To mark the 150th FWA interview we decided to publish an interview with FWA's Founder, Rob Ford, which was published in the Korean Magazine,
(edition 02 February 2006).
w.e.b. > I read that 'FWA is a project originally developed by ‘treecity’, an agency that was short-listed for the Yell UK Web Awards 2000, in the Best Web Design Agency, UK, category.'
To start things off, for those who don't know much about FWA, introduce your website first?
Rob > The FWA: Favourite Website Awards, based in England, was established in May 2000 to recognise and showcase future thinking, progressively designed sites that use cutting edge technology, together with inspirational ideas, that lead the way for future generations.
In September 2000 FWA was rated as one of the World's Top Awards, one of the elite awards and is now recognised across the industry as one of the top accolades available for websites.
The FWA Site Of The Day (SOTD) is a daily accolade, awarded to sites from nominations (currently 2500+ per month), plus through scouting staff, who trawl the web to find the latest and best sites to invite nominations from (as no site is listed without the relevant permission).
FWA also has many industry contacts with leading design and development studios, who keep FWA up to speed with their latest releases.
FWA use a well established process and criteria to select winners, covering: design 40%; navigation 25%; content 15%; graphics 15%; personality 5%. Winning sites must score 90% or higher.
Each month one site is selected as the site of the month (SOTM) and all SOTMs are judged by an industry leading panel of judges for the site of the year (SOTY). The 12 monthly winners are, also, voted on by the public to decide the People's Choice Award (PCA).
The SOTY and PCA winners are always announced in the third week of January.
The FWA website has a comprehensive categorised database of winners, with filtering and sorting abilities for ease of browsing and is probably the most well vetted and quality controlled web directory of its kind.
The site also features an ongoing series of interviews with leading and upcoming designers and developers, wallpapers created by some of the world's leading illustrators and graphical wizards and a section of articles.
w.e.b. > Do you have another business area?
Rob > Running the FWA website is a fulltime job now but I am also responsible for another web design site, Well Vetted. The Inspirational Gathering of the world's leading web design portals and community sites, published in a unique monthly list.
I also provide consultancy services for companies, especially in the area of cutting edge web design.
Numerous agencies get me to look over their client’s sites before launch for last minute detail checks and advice.
w.e.b. > FWA had its 5th anniversary on 05/05/2005. Would you tell us how FWA came into being? Was there any special reason?
Rob > As progressive individuals we noticed that the web was full of so called “awards” but very few of them showcased great sites and even less of them showcased the sites that were pushing the envelope.
We also spend a lot of time scouting for the best sites out there to showcase.
w.e.b. > How did you decide to name your site FWA?
Rob > The name is down to the fact that we always wanted to showcase our “favourite” sites and the “website awards” is self explanatory.
The abbreviation to FWA was something we noticed our visitors using, in forums etc and it just stuck.
Plus there was always an issue with spelling of “favourite” as the Americans spell it “favorite” without a “u”.
We were very happy to finally be able to buy the domain name “TheFWA.com” which made everything far easier.
w.e.b. > I heard that you were born in England. Would you introduce yourself?
Rob > FWA is owned and managed by me, Robert James Ford, born England 1969 (the day Neil Armstrong first stepped on to the Lunar Surface), with a background in finance, sales and project management, working for companies like Halifax PLC, American Express and Vauxhall.
My work has been featured in the Macromedia UK Flash Showcase, Macromedia Site Of The Day, Yahoo Pick Of The Day and short listed for the Yell UK Web Awards 2000 (Best Design Agency UK category), amongst others.
I have judged for Webaward.org in 2001 and 2002, the Flash Film Festival NYC and San Francisco in 2003, 2004 and 2005, SXSW Interactive Festival 2004 and 2005, FlashintheCan Toronto 2004 and 2005, President of the Jury for the Latin American FFM Awards show in 2004 and I’m a monthly judge for Web Standards Awards.
I also contribute regularly to other well-known web design community sites and magazines.
w.e.b. > In the “Interviews” section we can read so many valuable interviews from great web designers. Can you tell me about the “Interviews” section? (How do you make the interviews? How do you choose the interviewees? And so on)
Rob > The FWA “interviews” section is a very popular part of the site.
Back in 2002 I was talking to David Martin from Fantasy Interactive about the possibility of running an interview with him. He agreed but said that if we wanted to do an interview with him I would have to send him some questions within the hour as he was leaving on a business trip.
So, the questions we use, which there are 20 of, were thought of by me in 2002 with only an hour of time! It was one of those moments when your brain just locks into gear and the ideas start flowing. The questions are still really successful even four years later.
As for who we invite to interview, that’s an easy one to answer. Having spent so long running FWA, which will soon be in its seventh year, you soon come to realise who are the industry leaders out there and who the public want to read an interview with.
Quite often we get emails from our visitors asking us to interview someone in particular and if it sounds like a good idea, we send out an invite.
We also love to promote new talent and like to interview the up and coming new wave of interactive designers. After all, there is a huge pool of talent out there that needs well deserved exposure.
w.e.b. > In the “Articles” section, “FWA 5th anniversary: Regular’s speak” was very impressive! Can you tell me about the “Articles” section? (How did you come up with the idea about Regular’s speak? And so on).
Rob > The “Articles” section was a new section we came up with for the launch of the new site and it’s already really popular. We hope to provide regular articles every month that are both useful and insightful for designers, developers and general surfers.
The FWA 5th Anniversary: Regulars Speak article came about as something original for our 5th birthday.
