Web Support Awards FAQ
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS...
THE BIG PICTURE
How does the judging process work?
Each entry is reviewed by a panel of five independent judges, using
a scoring system that measures 25 different performance criteria.
The sites with the highest scores in their category (Open Division,
seven to eight awards; Small Company Division, two to three awards)
become the "Year's Ten Best Web Support Sites."
How do you define the categories?
As its name implies, the Open Division is open to anyone who wishes
to enter. The Small Company Division is for companies whose annual
revenues are below $500 million.
We're a tiny division of a big company. What's our
"Small" companies have to be independently owned. A division of a
big company must enter in the Open category. (How do we know if
your rich parent isn't slipping you a few extra bucks on the side?)
How many companies enter the competition?
We typically get 40-60 entries. That's not a huge number, but
putting together entry essays and other materials is a fairly
serious undertaking. So the competition tends to be pretty tough.
(We publish a list of participating companies and their support URLs
in each year's "Ten Best Support Sites" book, if you're interested
in scoping out the competition.)
Do we have to be ASP members to participate?
What about overseas entries?
We've had winners from outside the U.S. in the past (including
Canada, the U.K., Israel, Austria and Finland), and we'd love to
see more. Naturally, our judges may have a hard time evaluating
your site if the text is in an obscure dialect of Klingon. But if
even some of your site is in English, we can probably give it a
When is the deadline?
In 2014, the deadline will be Friday, March 7. We can also accept
late entries (with a late fee) during the following week. And, if
we still have judges available, we may be able to process entries
as much as two weeks after the deadline. But if you're going to be
that late, check with us first. (By the way—the deadline is
based on when WE receive the entry.)
Why do we have to write an entry essay?
The essay helps the judges understand why you've made specific
design and implementation decisions about your site. This is a
chance for you to explain your customers, the practical problems
you faced, and your company priorities. Note that the information
you provide in your essay represents 20% of the total points the
judges can award for your site.
What's the purpose of the "Challenges" part of the
This section explains how well you used your resources—people,
money, technology—and your problem-solving insights. Many
companies lose points on this section, by the way, by submitting
public relations happy talk ("we strive to make our customers even
more delirious with joy"). If you overhauled the site to fix lousy
navigation or a defective search engine, say so.
What's the purpose of the "Three Key Features" part of the
This section helps the judges identify features or areas of the site
that they should look at most closely. It's a good idea to use this
section to explain why you feel these features are exceptional, and
perhaps to supply metrics and other background information for
How long can the essay be?
Our judges used to complain that essays were sometimes too
long to read. So we're now imposing a strict limit of twelve pages
(including a cover page) for the entire essay. Screen shots and
charts should be placed with the text, and count as part of the
twelve-page total. If you can't describe your biggest challenge and
three key features in this space, you're probably trying to cram
too much into what should be a simple document.
Can we write about something other than challenges and key
No. These components act as a very open-ended template. The judges
refer to the essay to determine the scores they assign for the final
five issues in the scoring system, so we need some standardization.
How do we submit an entry?
The entry process changed recently. Entry essays must be
submitted as a single electronic file (.pdf format only). The entry
form page should be a separate file, also in PDF format.
You have several options for transmitting the entry essay file to us,
which are spelled out in the entry form section entitled "Electronic
Do we have to send a PDF?
Yes. This is by far the most stable, predictable file format for
electronic documents. Our experience with other formats (including
Word) is that there are too many glitches with fonts, corrupted
images, and version incompatibilities. If you can't generate a clean
PDF from your source document, our judges probably won't have any
What if we send you a hard copy entry?
We will lay it gently in the recycling bin and ask you to resubmit
your entry as requested. We are not mailing hard copies to judges.
Our site is password-protected. What do we do?
We'll ask you to provide a generic password that we can pass on to
the judges for the duration of the competition. (A generic password
is easiest for us to administer, because judges are assigned
randomly.) We also strongly encourage you to TEST the password you
submit with your entry—surprisingly often, we're given
passwords that don't work, and this makes our judges cranky.
How do we pay the entry fee?
You can either enclose a check (company or personal) or PDF the credit
card information (card number, expiration, name of card holder). Don't
even think of asking us to invoice your company.
JUDGING & SCORING
How do we find out about the scoring system?
Just download a copy of the Scoring Criteria
document we give all of our judges. Our scoring system is completely
open and transparent—you can see exactly what we look at and
how many possible points we assign. (To the best of our knowledge,
no other Web competition offers this much disclosure, by the
Some of the scoring criteria don't apply to our site. Will
we be at a disadvantage?
No. In fact, we've never seen a site that excelled in all 25 of our
performance metrics, or that even offered all of the features we
measure. Winning sites in the Open Division typically have scores
in the 85-95 point range, so it's possible to rank as a
high-performing site without implementing every possible feature.
Bear in mind also that our scoring system measures the quality
of feature implementation, not just the checklist presence of a
feature. A site that does an excellent job of implementing a shorter
list of features will generally out-perform a site that does a poor
job of implementing many features.
How can a small company with limited resources compete
against the big guys?
That's why we have a Small Company division. The entries in this
division compete only against each other. And to further
level the playing field, we exclude each small company's five
lowest-scoring criteria in computing the total score for that
entry. Small companies will be measured primarily on features they
implement well, with no loss of points for "missing" features.
Who are the judges?
We recruit our judges primarily from the membership of the
ASP—support managers, analysts, Web designers, consultants,
and other support professionals. We try to find a broad mix of
talents and expertise so that our evaluations will reflect many
points of view. The majority of our judges have already helped with
at least one previous "Best Sites" competition, so they're pretty
familiar with the scoring system and the challenges of Web support
Can someone be a judge if their company also enters the
Yes. We don't give judges their own sites to evaluate, of course. We
also won't assign a judge to evaluate sites developed by direct
competitors, clients, or former employers.
Will your judges sign non-disclosure agreements?
If that's a concern, let us know in advance and we'll select judges
for your entry who will agree to swallow a cyanide capsule rather
than disclose your secrets. (Please note that the entry materials
you provide should not include confidential material, since we
publish selections from the winning submissions after the awards are
How long does the judging take?
If our judges all turn in their scores on time, we'll announce the
winners by the end of May. The individual site evaluations will take two or
three weeks to produce, and the "Year's Ten Best Sites" book should
be ready mid-July.
If you would like to receive notification by e-mail when this year's
edition of the book becomes available, join our ASP alert.
How much visibility will the winners get?
For most winners, the most valuable publicity comes from posting our
"award winner" logo on their support site, where it will be seen by
customers and partners who visit the site. We also provide trophies
and certificates that help remind your own support people about what
a great job they're doing. And we blitz the world with press releases,
which occasionally produce stories about individual winners. At least
one large PC manufacturer in Austin, Texas, now brags about
"award-winning support" in their TV commercials, which suggests that
winning this award can have serious marketing value.
How long can I display the awards logo?
There's no limit (and no licensing fee, incidentally).
If we don't win, what will we get?
A lot. First, we'll show you how the judges scored your site in
each of our 25 performance areas, and then compare these scores
against category benchmarks to show your relative strengths and
weaknesses. We'll also show you the text comments that the judges
made about your site. And you'll get a complimentary copy of "The
Year's Ten Best Web Support Sites," a book-length review of the
year's winners (a $95 value).
Can we find out where we ranked?
No. We discourage the notion that Web support can be measured on a
simple linear scale. We identify a group of ten companies that embody
overall excellence and we show individual participants how they
compare against category averages. Beyond that, we never disclose or
publish individual rankings.