Evaluating Web Sites
Purpose/Scope: What topics are covered and to what depth are they explored?
- Is the purpose of the page immediately clear or do you have to hunt for a statement of intent?
- Does the page look complete or still under construction?
- Is there a print equivalent to the page? If so, is there a statement describing whether this is a complete duplication of information, or only a portion of the original work?
- If the web page is an update of a print source that is out of print (or an old edition), is the information more current? Dictionaries and style guides are good examples.
Authority: What qualifications does the author have? Is the publisher reputable?
- Who is responsible for the page? Is this clear or hidden?
- Can you determine if the author (the person responsible for the intellectual content) differs from the Webmaster (the person responsible for the inputting or programming)?
- Can you verify the legitimacy of the page’s author or sponsor?
- Is there a contact address and phone number? (An e-mail address is not sufficient.)
- Does the author list her/his qualifications?
- Is the page protected by copyright, and if so, who holds the copyright?
- Can you locate any (good) reviews of the page?
Accuracy: How reliable is the information?
- Is factual information, i.e., statistical data, clearly referenced?
- Are links provided to supporting pages or documentation?
- Is the information free of grammatical errors, spelling errors and typos?
- Are graphs, charts and tables well-labelled and easy to interpret?
- Is credit given when something is quoted?
- If appropriate, is there a bibliography or reference list attached to the text or page?
Objectivity: Is the page unbiased; or to what extent is it trying to sway your point of view?
- If the web site is an electronic journal, is it peer reviewed?
- Can anyone submit information to be posted? What criteria does the author use to evaluate submissions?
- Does the author request feedback if you find an error or inconsistency with the information?
- Why does the page exist? Public service, advertising, profit?
- Does the page contain advertising, and if so, is it related to the page, and is the advertiser clearly differentiated from the primary information content?
Timeliness: Is the work up-to-date?
- Is it easy to determine when the page was first placed on the web and when it was last updated?
- Are there other indications that the page is kept current?
- If data is presented, is it easy to identify when it was gathered (i.e., census data)?
- If information is printed in installments, editions, volumes, issues, etc., is it easy to identify for proper referencing?
Structure: Is the page appealing and user-friendly?
- Is the page well organized? Can you quickly find what you are seeking?
- Is the page easy to find via a search engine, i.e., is it well indexed by subject?
- Do all the links work?
- Do help screens exist, and if so, are they useful?
- Is the page layout appealing and intuitive? Are buttons and colours easy to read?
- Does the page have its own internal search engine? Does it work?
Access: Who can access the page?
- Is access free or must an individual or institution pay a subscription fee?
This guide is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License.