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Website Design Contest Winner Announced: Innovative Contest Provides New Tools for Digital Literacy

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2012-12-12

MONTPELIER, VT - A winner has been chosen in the Beginner Friendly Website Design contest organized by the e-Vermont Community Broadband Project. Lars Hasselblad Torres, a freelance web designer who recently launched the Local 64 co-working space in downtown Montpelier, won with his design for the fictional community of Milestone, VT.

Beginner friendly website design is a set of design principles that go beyond basic usability to create websites that are easy for people with low Internet familiarity to navigate. As critical services and information shift to online formats, these principles are becoming increasingly important. Examples of sites that anticipate more beginner traffic include all levels of government, job searches, daily news, and sites sharing community information.

A panel of local experts in technology, marketing, and social media selected the winner based on innovation and clear articulation of principles for beginner friendly design. However, the contest drew many strong entries. E-Vermont drew ideas from all contributors to create a final toolkit for beginner friendly website design that’s now available at www.e4vt.org.

Opportunities for beginner friendly websites are growing as more organizations and businesses look at ways to incorporate online tools without leaving behind the still-significant percentage of Vermonters who don’t regularly use the Internet.

For example, the Vermont Department of Libraries is working with all of Vermont's public libraries to ensure that they have an effective online presence. "Now, we can provide librarians with the enhanced [web design] toolkit to refine or upgrade their sites, making them easier for new Internet users,” says Assistant State Librarian Christine Friese. “Libraries are on the front line in increasing digital literacy for Vermonters and anything that makes learning those digital skills less frustrating is a welcome step forward.”

Concern for the Internet-beginner audience is also making its way into plans for upcoming websites.

Lindsey Tucker is a Deputy Commissioner at the Department of Vermont Health Access where they are building Vermont’s Health Benefit Exchange, a website-based health plan marketplace for individuals and small businesses. “Our goal is to create a website that makes finding a healthcare plan as simple and straightforward as possible, and that means a site that’s easy to navigate regardless of your comfort level with technology. Even with our call center and in-person assistance available to provide help, our website will be a critical access point, and we want it to work for everyone.”

e-Vermont Project Director Helen Labun Jordan reflects on the growing need for this kind of approach, “Even something as straightforward as switching your company to online payroll and timesheets isn’t simple if it’s the first time you’ve asked some employees to learn computer skills. With 20% of Americans not using the Internet as recently as 2011, and who knows how many feeling uncertain about their skills online, it’s a real problem”

“Beginner friendly design doesn’t need to mean old design or moving backwards,” she adds, “In fact, the best practices may be found in the most recent innovations, and our contest winner demonstrated that philosophy in his approach to the challenge.”

Find the winning contest entry and the full beginner friendly website design toolkit online at www.e4vt.org. For more information, contact the e-Vermont Community Broadband Project at (802) 223-6091.

e-Vermont thanks the contest sponsors: Vermont Council on Rural Development, Vermont Department of Libraries, VSECU, Vermont Technology Council, and Free Press Media.

e-Vermont is a project of the Vermont Council on Rural Development, a 501(c) 3 organization dedicated to helping Vermonters and Vermont communities develop their capacity to create a prosperous and sustainable future through coordination, collaboration, and the effective use of public and private resources. E-Vermont is funded through the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and private grants.