Rob Ford: Showcasing Excellence Since 2000

24 août 2015   by Z Team
How would you define yourself?

Hang on, let me just make a coffee and then answer that… 

How did you happen to venture into the digital area?

I guess I came from a computer game playing background, since the 1970s on the Atari and then in 1982 with my Commodore Vic 20, then the Amiga 500. It was only by chance that I started using the internet in 1997 when my dad bought a Windows 95 PC. That access to the web lead me to want more than free downloaded game demos and I began to dabble with web design. I wasn’t very good at it.

How did the idea of FWA come to you?

With my first acceptable website,, I discovered internet awards. I then became involved in the internet awards community, judging for top awards and even became part of a secret board rating websites award programmes. Unfortunately, that community was stuck in its ways so I set out on my own in May of 2000 when I launched FWA officially.


"FWA (...) has seen all of the changes the web has given us."


What influence has FWA had on the digital market?

People often tell me it has made a difference but I never set out to do that. All I ever wanted to do was showcase the most amazing websites ever made and things evolved naturally. I guess that being around for 15 years with FWA, it has become a central part of web design as it has seen all of the changes the web has given us.

Do you think FWA has missed the ''HTML5 wave''?

Well, when Steve Jobs killed Flash, it was a tricky time for FWA as most people saw FWA as a Flash showcase. I had to go back to how I did things back in the very early days, which was to scout for content and send people free invitations to apply. Within 12 months, FWA was back on track and fully established as the showcase it has always been, for the best work, regardless of technology used. 

I’m naturally pleased we’re back showcasing the best in digital and it’s rare for us to see Flash websites anymore. I’m also pleased that we are seeing and awarding some very progressive HTML5, WebGL etc work these days as I hate to see some of the other daily showcase sites awarding emotionless scrolling agency sites. Whilst many are clean and nicely designed, they have zero impact and blend into one another and are not worthy of picking up awards, in my opinion. Thankfully, the 85+ strong team of FWA judges seem to agree with me as we’ll often get a site submitted after picking up another daily showcase award that will score heavily against winning an FWA.

We had a very creative decade. It seems that digital creativity is more and more focused on efficiency. Do you think there is a brighter future ahead?

I think our lives are way too busy and stressful so it makes perfect sense to be more efficient. This is something I am focused on with FWA as well moving forward.

Having said that, there is always room for innovation, big creativity and experimentation. Without the experimenters we would not be where we are today, not only on the internet but in the world in general. I am a big supporter of people who experiment, especially on the web.

As for the future, it is always bright, as long as we don’t kill the planet first.

"(...) apps are potentially dated."

Do you think mobile / apps will completely replace desktop / websites?

When WAP came to mobile phones, I thought mobile internet would never take off. ;) SO, I am never good at predicting the future. All I do know is that the bag of wine gums my wife has hidden from me will be found shortly.

A year or so ago I was thinking that everything was shifting to mobile. Of course, this is still partly true but there are still big presences for desktops as well. The massive shift we have seen from desktop to mobile will slow down as there will always be reasons to have desktop content, especially for tablets.

I think apps are potentially dated though as the many hoops you have to jump through to publish an app and the bottomless pit of apps on any app store is making people look back at the freedom web publishing still offers.

My personal experience gives me reason to make websites that work perfectly on mobile but also desktop and not necessarily using responsive design.

What do you think of new automatic creation tool such as The Grid?

It’s potentially great for people with little time and knowledge but it will never bring the type of work created by those very experimental types like Mr Doob. You can’t keep someone who likes to make and break things, like code, away from the keyboard. Anything that makes life too easy removes that level of brain function that throws up unique ideas.

What do you think of WebGL? Do you think it will be the new "Flash" ?

I think the web is finally at a place where Flash took us. WebGL is one of the biggest reasons for this. I absolutely love what WebGL has brought to digital and am always excited to see a new experience that uses it. It’s even greater news that we are very slowly seeing WebGL experiences on mobile as well. The future for WebGL is far greater than it is for Flash. ;)

Flash gave people the chance to create anything in their imagination and WebGL does the same. 

Do you think Web-VR will be a standard some day?

Anything that requires the user to wear something will be a tricky one to become a standard. I can remember try VR back in a London arcade in the 1980s. It blew my mind but when I took the headset off, I looked around to see who was watching me… I felt a bit uncomfortable.

It’s even like 3D TVs requiring you to wear 3D glasses… 

I think the challenge is to bring all of this new tech to people without the need to be wearing anything.

Is there a new technology that you find particularly exciting? 

Has to be HoloLens. I also recently became a dad for the first time and am excited to be getting into all of the tech that will come with having a son. Lego and Mecano come to mind.
One would say the first aim of a website is function.

"Some experiences have to be emotional in the first place."

Do you think a website can be emotional? Can you name a site that stirs up that kind of feeling in you?

Well, it depends on the outcome you want. Some experiences must be emotional in the first place.

The One who will end cancer
A very recent example that evoikes emotion is The One Who Will End Cancer It’s a real time piece that also uses WebGL. It immediately makes you feel emotionally connected by asking you to get involved in such an important cause.
You have seen thousands of websites. 

Can you name three of them that you remember in particular?

Ok, this is always a tough one to answer but I will give you my three favorite websites of all time:

From 1999, David Gary Studios, Full Throttle:

From 2002, Who’s We Studios:

Vodafone Future vision
From 2004, Vodafone Future Vision:

I’m actually writing The History of Flash Websites, to be published online in 2016. So many great memories!

By the way, do you remember the first really exciting website you saw?

Yes, this was for an events company in the UK called Exclusive Events. My friend was working there and showed me their website. It was the first time I had seen a Flash website and I was immediately addicted to all things Flash.

Over the years, there have been many. Fantasy Interfaces always seemed to make very exciting websites in the early days of Flash.

"The new site will be 100% Flash."

You just announced a partnership will Hello Monday which is an extraordinary agency.
Any clue about the new FWA?

This is the most exciting thing for FWA for a long time. I’m hopeful that the all new FWA will give back that buzz some of our earlier websites gave. For all of you who remember the cult version of FWA:


We’ve literally just started planning and concepting the new FWA with the great team at Hello Monday. It’s possible we will launch later this year. The new site will be 100% Flash.

What's the weirdest request you've ever received?

I actually have a folder called “strange” in my email client. I’m just heading over there to find something…

“You don’t have a buy-for-an-award programme by any chance? Our customer needs an award within the next 2 weeks to present the site in front of the board. I am looking for a way to get anything like this.”

This is possibly my all-time favorite. Back in 2003, the form we used on site showed people’s IP addresses. This person had submitted a week before. I was just about to email him to tell him he’d won. However, I think he thought that because a week had passed, he hadn’t won and he started to send daily abusive emails, this one is the best:

“Most of the sites listed here are nothing special. It’s nice to know Macromedia hasn't even acknowledged your stupid award yet. SHOWS YOU HOW MUCH MERRIT YOURE WORTH!!!! Lol!!!! How many times can you award yourself? I’m sure the whole list of Judges do it all the time.. Your site is fucking pathetic. PATHETIC... IT’S A JOKE. The site design is boring. very. Keep on sucking on Erik Jordan’s dick!!”
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