Should they be combined? probably not as best website design does work well on it's ownw. Lettering though… maybe it could be combined with layouts or something. Just throwing ideas out there.
NicotineI think I've mentionted “storytelling” several times, since I consider it to be a key competence in making comics. Generally, making a page look nice on its own doesn't mean that it reads well. So, I think it makes sense to combine storytelling aspects and subsume them under layout (even though I think the other way around would make more sense, since theoretically, layout is a storytelling category - but practically, people will be able to judge layout easier than storytelling). On the other hand, I feel that backgrounds are more like “best art” - meaning, someone can be a lousy storyteller and still draw/paint gorgeous backgrounds.
I think perhaps “Best Lettering”, “Best Layouts” and “Best Backgrounds” can be consolidated into “Best Page Presentation”. That will include everything that goes into making a page look great, besides color or black and white which obviously have their own categories. I judged “Best Backgrounds” last year, and it seemed really silly to look at something like that without taking the layout of the page and placement of bubbles, ect into consideration as well.
But I don't mean to make things overly complicated. In a nutshell, both lettering and layout seem to be prime examples of storytelling to me, thus lettering could be conflated into the layout category. Backgrounds, not so much.