How to Rate a Web Site
The purpose of this article is to help you
critically evaluate and keep track of your observations of the various web sites you visit. Cultivating the habit of critical analysis will help you identify what works and what doesn't work in other web sites, so
you can apply the lessons learned to your own.
Use this article in conunction with the accompanying Web Site Scorecard
that you can download in either Microsoft Word .DOC or Adobe Acrobat .PDF format. You might want to download the Scorecard now in either format:
Getting started Start by
downloading and saving the Web Site Scorecard. Choose either the Adobe Acrobat .PDF file format or the Microsoft Word .DOC file.
- Choose the Adobe Acrobat version if you are going to fill out the Scorecard using pencil or pen to enter comments and circle the number representing the points for each category.
- Choose the Microsoft Word version if you want to work on screen and save each Scorecard as a separate file. (Working on screen, you can enter comments directly into the Scorecard and use the Highlighter tool to
add a yellow background behind the number representing the appropriate Points.)
Next, print out as many copies as you are likely to use in the next few days. You can always print out additional copies at a later date.
Consider two-sided printing or photocopying. Print out the Page One of the
Scorecard. Then, reinsert it in your printer (or photocopier) and print Page Two on the back. (Consult your printer's documentation.( You'll find the Web Site Scorecard much easier to use as a two-sided single-page
The extra deep left-hand margin on the Web Site Scorecard allows you to three-hole punch each page--or you can purchase paper that is already 3-hole punched. Purchase a three-ring binder and alphabetical
divider pages. As you fill out each Scorecard, file them alphabetically under the firm or organization's name. (This will help you when you want to revisit a firm or organization's web site but can't remember the URL.)
Evaluating web sites The Web Site Scorecard encourages you to add up each site's performance in twelve major areas of web site performance and arrive at a cumulative score. The goal is to emphasize the
importance of balanced web sites; web sites that achieve respectable scores in all areas, rather than over-emphasizing a single area or two and omitting other areas completely. There's also space to jot down your
impressions about the site's performance in each of the twelve areas.
A "perfect" web site's score would be 60.
One of the first things you'll probably notice is that most web sites score very high in one
or two areas, but fall down, or omit, other areas completely.
Performance categoriesHere are some of the things to look for as you evaluate the various web sites you visit:
- Speed. A fast-loading home page speed is critical to the success of any web site. If visitors have to wait for large graphics to download, they are likely to leave and visit another site.
- Site purpose. The firm or organization's products, services or goals should be immediately obvious. What type of activities does the firm or organization engage in? Who do they serve?
- Engagement. You should be able to immediately understand the benefits or information the firm or organization offers you. Prospective clients or supporters should be able to immediately see how a
relationship with the web site offers both short term and long term benefits
- Navigation. How easy is it to locate desired information. Your ability to locate "information," regardless whether it refers to editorial content, product information, shipping costs or a desired
e-mail address, is of paramount importance. Information is useless if it cannot be quickly and easily located.
- Registration. Web site success depends on providing incentives to encourage visitor e-mail registration. E-mail registration permits the web site to follow-up with visitors at a later date, using alerts or
newsletters. If a web site does not attempt to capture the visitor's e-mail address, visitors may never revisit.
- Usability. Usability refers to ease of reading and chunking. Ease of reading is based on relatively short lines of text and freedom from distractions--like bright colored backgrounds or distracting textures.
Chunking refers to breaking information into bite-sized units using short paragraphs introduced by frequent subheads. Bulleted or numbered lists also permit visitors to grasp an article's contents at a glance.
- Timely. How up to date is the information on the web site? Web site credibility plummets if the home page promotes an event that occurred two months ago. Web sites should be considered "works in
progress" that are constantly updated if only so that they don't bore repeat visitors.
- Design. Is the design appropriate for the firm or organization the web site serves? Layout, colors and typefaces determine the site's personality and image.
- Customization. Is the site capable of delivering personalized information? Upon repeat visits, can visitors resume where they left off?
- Technology. Is technology used appropriately, to increase the site's information value, or is it used decoratively, in a show-off fashion? Sound, video clips and animation can either enhance or hinder
- Call to action. Does the web site encourage you to take the next step, such as request more information or make a purchase?
- Community. Does the web site encourage feelings of belonging, enthusiasm and loyalty? Does it motivate you to become involved by asking a question or contributing a comment?
ConclusionUsing the Web Site Scorecard, cultivate the habit of critically evaluating at least one or two web sites every day. You'll be surprised at the many lessons you learn and can apply
to your web site.
Soon, the habit of critical evaluation will be second nature to you. More important, by saving your filled-out Web Site Scorecards, you'll be able to revisit web sites and see whether or not they
have improved since you last visited them.