In the past we have run competitions but we felt a 5th anniversary on the web was rather special and wanted to have something that would be there for ever and especially something that would give a voice to our loyal visitors.
We had a brainstorming session and came up with five questions (naturally as it’s in keeping with the whole 5th anniversary theme).
We then emailed all our members and posted news on our site inviting people to contribute answers to the following questions:
Q1. Name, age, location, URL?
Q2. When did you first visit FWA?
Q3. Why are you an FWA regular and how often do you visit?
Q4. Describe FWA in one sentence?
Q5. What would you do if you opened the FWA site and read a notice saying, “FWA closed”?
The response was amazing. Within one week we had received 2680 responses and no hate mail! :)
Some of the replies were really funny and creative and I would recommend readers check out the article as it will certainly put a smile on their faces.
w.e.b. > In the “Wallpapers” section I can download so many fantastic wallpapers. Can you tell me about the “Wallpapers” section?
Rob > Yes, the “wallpapers” section is superb! I love it. Again, this was a new idea when we were planning the new FWA site.
The whole idea is to provide some free content to our visitors to liven up their desktops. As mentioned somewhere up above, we have lots of contacts now and, basically, call upon the most talented graphical gurus and illustrators and invite them to design a wallpaper for FWA’s visitors.
Some design one wallpaper for us whilst others have done five! What’s great about them is that they are all unique and the quality is outstanding, as well as diverse, meaning there is something for everyone.
Plus, with the quality being so high, it makes each new wallpaper designer have that tiny bit of pressure to keep the level of quality up.
w.e.b. > We can find some famous companies and designer’s names in the “Judges 2005”. How did you organise the Judges? And will there be any changes or upgrades in the “Judges 2006”?
Rob > The judging panel changes every year. We invite new judges and keep some of the more experienced judges, so that we have a different, yet experienced, panel every year.
All the judges give their time to FWA for free and we respect and value them.
We always try and build the best possible panel for each year’s contest.
Incidentally, the statistics for The FWAs is quite impressive:
2005 was another record year for FWA with a massive 6 million + visitors and 34500+ sites nominated making FWA, probably, the biggest website award contest of its kind in the world.
w.e.b. > There are many web site award sites in the World Wide Web. I think FWA is one of the best. What is a unique brand identity of FWA and how does it differ from the others? What are FWA's own merits and characteristics?
Rob > Thanks and I would like to think that FWA is one of the best award sites online. We have some great testimonials from the industry, winners and our visitors which help keep us grounded but also that we are getting it right.
FWA was probably the first award site focused purely on cutting edge web design and most certainly the longest standing in this respect.
We haven’t diversified and opened up to any type of website. We have maintained our standards and still use the exact same criteria and process that we started with.
We also never fail to deliver and always update our site every day, something most award sites can not compete with.
Due to our diligent approach and relentless focus and dedication, we have built up such a reputation now that a lot of new award sites start up, with FWA as their inspiration and many award almost exactly the same sites.
My advice to anyone thinking about setting up an award site is to make something different if they want to succeed and be prepared to dedicate huge amounts of your time, EVERY DAY.
So many new award sites start but soon disappear as I don’t think most people realise what the whole award thing entails.
Basically, it’s all about building a reputation and gaining respect from a very tough industry.
Naturally, this all takes time and a long time at that. You need at least 3 years under your belt as an award site to be respected and recognised industry wide.
I would also like to think that we are friendly and very professional and our ethics are unwavering.
We don’t accept payment and never have done to list a site and only very recently starting seeking a main project sponsor to help secure FWA’s future.
w.e.b. > You have so much valuable content and so many relationships with web designers and companies. Do you have any plans for making some paper magazine?
Rob > Well, this is very interesting. We actually have enough unique content coming in every month to probably produce an offline publication.
The problem we have in the UK is that most web based magazines are stuck in the past and seem to feature sites from 3 years ago, thinking they are brand new!
Basically, in my experience of UK magazines, it’s quite often the fact that the Editors and freelance writers are way behind what is really happening out there.
It’s a real shame as I’m sure there are some very talented individuals who could give the people of the UK the latest web design information, much like w.e.b. and Web Designing from Japan does.
I have always been impressed with how Korea and Japan have embraced the internet and I’m never surprised at the amount of quality and innovative web design that comes from Asia.
In fact I must be honest and say that this is probably my favourite area in the world for producers of progressive web design so I’m always keen to keep an eye on what comes out of Asia and especially S.Korea and Japan.
w.e.b. > Do you have any magazines that you write articles for or give content to? Do you have plans to interchange your content with another media?
Rob > I have written some articles for magazines over the years and recently wrote the forward for a new book from TASCHEN on Flash sites.
I would like to think that FWA is part of the new wave of online media where we publish original content as it happens, without the restrictions of offline print publications.
I would always consider offers to write for other publications, both online and offline, as well as sharing FWA’s content but only in the right circumstances.
w.e.b. > What is FWA’s plan for the future?
Having spent a long time working with the great guys who built the new FWA site and branding concept, Jason Hickner, Nathan Young, Jared Wray, Graham Stinson, Tony Jacobson and Branon Jones, I would love to continue working with them to complete quite a few features we still have planned for the FWA website.
I would also love to have physical trophies for winners of our Site Of The Month awards as well as for the Site Of The Year winner and People’s Choice Award.
We also need to secure a long term sponsorship for the site.
Publication of a yearly book with all our winners is on the cards as well.
Naturally, I would like to see the site open up to a wider audience as I’m sure our site can be enjoyed by so many people.
And… to keep on enjoying it! Without the fun it becomes work and nobody really enjoys working. :)