Calthorpe Wins “Most Accessible Website” (4th November 2008)

We were announced as being in the final 10 of the Hantsweb Awards way back on 15th September 2008. Some time during October we were listed as finalists.

On 4th November 2008, at the awards ceremony, we were finally announced as the winners of the Most Accessible Website category.

The Awards Ceremony

Just like a miniature TV awards ceremony, there’s a stage in front of an audience with professional lighting, sound a local radio DJ as the host.

The venue was inside a planetarium. A massive digital screen forms a hemisphere above the audience.

Before proceedings really began, they ran an amazing CGI trailer type thing celebrating space exploration. Quite unexpected and very well produced! The moving camera angles coupled with the screen filling my peripheral vision made for a real sense of motion, even though we were all seated in very comfortable theatre chairs.

Some local politicians opened proceedings and the awards got underway promptly.

Our Chance in the Spotlight

“Most Accessible” was the first category. The big screen showed the award names and finalist websites as the host announced the category. All the finalists were invited to a set of chairs beside the stage so the audience could see us when the winner was announced.

It was Calthorpe Park School. We’d done it!

We went onto the stage and stood on our marks to get a picture taken. The audience were all very willing to applaud. It’s quite a nerve-racking experience, being the centre of attention like that. I was on a high but didn’t want to look insane for the photo.

While we were on stage, the host was saying how the judges summarised our website. I was so busy trying not to trip over, making sure I stood in the right place and was looking squarely into the camera lense that I didn’t hear a word of it!

We applauded the runners up, who were announced after we sat back down.

Other Finalists

The categories continued for an hour or so.

A lot of visibly well-designed websites became finalists. Mainly the winners had kept things simple. A couple stood out for marrying wonderfully clear layouts with great finesse and subtley in their graphics and palette. That’s what I’ve wanted for Calthorpe. Alas, I haven’t the skill and they haven’t the budget.

Warren and I occassionally noted the hyperlink styles websites use. I think he still dislikes the “blue and underlined” mantra I enforce on Calthorpe…

Success at Mingling

With the last prizes awarded, everyone headed for the buffet area. I had a handful of crisps and 2 sausage rolls, washed down with glasses of pleasant orange juice.

People seemed to be standing in the same groups rather than diffusing throughout the room. I had a go at finding some other school type places and chatted to Wyvern Technology College for a while. They use Joomla under the hood, as I’ve now confirmed:

<meta name="Generator" content="Joomla! - Copyright (C) 2005 - 2007 Open Source Matters. All rights reserved." />

Joomla is used by sDesign1 as well, such as Tower College. I’ve just notice the devastating news they’ll be moving to a Sharepoint-powered portal. There goes the neighbourhood. :*(

Dude who does the Wyvern Technology College site said it took a bit of customising to get it all to W3C standards. He knew about CSS layout and did cross-browser compatibility firefighting. Studied web design at university, although it was mostly graphic design.

We’re both hosted by Hampshire County Council and are both dead impressed by their service. They keep hitting the 150MB disk space limit. I suggested paying to get more. Not sure how much Calthorpe uses but we’ve not had issues with disk space, bandwidth or CPU usage.

Future Plans

At some point, I want Calthorpe to look as good as it works. I mentioned the requirements the current “design” has to accomodate to a Hampshire County Council communications dude, who interviewed us.

Our audience ranges from Year 5 kids all the way up to grandparents of Year 11 students and all points in between. It has to be many things at once:

Being the archetype for “accessibile but boring” is kinda lame, especially considering what I do with sDesign1. It’s a challenge worthy of a great designer. But great designers cost great piles of money which Calthorpe doesn’t have. Maybe we’ll find one next year.

Still, it’s a labour of love and I’m proud to win against 100 other entrants for 2 years in a row!