Congratulations to Lars Hasselblad Torres, the winner of the 2012 Beginner Friendly Website Design contest.

Our panel of judges selected Lars’ entry because they felt it best exemplified innovation and creativity in design. It began with a strong, easily navigable foundation and then experimented with new ideas for beginner friendly design elements. Judges felt that this site was the most likely to appeal to all types of users, including but not limited to beginners. They also felt it made best use of current technology & design principles (gamification, integrating social media), demonstrating that a “beginner friendly” website can be forward-looking in how it engages visitors.

See the entry here.

Contest Background

Today, it’s awfully hard to get by without being able to use the Internet. Jobs are found online, job applications are online, if you can’t find a job unemployment benefits are applied for online. Applicants to benefits programs, like assistance with food or fuel, are encouraged to go online. Medicare enrollment is online and healthcare exchanges will be online too. Many of us get all our news online and stay in touch with our friends online.

In 2011, 20% of American adults did not use the Internet.

The number one reason why people don’t get online isn’t cost, it’s that they don’t see the Internet as relevant. But ignoring the Internet isn’t a choice any more. Think of this: 1/3 of adults in low income households don’t use the Internet, but they need it to find jobs, keep jobs, and apply for unemployment benefits. Or, 65% of seniors don’t use the Internet, but they need it to access healthcare and stay connected with friends and family.

The mismatch between who is online and what is online means that a lot of beginners are starting to visit websites for the first time. And a lot of those sites are not beginner friendly. We need better ways to make beginner friendly sites, and we’re looking to you for those designs.

This contest is intended to be accessible to everyone – experienced site designers, Internet newcomers, techies, students, seniors, all have something important to contribute to the question of how we welcome beginners to the online world. Contest winners may receive prizes, but all entries bring us closer to having an Internet that doesn’t exclude anyone.

See a sample entry here.

Beginner Friendly Web Design Contest Details

Contest Rules  |  Judging Criteria  |  Prizes and Use of Entry


Contest Rules

Participants are encouraged to review background materials on beginner friendly websites. These materials are available here. They include basic usability principles, ADA standards, and additional considerations for beginners.

We are looking for entries that propose a beginner friendly website design in any of the following three categories; please select one category:

  • Community Organization  – This category imagines a site for a community organization that helps Vermonters access critical government services, such as food assistance, ReachUp benefits, unemployment benefits, or Medicare. Designers can choose what benefits programs or critical services are introduced via the site, only one is necessary. Examples of types of organizations in this category include community action programs, area agencies on aging, United Ways, divisions of state government.
  • Local News / Community News – This category can include professional journalism, citizen journalism, informal news sharing networks, etc. The goal is to ensure that all citizens have access to important news relevant to their lives. See for example any online newspaper site,, Front Porch Forum, iBrattleboro,, etc.
  • Designer’s Choice – Are there types of sites that should be beginner friendly but often aren’t? Choose a type of site that facilitates common activities and ought to be beginner friendly. For example, what beginner friendly design would encourage people to bank or pay bills online? File taxes online? Participate in local government?

Designs can be built around a fictitious entity or simply a generic template. If you have a particular organization in mind as you design the concept, please indicate that organization. If you borrow significantly from existing websites for ideas, please credit your sources – there is no penalty for building off of ideas that work, as long as you are improving on them.

Preparing Your Entry:

Submissions must be sent by e-mail by 11:59 pm on November 12th 2012. Subject line should read: Web Contest Entry. If you do not receive a confirmation e-mail within 24 hours, please resend.

Can you send a hard copy? We strongly prefer electronic submissions, but mailed entries will be accepted that are postmarked by November 12th.

Entries can come from a single person or a group, with one person designated as the primary contact. You must be a Vermont resident or currently enrolled in a Vermont college or university, and be 18 years or older.

Please convert your files and / or hard copy drawings to a single PDF or Word document.

Provide contact information only on the cover page of your submission. This cover page should include title, name(s), lead contact’s e-mail address and phone number, any additional notes.

Entrants can outline their concepts in whatever way they think best illustrates their ideas. Each entry should include the following:

  • Written description of the site, including considerations used to make it beginner friendly. Please limit this introductory description to one page or less. Note there are no page limits on the other sections.
    • Community Organization: Include what benefits programs / essential online information / other online service will be featured in the subpages (see below).
    • Local News / Community News: Include the information-sharing goals of the site. For example, is the intent to share edited journalism, to provide a forum for citizen reporting, to filter existing newsfeeds by relevance to the community, etc.
    • Designer’s Choice: Include statement of the site’s goal and anticipated audience.
  • List of elements that represent an innovative approach to beginner friendly.
  • Illustration of homepage.
  • Illustration of key sub-pages.
    • For example, in Community Organizations the key sub-pages should show how this site introduces a benefits platform such as ‘’ in a way that’s easy for beginners to navigate. Standard pages such as Staff or About are not key unless they integrate an innovative new design element.

A sample entry is posted here.


Judging Criteria

All entries will be judged anonymously. Please remember to put identifying information only on the first page.

Judging criteria will measure the concepts’ success in:

  • Identifying and effectively integrating beginner friendly principles
  • Applying innovative thinking
  • Clearly articulating the site’s core goals and designing an effective way to ensure these goals are reached for everyone in the site’s target audience, including Internet beginners
  • Providing an attractive design
  • Providing a functional design
  • Basic technical feasibility – we aren’t expecting all entrants to have technical knowledge of website design, but the idea has to be somewhere in the ballpark of feasibility.

The most important element will be the level of effective creativity shown in each design.
We thank all of our volunteer judges:

  • Jim Fogler, Publisher of the Burlington Free Press, Free Press Media
  • Dan Lucier, Community Broadband Organizer, Vermont Telephone Company
  • Rich Nadworny, Digalicious
  • Kathy Murphy, Chief Marketing Officer, State of Vermont
  • Sarah Pettitt, Professor, Champlain College
  • Shay Totten, Communications Director, Chelsea Green Publishing


Prizes and Use of Entry

This contest is intended to encourage a statewide conversation around digital literacy as well as to highlight Vermonters’ innovative thinking on this topic. By entering this contest, all participants agree to make their design concepts publicly available in a showcase website. Entries may also be used as images or examples in publicity for the contest results, for future beginner friendly web design contests, and as part of awareness campaigns for digital literacy. Designers will be recognized whenever their images are featured.

We strongly encourage a Creative Commons license for your designs –

Entrants are free to use their web designs in other venues and to enter them in other contests.

Winner receives $2,000 and an advertising campaign with the Burlington Free Press for their business or organization site or donated to the website of their choosing.

Winners will be notified by January 1st, 2013.

Thank you to our prize sponsors: Free Press Media, VSECU and the Vermont Teachnology Council.