Last night, I attended the inaugural Onyas, the New Zealand web awards run by the Webstock team to reward excellence in New Zealand's internet industries.
Unlike the Netguide awards which are judged by the magazine's readers and followers, the Onyas are peer-awarded by a team of web professionals, including Russ Weakley, Rachel McAlpine, Donna Spencer and Jason Ryan, from the impressive guest list of Webstock speakers, Brian Fling, Bek Hodgson, Thomas Fuchs and Amy Hoy, plus Alex Wright of the New York Times.
The awards' ceremony was held in the Wellington Town Hall, quickly cleared and set up in the two hours between the end of the Webstock talks.
The tables (over 30) were all full and most of the tables were, presumably, developers and web designers from Wellington and New Zealand; at my table was Andrew the developer, who had left Xero and started up his own company just three weeks before, Michelle who works in Melbourne and who calls herself a 'generalist' (but who works with IT in Victoria and who was a very early adopter of blogging) Media 7's Quilambawui from Ecuador, and Alannah and Sarah from Tourism New Zealand.
The ever-able and on-his-toes Russell Brown em-ceed.
Of the finalists, some names came up repeatedly – Xero, YouDo, Springload ...Each finalist had an A/V presentation with some images and a voiceover, some being more successful presentations than others. (Some were a little unintelligible).
So, in the order of presentations:
Best Mobile Website or Web Application was won by Kiwibank and Springload, for the Kiwibank mobile website.
Modica Group was the other contender, for a pretty interesting looking Wellington tourist guide site (Wellington's mobile guide) that worked on several mobile platforms (ie, not just iPhone – just go to m.wellingtonnz.com on your mobile phone).
Best mobile application (all three entries were iPhone apps) was won by Cactus Labs for World Surfer, which calls on several search engines to deliver geolocated results anywhere in the world. It's currently free (or was when I looked) and it really is a cool app. The other candidate was Air NZ's mpass app which helps you get through check-in once you've put in your flight booking number (it's also free).
Best Accessibility went to Radio New Zealand, which developed its own very accessible radio-show-linked site (Springload was another contender, plus Webweaver Productions).
Best Use of HTML and CSS (sponsored by Silverstripe) and the finalists were Webweaver for the Environmental Protection Authority, Radio NZ again, and Webweaver again for Optimation's site. The winner was Radio NZ, once again for its in-house production. "What next?" said the proud RNZ guy responsible. "HTML5."
The next award was sponsored by NZ Post, and was for Best Content – Personal, and the winner was Zef Fugaz zef[a]media for his blog of experiences and personal observations (the other contenders being Moon Over Martinborough and Alison Green for The Gathering Archives.
In the category Best Content: Corporate the finalists were Christchurch City Libraries, the Department of Conservation and Sorted. The DoC took this one out.
Under Best Web Application, the contenders were the finance tools Xero, Pocketsmith, and the team that made Powershop. Xero took this one out, and Craig Walker of Xero accepted the award and, according to a knowledgeable person within earshot, finally got to make his "we've been able to deliver satisfying double entry" joke he'd been saving up for four years.
Google sponsored the Best User Experience, and once again PocketSmith, Xero and Eventfinder. Xero took this gong too.
The three finalists in the Best Visual Design category were Springload for the New Zealand International Festival of the Arts, DNA for Powershop and Springload again, for the sumptuous-looking New Zealand Opera site. Which won.
Finally, the big one: Most Outstanding Website. Once again Xero was a contender, plus Chrometoaster, YouDo and NZ on Screen for the NZ On Screen site, plus Boost New Media, 3Months, Codec and DigitalNZ for DigitalNZ.
And the big winner was, again, Xero.
At the end of the ceremony I realised it was the best food I'd ever had at an event like this, coupled with good company, and the Wellington Town Hall is one truly excellent location.
After dessert wait-people circulated with tea and coffee, and then we saw the most superb and spectacular light and music show which used the massive WTH pipe organ brilliantly as a screen plus was somehow perfectly custom-fitted to the surrounding architecture.
Someone said this was the work of someone from Pitch Black (I will find out). Whoever did it ... wow. It was awesome, and stunned everyone. The Wellington Town Hall should probably keep it to show more people, I reckon.