if you want a consistent brand between your organization and the submission process. This makes the most sense for something like a grant or scholarship application. It is also a good choice for those who run multiple grants and scholarships on a single site. Let’s take a look at the Institute of Engineering and Technology’s page below.

The Institute of Engineering and Technology takes a clean, consistent branding approach to their awards program website.

They do a great job listing some basic instructions followed by a call to action. Additionally, they provide a table of programs along with their availability and Apply Now links.

What you are looking at is still the OpenWater platform, but the header and footer match that of the IET website to ensure consistent branding between both platforms.

Advanced Custom Design and Branding

In some cases, the awards program itself is the brand, not the organization. Notable examples of this are the Grammys, Oscars, and Emmy Awards. And if you want to build a brand around your awards program, then you should have a dedicated website with its own brand.

The MSL of the Year Awards run by the Medical Science Liaison Society is a relatively new awards program, but they have done a fantastic job creating a website showcasing the program.

MSL of the Year starts off with a full page, designed banner with a large call to action to “Submit a Nomination.”

Take a look at the elaborate and sophisticated awards program web design from the Medical Science Liaison Society.

The next section conveys important information about the awards program, such as dates as well as categories.

Take a look at the elaborate and sophisticated awards program web design from the Medical Science Liaison Society.

The section below categories is a video highlighting the MSL of the Year awards and previous winners and finalists.

Take a look at the elaborate and sophisticated awards program web design from the Medical Science Liaison Society.

Highlighting the judges and their expertise is a great way to further the brand.

Take a look at the elaborate and sophisticated awards program web design from the Medical Science Liaison Society.

As you get lower down the page, you provide additional information on eligibility and FAQs.

Take a look at the elaborate and sophisticated awards program web design from the Medical Science Liaison Society.

A timeline of events keeps both applicants and judges informed on important dates of the awards program.

Take a look at the elaborate and sophisticated awards program web design from the Medical Science Liaison Society.

Other great examples of custom design websites are AdAge’s A-List & Creativity Awards and Sandow Media’s Awards.

You may also draw inspiration from AdAge's bright, clean, and orderly awards program website design.
Check out Sando Media's impressive HiP awards program website design.

We hope sharing these different approaches inspires your team to evaluate your awards program branding and decide what is best for you. Go here to learn more about OpenWater awards management software

Other Awards Website Best Practices

1. Include a Winners Gallery

Having historical data of your awards in a gallery is a nice thing for visitors to see, not just to look at, but also to get a better feel for your program. (Take a look at the website for The Oscars as an example.) Providing an archive of your awards adds to your legitimacy and prestige; by adding a gallery of winners, you are enticing entrants with the prize itself.

2. Review & Update Your Information

Keep information on the site updated regularly so visitors will be able to easily find what they need. Make sure all of the submission information is clear and concise. Review your website with the eyes of a newcomer and see if there’s anything you could add to help entrants. (Remember: better instructions means better submissions.)

Awards Call for Entry Best Practice

The call for entry (CFE) page on your awards website is nothing without the right elements in your CFE itself! When you’re carefully crafting this, be sure to include these 9 vital elements:

1. About the Awards – Your CFE is meant to excite people! By including information about your program’s history and tenure, you can generate interest and establish legitimacy too.

2. Categories – Listing out your categories will let interested entrants know whether or not their submission would be a fit for your program.

3. Judging Criteria – Showing how entries will be judged will help entrants structure their submissions and heighten the qualities of the entries as well.

4. Entry Criteria – Be sure to tell entrants all of the information they’ll need to submit upon entering! This will help them prepare and evaluate eligibility requirements.

5. Judges – Judges are typically industry experts, meaning that they can attract potential entrants too. Be sure to show off your judges for additional publicity.

6. Relevant Dates – Let entrants know when your CFE begins and ends so they can prepare their submission in time.

7. Fees – You don’t want entrants to get to the end of your program and then be surprised (often in a negative way) by the necessary fees. Detail different costs (like general entry fees, early-bird discounts, and late fees) explicitly and your entrants will thank you.

8. How to Submit – Include a link to the application to simplify the submission process for those who are interested. This can increase your number of entrants and create a hassle-free process for everyone involved.

9. Contact Information – Contact information makes it simple for those who have questions or want additional information to get it quickly and efficiently.

How OpenWater and Fonteva Work Together

Trade Associations and Membership Societies that use Fonteva as their AMS can integrate with OpenWater for single sign on, membership specific pricing and to exchange data with the AMS to enable seamless reporting on nominations for awards, submissions, judging and much more. Click here to learn more about OpenWater’s integration with Fonteva.