Evaluating web sites
How to evaluate a web site
The main reason for visiting most Web sites is to find useful information.
Judging whether that information is useful to you involves two basic steps:
establishing the legitimacy of the site and establishing the quality of the information on the site.
Completing these two steps is not a substitute for a detailed evaluation of a site’s contents,
but a site that satisfies many of the following criteria is much more likely to contain useful information.
Establishing the Legitimacy of the Site
Unless the site is managed by an officially sanctioned or widely recognized organization, the first step of establishing the legitimacy of a site should consist of identifying what individual, or group was responsible for the site and whether that individual or group has the authority or the capacity to discuss the subject matter covered by the Web site.
A Web site meeting most or all of the following criteria is more likely to be a legitimate and credible source of information:
- The person or group responsible for the content or administration of the site is easily identifiable,
- The person or group responsible for the content or administration of the site was qualified by experience, expertise, or credentials, to discuss the subject matter covered in the site,
- The person or group responsible for the site risks damage to their reputation if the information in the site is not accurate or credible,
- The individual, organization or group that controls a site also has an ongoing related presence outside of the Web, or
- Many of the key Web sites in related areas have links to the site.
Establishing the Quality of the Information in a Site
When judging the information on a Web site, probably the best general rule is to apply the same kinds of standards that would be applied to aviation-related journal articles, research reports, or statistical summaries that are regularly published by academic institutions or government agencies. Sometimes it may take an extensive examination of the information in a site to judge the quality of the information on the site. However, if a site does not meet many of the following criteria, it may be better to look elsewhere for the kind of information that is contained in the site:
- The written content consistently follows basic rules of grammar, spelling and composition,
- Tables, graphs, charts, and other data-related elements are clearly labeled and accurately depict the underlying data,
- The site contains few, if any, factual errors,
- The site states the sources of the information used in the site,
- The site clearly describes the method or methods used in any analysis discussed within the site,
- The site provides definitions of any acronyms or special terminology used in the site,
- There are no apparent conflicts of interest between the sponsor of the site, or advertisers on the site, and the information in the site; or
- The information on the site is as good as or better than similar information from other sources.
Evaluating a Site’s Ease of Use
While not directly related to the first two steps of judging the legitimacy and the quality of the information on a site,
another way to judge the content of a site is to evaluate how the site is organized.
In general, a well-organized site is one that allows a visitor to the site to navigate easily within the site and that also provides links to relevant resources elsewhere on the Web.
Like a book that has an extensive index or table of contents, a Web site that is easy to navigate is more desirable than a Web site that is hard to navigate.
A Web site that is easy to navigate is likely to have at least some of the following characteristics:
- One or more individual Web pages that serve as either an index or a table of conents for the site,
- There are internal or external links to Web resources that have complementary or related information,
- The site has an internal search engine,
- The site’s structure puts the most frequently visited pages within two links from the home page,
- There is a consistent arrangement of textual and graphical elements for the pages of the site, or
- Every page within the site has a link to at least one of the following: the home page, the table of contents, the index, or the internal search engine.
Dr. Todd Curtis is the director of the AirSafe.com Foundation and an expert on the role using the Internet to educate the public about risk. This article was taken from his new book, Parenting and the Internet (Speedbrake Publishing, 2007). For more information, visit www.speedbrake.com.
Source: Parenting and the Internet
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