Announcing the Finalists
A total of forty-six applications were received for the 2007 SANGONeT NGO Website Awards. This is the second time that SANGONeT is holding a competition of this nature and the excellent response provided SANGONeT’s short-listing panel with an interesting mix of moderate to first class NGO websites.
Although the number of applications decreased compared to last year, the competition was tight this year. In addition, given the quality of the websites submitted, the short-listing panel had a hard time deciding upon the top 10 NGO websites in South Africa this year.
Websites were largely judged on their ability to communicate messages about their causes to target audiences. Fazila Farouk, Editor of the SANGONeT Portal, who has coordinated both awards processes, contends that although there were fewer entries this year, the quality was noticeably higher. “Compared to last year, these websites appear more sophisticated in their understanding of how to communicate their issues to their target audience,” she says.
The ten finalists for the 2007 NGO Website Awards in South Africa are:
Agenda Feminist Media www.agenda.org.za
Art Market Online www.artmarketonline.co.za
Border Rural Committee www.brc21.co.za
Children of the Dawn www.childrenofthedawn.org.za
Fair Trade in Tourism www.fairtourismsa.org.za
Heifer-South Africa www.heifer.org.za
South African Council for the Blind www.sancb.org.za
The Association for the Aged (TAFTA) www.tafta.org.za
The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa www.heartfoundation.co.za
The ten finalists, who are listed in no particular order, will have to wait until 17 July 2007 when the three winning websites will be announced at the gala dinner of SANGONeT's third annual ICTs for Civil Society Conference. The gala dinner will also be the highlight of SANGONeT's 20th anniversary celebrations.
The websites were judged against the following criteria:
Objective of the Website
A good website should always have clear communication objectives, build relationships with relevant stakeholder groups, advance them and allow organisations to measure the influence of such advancement.
Neila Pillay, SANGONeT Finance Manager and member of the short-listing panel states that “some of the websites were very professional in terms of presentation whereas others lacked clarity, vision and failed to communicate the message to the intended stakeholders.”
The panel of judges agreed that a website must offer 90% of what the person is looking for within one click of the top part of the home page in addition to a simple way to sustain existing online relationships. This also speaks to websites having creative elements that draw visitors to the site.
Farouk identifies this criterion as one of the challenges that still face the majority of South African NGO website. She holds the view that NGOs must use their websites to encourage and develop relationships with stakeholders. Regretfully “they are not doing this very well at the moment”, she says.
Another criterion that was identified as being crucial in determining whether a site meets its communication objectives is its ability to build relationships. Websites should cultivate techniques that are aimed at deepening and serving the relationship with returning visitors. The site should be designed in a way that it has links such as ‘What’s new’, a sitemap or search tool and other interactive elements on the homepage.
Matthew de Gale, SANGONeT ICT Services Manager and member of the short-listing panel argues that what pushed the finalists into the top ten positions is the NGOs increased usage of interactive mechanisms within the website, saying that this is a very important part of a modern website.
Aesthetics was also an area of concern for the judges who argue that the appearance of a website plays a crucial role in determining its success rate. Aesthetics covers aspects such as the virtual appeal, layout, navigation, and combination of colours.
de Gale says that the entries consisted of “very competently designed and good looking websites.”
The tone of the website should be inviting and respectful to the reader. Generally, the tone has to be warm and often conveys the character of the organisation.
There are two important dimensions to this. First, does the website pass the basic accessibility tests for reaching people with disabilities? Second, given the audiences and stakeholders involved, is the website accessible? In some communities, this might mean better visual and audio communication.
- Badumile Duma and Butjwana Seokoma, Information Coordinators, SANGONeT.