2012 SmartCompany Web Awards

web-awards-logo-200The SmartCompany Web Awards have yet again raised the bar for Australian SMEs.

The industry often hears laments over how Australian businesses are behind when it comes to online, that we’re just not as savvy when it comes to social media or eCommerce. But the fourth annual Web Awards have shown that assumption to be a falsehood.

The quality of entries in this year’s Web Awards has shown whether it’s in design, social media, blogging or developing state of the art mobile sites, Australian SMEs have it all covered.

Even more encouraging is the range of entries, with companies of all sizes showing they understand how to put their best foot forward online. Size isn’t a limitation on the web, and small SMEs have shown they understand how to create a great presence online.

Whether it’s selling furniture online, running a blog for marketers, or connecting freelancers with clients, the Web Awards winners have proven themselves at the top of the class.

We’ve compiled profiles on all the winners, putting together information on how they built their respective strategies. Be sure to read them all – you never know what you might learn:

Best company website (under 20 employees)


Winner: Milan Direct

Selling furniture online is a concept that was unthinkable only a few years ago. The accepted mentality was that customers simply wouldn’t buy bulky goods without touching or experiencing them first.

Milan Direct has gone a long way in proving that approach wrong, and has taken out this year’s award for best website with under 20 employees for its success.

Category judge Sally Martin, the executive director of Victoria Business Online, said Milan Direct’s “clean and professional” website stood out due to its bells and whistles, including great functionality such as live chat and order tracking to help consumers.

Judge Mark Gray commented the company offers “an exceptional” website with a variety of features.

Milan Direct’s site is easy to use. Whether through notifications showing what other users have bought or “great navigation”, Martin said the site’s functionality made it a standout.

Milan Direct co-founder Dean Ramler says the function of the site is dedicated to educating users and fostering discussion, rather than pushing a hard sell. Like other eCommerce websites, the focus is now on creating content, rather than just pushing product.

“A shift has been initiated toward more editorial content on our website by adding an interactive blog with customers,” he says. “We have used Facebook as a great way to engage with our customer and fan base.”

Social networking has been a big part of Milan Direct’s growth. Ramler notes Facebook users spend four times as long on the site as Google visitors, and spend twice as much. Naturally, that’s where the business has been spending a lot more of its time.

While Ramler says the approach wasn’t always perfect – customers told them to stop posting too much – it’s resulted in a higher engagement rate overall, alongside the company’s blogs.

Milan Direct’s website is ultimately functional, but like any savvy eCommerce site, it understands the need to engage with a dedicated user base. Ramler says above all else, businesses that want to succeed in a similar way need to simply “engage”.

“Engage with your customer base and provide info that adds value to them without expecting anything in return.”

Runner-up: Fresh Discovery Beauty Online


Running a cosmetics site is no easy business – it’s a saturated market. But awards judge Sally Martin says Fresh Discovery Beauty Online has been able to stand out with some solid navigation, and clear product segmentation that doesn’t overburden the customer. Mark Gray commented the site “had all the elements of a well-developed and easily navigable website”.


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