Best of the Web Criteria

Rich Media (audio/film/interactive)

These sites or applications make extensive use of narrative, animation, audio and/or video and complex interaction with content to move museum experiences out of the institution, into the realm of the user. Rich media content may be delivered as websites, immersive experiences, applications or downloadable content from an app store, streaming video-based sites or other website to computers, mobile devices, tablets, or some other digital platform. (NB some applications may be more suited to the mobile category below.)

Quality characteristics include:

  • Strong, original and appropriate content
  • Evocative and interesting use of rich media
  • Effective use of user interactivity
  • Links between online and on-site activities where appropriate


These sites or apps teach a specific audience about a particular subject. They present material in an effective and relevant manner for engaging learning experiences, and provide depth of content. Educational sites may be sites designed by and for children. (This category does not include search engines and online databases: see Research/Collections Online for these).
Quality characteristics include:

  • Content for schools and teachers, and support for collaborative spaces for teachers to work together
  • Content for students of any age, and provision of collaborative work spaces for students
  • Interaction between museum staff and students, teachers, or educational groups of any level
  • Integration of experiences of ‘real’ visits to museum and the educational website
  • Provision of non-curriculum-based learning experiences and support of lifelong learning activities
  • Easily identifiable target audience and clear pedagogical strategy

Digital Exhibition

These sites or apps excel in presenting, interpreting, supplementing, and/or being important components of museums, providing rich and meaningful digital experiences. They may be a section of a larger museum website or be a collaborative project among institutions and/or individuals and communities associated with museums, based on exhibitions.
Quality characteristics include:

  • Effective use of multiple media formats
  • Innovative ways of complementing physical exhibitions or providing surrogates for physical experiences in online only exhibitions
  • New ways of representing museum processes and structures
  • Imaginative audience participation and engagement of different categories of ‘visitors’

Innovative / Experimental

These sites or apps make use of new digital publishing and presentation methodologies and emerging technology to provide innovative experiences based upon creative content and/or services. These projects are assessed less on the overall intended project success and more on their innovative objectives, originality and potential for development. Quality characteristics include:

  • Creative, new, innovative uses of the web and digital media
  • Application of new web concepts, methodologies, and technological application to museum goals
  • Introduction of new/emerging technology to museum digital products
  • Experimental and creative uses of emerging technology
  • Uses of technology that offer new possibilities for further development


Some projects stand the test of time, well. This category rewards a museum (or museum organization) that has shown a long-term commitment to an excellent online presence, of any kind. It’s not a popularity contest, but a chance to celebrate sites or web services that have been reinvented and evolved with their audiences and with new technologies. Their longevity embodies the power and effectiveness of sustained and innovative online engagement.
Quality characteristics include:

  • Adapted to current user behaviours, technologies, platforms and channels
  • Creative reuse of content, contributing to museums’ understanding of how to cross-purpose and repurpose assets to attain greater longevity
  • Sustained use by and engagement with site visitors
  • Reliable and consistent quality
  • Continued growth in available resources over time
  • Ongoing organizational commitment to long-term site development and use
  • Alignment with the vision and long-term strategy of the sponsoring institution


Sites or apps designed and developed in a truly novel and experiential way for the mobile device, such as a media player, gaming device, smart phone or tablet, e.g. iPhone, Android, iPad, etc. They may be stand-alone Apps, web-based sites, or downloadable tours and could integrate other technologies that enhance the mobile experience, such as GPS, Augmented Reality, computer vision or QR codes.
Quality characteristics include:

  • Efficient and effective use of mobile formats and interaction possibilities
  • Accessibility of content on multiple platforms
  • Current / updated content
  • Creative ways of presenting content and navigation interfaces
  • Integration with social media and on-site experiences where appropriate
  • Ease of use for experienced and novice users

Museum Professional

Sites developed to serve museum professionals and meet their specific requirements, such as administration, exhibitions, education, public relations, registration, collections management, communities of practice, knowledge exchange, and/or standards and resources bank.

These sites may be reference resources, products, program or educational resources that are used in professional work and study, such as reports of conferences, pre-publications, reviews or technical literature. They may also be multi-site indexes and finding aids that collocate resources critical to the professional community. (This category does not include search engines and online databases intended for research; see Research / Collections Online for these).
Quality characteristics include:

  • Contribution to the museum profession as a whole
  • Support for the distributed activity of a consortium or group of museum partners in ongoing collaborations
  • Fostering innovative projects that help in the development of technology and media in museums
  • Valuable online forums and discussions that engage museum professionals
  • Software, guidelines, templates and packages tailored for museum professional needs
  • Fostering discussion, discourse, and debate among museum professionals

Research / Collections Online

Sites that support or present research about or using museum collections and/or that provide excellent resources for researchers in any discipline. They may be online databases, search engines or APIs that provide detailed museum information for individuals and/or groups.
Quality characteristics include:

  • Ease of use for both experienced and novice researchers
  • Accuracy and depth of content
  • Consistency of material
  • Currency of links and updates
  • Extensive links and references to other related resources and sites
  • Creative use of APIs
  • Mashups/integration of multiple data sources
  • Openness of licensing and availability of content for reuse

Social Media

Successful museums use social media to engage with their communities as part of their digital presence, both embedded in and reaching beyond each museum’s own website. The best uses of social media reflect a co-ordinated strategy of continuous user involvement and response, and maintain the museum’s diversified voice and identity across multiple platforms, including third-party sites and interactions, dedicated sections of a museum’s own online spaces, or social media embedded throughout a site.
Quality characteristics include:

  • Exploring user contribution, user created content, dialogue, and real interactivity (reciprocity) in formats such as user discussions, crowdsourcing, contributed and collaborative content, personalization, location-based application, big data, shared data, or online communities
  • Robust ongoing participation and dialogue and/or active creation of user-contributed content
  • Engaging use of web and other digital platforms for collective activities
  • Evidence of a long-term coordinated strategy that responds and evolves based on user needs and input
  • Integration of social media in other products, for both onsite and remote visitors

Best Small Museum Project

The panel may make a separate award in any category for small museums/budgets, to explicitly recognise work from smaller institutions. These are digital projects that have been:

  • Created in-house or with volunteer effort
  • Mounted by small institutions (with 20 or fewer professional staff)
  • Created with very limited budgets (sometimes no budget)

If you feel a project merits consideration as being from a small museum, please explain why in your nomination. Small sites should be nominated in the appropriate category.

People’s Choice

During a pre-defined period, each user registered at may cast one vote for a site to be recognized as the People’s Choice. The site with the most votes will be awarded the People’s Choice. See the Nomination Process for further details.

Best Overall Museum Project

Together, the Committee picks their “Best of the Web”. This award recognizes the outstanding nature of a digital project and its overall contribution to the institution, museum profession, and museum and archives informatics community. Quality of content, ease of use, accessibility and stability are all considered.

You cannot nominate a site for Best Overall Project. This choice is made by the BoW Committee from all the sites nominated.

2 thoughts on “Best of the Web Criteria

Leave a Reply