Read Any Good Web Sites Lately?

by Linda Robinson

The ease of Web site creation has resulted in an increasing number of sites by amateurs as well as professionals. What makes one Web site better than another? Is appearance more important than content? The answer to these questions lies in Web site evaluation. Many components contribute to a "good" Web site. Evaluation of these components can be grouped into four main categories: content/scope, source, appearance/ease of use, and links to further resources.

When you enter a site, you should be able to identify the intended audience and the purpose of the site. The content may be geared to more than one audience, such as educators and families. The content should provide some depth of information on a topic. If you are looking at an early childhood site, the content should reflect developmentally appropriate practices for young children.

Information should be presented in an objective manner, free from bias. Evaluate whether current terminology is being used. If the terminology is old, then the content may be outdated and, therefore, not completely accurate. The content may be based on research findings or practical applications. Evaluate whether the site adds new information to the field, such as recent research findings or newly tested intervention strategies.

Can the information at the site be printed? If so, can you print a text only version so that ink is not wasted on printing graphics? Overall, evaluate whether this site offers practical information that is useful to you.

Since there are an ever increasing number of Web sites being added to the Internet daily, it is important to evaluate the credibility of each site. The site should identify the author or organization that created the site. Evaluate whether the author is a known expert on the subject. Is background information on the author provided? Information on when the site was created and when it was last updated should appear somewhere on one of the pages. The author's e-mail address should be provided so that you can correspond with comments or questions if desired.

Appearance/Ease of Use
Some Web sites capture your interest through their spectacular graphics. However, an evaluation needs to be made of the ease of navigation through the site. Is there a clear site map or index of contents? You should be able to get to specific site areas and back again easily and quickly. Evaluate the organization of the information. Is it presented in a well-organized fashion? The text should be easy to read. Although graphics are usually an appealing addition to sites, they should enhance the content and not cause an unusually long time for the page to load. Photographs and video may also be provided to illustrate text content. Evaluate the amount of interactivity offered. Interactive sites may hold the viewer's attention longer. Overall, the site should present content in an interesting manner without the interference of an unnecessary amount of advertising.

Links to Further Resources
One of the benefits of reviewing Web sites is to find links to other sites and resources on the same topic. Are the links are relevant to the subject or do they distract from the information on the page? Links should be current; otherwise, visitors to the site will be frustrated when links no longer work. The most valuable links are those which further the content or provide information on related subjects.The most bothersome types of links are those which only serve as advertisements of a product or company. The link should have relevance to the site's main content area.

These four components -- content, source, appearance, and links -- provide evaluation criteria for Web sites. The main consideration is that the content and presentation of information meets your individual needs and stems from a credible source. For further information and sample forms for evaluating Web sites, review the following sites: (1) Kathy Schrock's Guide for Educators - Critical Evaluation Information
Evaluating Internet Sources

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