Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Gathering archives website - and the ONYAs

The ONYAs finalist. WOOHOO!

The Gathering archives website is a finalist in the Best content (personal) category of the ONYAs!


I'm completely thrilled. It took me a year of working on the site to get it to a state where I was ready to put it online, and it's grown quite a lot since then.

The ONYA judge's comment about the site cracked me up. It's so funny, and also so true...

A multi-media mashup of memoir, fractured histories and anecdotes from a series of events that erased the memories of many that were there. Alison's site is a public service...

The Gathering archives website. New Year 2006/07 marked the 10th anniversary of the first Gathering dance party on top of Takaka Hill near Nelson. The last Gathering was held over New Year 2001/02, and as I had been involved in the organisation of four out of the six Gatherings, and had created the original Gathering website, I felt sad that there was virtually nothing remaining online about these iconic events.

In October 2006 I set about creating, designing, building and writing the Gathering archives website, with the aim of becoming the authoritative source of information on the history and background of The Gathering. The site is divided into different sections for each of the six Gatherings, and includes facts & figures, media coverage, Gathering artwork, photos, video and film footage, Gatherer stories and maps of the venue for each party.

It will always be a work in progress, because each party was so vast and complex that it would be impossible for one person to have a complete overview of what went on at even a single event, let alone six. Although I had a whole lot of "official" archival material (including media coverage, Gathering artwork etc), I wanted the site to be much more than that. I wanted it to reflect the memories and stories of the many thousands of Gatherers who took part each year, as well as the hundreds of crew members and organisations who supported us in putting on New Zealand's best-loved dance parties.

I haven't had much time this year to add new stuff to the site, but I've already spent time improving the usability of the homepage as a result of my ONYAs nomination (see what a bit of good news does to kick-start me into action once more!), and I plan to do quite a bit more on the site before February when the winners in each category are announced.

The other two finalists in this category are Jared Gulian for Moon over Martinborough and my dear friend Zef Fugaz for zef[a]media. Those of you who know your Gathering history might remember Zef - he was our very awesome assistant producer/BetaSP-Cam/graphics guru for The Gathering documentary 97/98.

The ONYAs celebrate those who design, develop and create New Zealand's best websites and applications. They’re awards by the industry, for the industry.

It's a real honour to be nominated for the award, and to be a finalist in such esteemed company. Good luck guys, and may the best website win!

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Thrilled to bits with the ONYAs

The Onyas - finalist.
A year ago things looked pretty bleak job-wise. Sue and I had just been made redundant from our dream web design company, together with Rosie and Rene from the Welli office and four others from the Auckland office.

My first thought when I heard we were losing our jobs was that I would lose my house because I wouldn't be able to pay the mortgage. My second thought was that maybe I wasn't good enough and that that's why I had been one of the ones selected to go.

It was a pretty rough end to the year, to say the least.

However, you have to play with the cards you're dealt, so after a few days feeling sorry for myself I picked myself up and started looking for work.

I've been doing contract and freelance work as WebWeaver Productions for about 13 years now, off and on, so that's what I went back to. Tom and I had done a few little WebWeaver projects for various clients since we met at Shift and I love working with him, so I had my programmer already in place, and we invited Sue to work with us on projects where we needed another designer.

We've done a mixture of freelance work as WebWeaver and contract work for various web design companies over the past 12 months. Here's (some of) what we've achieved this year:

Oh - and...
  • Created a baby - a Sue&Jon project - design by Sue, development by Sue, integration by Jon - congratulations you guys!

It's been a great year!

I think one of the best things about being a freelancer is the immediacy - and the range - of the work you do. When we create a website as WebWeaver Productions, we know we've personally won the right to work on that project, because we've pitched for the job, written the quote, done the IA, liaised with the client, managed the project, designed the website, built the HTML and CSS, integrated the site, and tested (and sometimes even content-loaded) it.

No-one else won that work and then employed us to do the design, build or integration - we won it, and we worked on it in its entirety from start to finish. It's a great feeling. When the client likes our work they tell us directly - and if they really like our work they tell other people and we get to do it all over again. It's awesome.

So you might have noticed that in recognition of all that beavering away we've done this year we decided to enter a couple of WebWeaver Productions websites for the inaugural ONYAs web awards...

Yesterday they announced the Best Accessibility category -- and there was our website for the Environmental Protection Authority of New Zealand - we're one of the three finalists, together with Radio New Zealand (for the Radio New Zealand site) and Springload (for the New Zealand Rehabilitation Association website). Crikey! How completely cool is that?

We knew the EPA site stood a good chance - it's completely accessible and passes all the WCAG 2.0 accessibility requirements - and needless to say we're completely thrilled to be selected as a finalist, especially as we're up there with such very excellent company. Gosh.

This is a seriously big deal for us. We're such a tiny little company - in fact we're not exactly a company at all - we like to describe ourselves as "an informal co-operative".

We all work together on projects when there's a need for us to each have a role (for example on the Optimation website), and sometimes it's just me and Sue, (for example on the EPA website), or just me and Tom (for example on the Plumbers website), and sometimes it's just me (for example, a website I'm currently completing for a government agency I've worked with in the past). It depends - and so far this year we've all been able to dovetail our various WebWeaver roles very neatly with design agency contract work (me and Tom) and producing babies (Sue!).

For the ONYAs we're potentially up against every one of the big NZ web design companies (assuming that they entered), and so to get nominated as a finalist in one of the categories we've entered is EXTREMELY exciting, and very gratifying. We absolutely LOVE what we do, so to get acknowledgement from the industry itself that we're doing good work is satisfying to say the least (and that may well be the understatement of the year!).

But wait - there's more.

We knew they'd be starting to announce the finalists in each category on Monday, so when we heard about the Best Accessibility category on Wednesday I was still rather butterfly-tummied from the anticipation I'd been building up all week. Today I was somewhat more blasé. I'd sort of gotten over the excitement a bit - and I almost didn't spot the second email that came through from Mike this afternoon...

I read it and virtually fell off my chair in shock.




The three finalists for the Best use of HTML and CSS category were announced today - and WebWeaver Productions has not one but TWO websites in the top three!!!

Our website for the Environmental Protection Authority of New Zealand is once again a finalist, as is our website for Optimation. We're up against the Radio New Zealand website in this category as well.

How can I explain how much this means to me?

I love my job. I ADORE my job. I love designing and building websites just as much (if not more) today, as I did 13 years ago when I first started out. It's the best job in the world, and I feel so lucky to have found it.

I'm also a perfectionist, and very single-minded when it comes to doing stuff. I want to be the best I can possibly be, and I want the work I produce to be as near-perfect as I can possibly make it. I know that HTML/CSS is my core skill, and dammit I wanted to see how my work compared to the work of my peers. I thought I was pretty good, but I didn't know for sure. I really really wanted to see one of my websites up there as a finalist in this category. I mean I REALLY wanted it.

And I got two. I still can't quite believe it.

I keep on wanting to run round and round yelling "I did it! We did it! We rock! EEEEEEEE!!!"

Actually I did do a bit of that this afternoon at Optimation. It was fun!

It's funny how things come full circle, isn't it? There we were a year ago wondering what we'd done wrong, and trying not to take the redundancies personally, and yet still feeling like we mustn't have been good enough to keep - and now here we are as finalists for the ONYAs. It's bloody awesome actually.

And the coolest thing? Our dream web design company, Shift, is the major sponsor. Thank you Shift, thank you Mike and Tash and the rest of the Webstock crew - you rock!

As I said earlier, it's been a great year.

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