Website Tips


Creating a website involves different technologies than other categories. Check with teachers and/or parents to see what technology is available at home or school. If you don't already know the software, who can help you learn it? Where will you do the majority of your work?

Organize, Organize, Organize!

Most of your research and analysis should be done before you begin working on the website itself. Before putting your thoughts into HTML, put them on paper. How do you want to break up your information into various pages? Will it be sorted by topic area? Around a timeline? How will you emphasize your thesis? What kinds of visual materials and multimedia would you like to have, and what can you manage technically? How can you get your audience actively involved in learning about your topic?

Make Your Argument Clear

Don't hide your argument! Put your thesis on the first page as part of an introduction to the web site. Your thesis could be incorporated into your title.

A Cohesive Overall Site

Remember, you're not making separate web pages - you're making an entire website. A clear, cohesive argument should unite everything. Don't just put something on a page "just because it's cool" or fill a page with random facts. All pages and elements should support your argument and have a purpose for being there.

Focus on Having a Visually Appealing Site

The choices you make about style, fonts, colors, etc. make an impression upon your viewer even before they read a word. Most web design programs offer you several template pages that you can use to create a website but try to think beyond the template. 

Pick colors for your background, text, and links that are not just attractive, but also help your audience understand what your project is about. Your design should connect to your topic. Make sure that the colors you select allow the viewer to easily read the text; color should not overpower the viewer. The color should also match the topic. For example, if your website is about the Civil War, orange and green are probably not appropriate. A blue and gray theme would be more fitting.

Your site will be easier for viewers to use if each page has navigation buttons and content in about the same places. It is always helpful to have a header with your website's title on each page.

Strive for Clarity

You want your viewers to understand the content of your website, and not struggle to read it. Remember that background images can make text difficult to read and long paragraphs or blocks of text can be difficult to read on computer screens.

Content is More Important Than Glitz

Computers can do a lot of cool things, but think about the NHD criteria and remember the most important elements of your web site: analysis, interpretation, historical context, and connection to the theme. In order to make sure these ideas are clear for your viewer, make sure your website design is easy to read and understand. Keep decorative animation and clip art to an absolute minimum and avoid "busy" background images and other clutter. It's also a good idea to include some blank space in your pages so the viewer isn't overwhelmed. You can have a total of four minutes on the entire site. Use it wisely.

Give Credit Where Credit is Due

As in all NHD categories, you must give credit for and make apparent which materials are not yours, such as illustrations, media, movies, applications, scripts, forms, etc. These materials should have a complete citation in the annotated bibliography. It is also required to credit the source on the site. Remember these brief citations do not count against your word limit - however, any captions explaining the media will.

When using quotations, either from primary or secondary sources, it is your job to make it clear to the judges that these are not your words. Judges will need to know this to obtain an accurate word count for your project. Furthermore, including other people's work under the impression that it is yours is plagiarism, which is a disqualifiable offense.

Preparing for Competition

As a web designer, the burden is you to make sure that your website is in working order. Judges or the contest coordinator will not fix broken page links, images, etc. If elements of your site are not working, this does not mean that your entry will be disqualified. The judges will reference the process paper on your site to try and understand what you were trying to accomplish. However, the judges will take non-working elements of your site into consideration as they evaluate the clarity of the presentation of your project. Please note: do not assume there will be equipment available to you at the competition to showcase your work. You must provide your own laptop or tablet to showcase your website. Additionally, printed copies of process papers and annotated bibliographies are not required with the web site category; instead, please ensure they are viewable from within your website.

The Website Stands Alone

When evaluating NHD web sites, judges should be able to find all the information about your topic within your website. If you are looking for guidance, we have sample judging forms available so you can see what the judges will be looking for when evaluating your website. The website has to stand on its own, and it is unlikely the interview process will affect your score to a degree where you can expect to rely on it to provide the judges with additional information about your project. 

Have someone who has never seen your website look at it (a friend, teacher, neighbor, etc.). Without saying anything, let them read through the entire site. Then, ask them a few questions to see if you have communicated your argument clearly: What am I trying to prove in my website? What evidence have I shown to support that argument? What do you like about my website? What is confusing to you?