This year’s national web design contest in Louisville, KY, was another fantastic and inspiring event. It is always great to be among so many talented and passionate web designers and developers. We saw a significant improvement in the level of knowledge, skills, and abilities competitors brought.
We also trained competitors further in areas such as web accessibility, security, and web design process. Web accessibility is an area which is too often overlooked. Yet, by making your web pages accessible, you actually increase search engine rank (after all the search bots visiting your pages are blind). There was an increased awareness of ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) after our training. ARIA helps make web pages accessible when more advanced techniques are applied to these pages. Security was also highlighted in our training. Anyone reading this is likely aware of many data breaches which routinely make the news. We covered the fundamentals (such as two factor authentication and strong passwords) and also reviewed secure coding “best practices” one should employ. Many competitors also learned about the process professionals currently follow (and emerging trends) as they design websites for clients.
Best practices stressed
We believe it is critical to help set standards and confirm web design educational pathways include what is happening in the industry today. This is why we hold this national contest every year. It is also why we reach out to those running state competitions so we have a common approach. The fact that we are seeing improvement from year to year means our message is getting through (to students and those who teach these topics).
There was a palpable sense of excitement on the competition floor this year as everyone tested their knowledge and skills against other teams (each team had to win first place in their respective state to compete; we had first place winners from 29 states competing in either our contest for high school students or our contest for post-secondary students). It was inspiring to see how some approached the tasks laid out in the client work order. Some broke their time into segments and put together a project plan and measured their performance throughout the day. Others worked closely as a team. We observed some who finished each other’s sentences during the interview process. That was real teamwork in action.
What employers look for
Our efforts are also important to employers. We are helping competitors understand the knowledge, skills, and abilities employers look for in applicants these days. Those who conduct the onsite interviews of teams are the same individuals who hire web professionals. They asked many of the same questions one would anticipate in an actual interview. This means competitors had a chance to experience an actual interview (many for their first time). They should be better prepared when they are actually seeking employment in the field.
We are helping competitors better understand what is expected of them in the workforce, but we are also helping industry by raising the bar so those competing are better prepared when they enter the workforce in this dynamic and rapidly changing field. We are also helping them better understand what tools employers look for when hiring.
Gold, silver, bronze medals awarded
Winners were announced as part of the SkillsUSA National awards ceremony on Friday at the Kentucky Exposition Center. Roughly 18,000 people applauded those who earned gold, silver, and bronze medals in Web Design. First place winners received an annual subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud. Many thanks to Adobe for providing these. Winners also received a number of scholarships from various schools.
Riley Johnson (part of the team which won gold in our contest for secondary students) told us why he participated in the contest. “I participated in this competition to gain valuable web design and business skills from industry professionals. I also participated in it to meet and network with some of the other most talented web design students from around the country.”
Riley also offered this advice to those planning to compete next year. “To do well in this competition you have to focus on more than just web design. There were many skills being tested including interview ability as well as creating and presenting your development process. I think this competition is an excellent opportunity for aspiring web and software developers and I have been able to use the skills I gained here in other competitions as well as interviews.”
“Thank you” to those who helped
We also want to give a big shout out to all who helped with our competition. Jon, Steve, Chris, David, and Jonathan were onsite and did an amazing job of helping me coordinate the competitions. Shari, Brandy, Chandler, James and others spent hours analyzing the work of the competitors. We mention these 4 judging super stars as they have been judges for multiple years and always step up to the challenge (even though it means a couple of very long nights for them – and they all have day jobs). We appreciate your efforts immensely.
Every year, we ask members of the Web Professional community to help us review our competition rubric; serve as judges (we do all the judging remotely), and help in many related tasks. If you are reading this, what do you plan to do to help us next year? Sure, we are all busy, but we must make an effort to consistently train the next generation (and train them well). Otherwise, we are doomed to repeat past mistakes. We look forward to your involvement next year. You can always get in touch with us at: http://webprofessionals.org/about/contact/.