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Judging the World's Best-Designed websites and apps for SND

I had the honor of being one of the judges for the Society of News Design's 2013 World's Best-Designed at SND 35. This is the fourth year that the digital portion of this competition has existed and the 35th anniversary of the print portion. This year, the judges convened in Indianapolis. For me, it was a great opportunity to meet new people within our industry that work on other publications and talk about the state of design on both the web and in print.

 SB Nation won the digital award the previous year(!), so it was interesting and awesome to be involved in the process to select this years winners.

Chiqui Esteban from The Boston Globe, Kaitlin Yarnall from National Geographic and I had the task of judging the World’s Best portion of the awards. For over two days, we outlined what we were looking for, pored over entries, scoured the web for things that should have been entered and had healthy debates about defines design and who should win this prestigious award. Our judges’ statement below suggests the sort of prism we were looking through as we reviewed the entires.

World's Best judges' statement

Digital news design is an awkward phase. Particularly on the Web, which feels transitory. While there is incredible momentum around responsive design and bright spots of bold storytelling, the foundations of most sites feel fragmented and chaotic. While many sites seem on the cusp of something big and revolutionary, most have not fully transitioned to feel "of the Web" in 2014. Many publications, particularly international sites, felt stale and stagnant. The innovation seen in South American and European sites in past years has almost vanished.

We selected NAUTILUS, WNYC for iPhone, Al Jazeera America for iPhone and The New York Times as this years winners. You can read all about our decisions on the SND website, with a full breakdown of why each one of the aforementioned sites and apps were given an award. SND also made a short video that included our personal explanations for the judging.

Editor's note: Here's Ted with some sweet hand gestures:


By the end of the weekend, I left with a better understanding of where news design is, and where it needs to go. I made some amazing new friends, and left Indianapolis with the knowledge that the design and development teams of the winning sites and apps were going to feel very proud of themselves.

For those that are unfamiliar with SND, I encourage you to get involved - its an amazing organization and a great group of people. Five members of Vox Product were in Indy last weekend, and we all came away feeling really good about the industry and where we're headed in the future.

Ultimately, events like this are a great way to stay connected to the industry and to better understand both your peers and the competition your company faces. It has reminded me to push Vox Media in bolder directions and has motivated our team to attend more conferences and design-a-thons.