Friday, 8 April 2011

Evaluation of web sites

Most readers will relate to usability and accessibility issues when the term evaluation is used in our context of iMedia design. Here, we'll concentrate on sub-sets of usability/accessibility issues for a change. The term evaluation has grown in its scope over the years, and its importance has increased as well. The users themselves are more savvy than they used to be. Many have received evaluation of web site training especially if they have been part of modern educational institutions. So our sites may be evaluated using a whole set of criteria that we haven't taken into account before including credibility of authorship and ethical practices.

You can get the gist of this training - designed to counter the quick cut and paste of digital information, little thought and little time, academic answers by students in educational establishments - by looking at some of the training itself. Mind you, we are conscious that you can apply it all to this blog as well...

First, Mr G PD's training module for Website evaluation for students, and secondly a company approach, Easybib, which claims it has evaluated and rated over 50% of web sites (Wikipedia gets the thumbs down, by the way).

Why am I bringing this up? Well, we can all get in a rut. We can all decide that evaluation is someone else's job. Whatever! It's refreshing to take a look with new eyes at sites we have created. When was the last time your company revised its evaluation criteria? Do you have one?
Here are a couple of freebees that can prompt some thought if you need a nudge in the evaluation direction. There are many more available if you need to do a better appraisal – just do a search for free guidelines.

Web Site Audit Experts.Com has a basic checklist and you can then access a 170 item listing from there. And NGNG Enterprises (No guts, no glory!) Amber Ludwig offers an 11 page guide.

Different types of sites need different appraisal/evaluation criteria. So a single list may not suit all that you offer: bear that in mind. Some advocate having a user survey on the site so that you can keep abreast of changing attitudes in the user-base. Do you use those, for example? You can find examples of those through an internet search too.

Then, an article on Intranets started me thinking. I'd forgotten about those types of sites. The captive users who work for the company form a sub-set of users that have their own agenda, attitudes and opinions. See Michael Marchionda's The Key to a Successful Intranet Site Evaluation.

We work in a fast changing field but it's not just the technology that changes. We are meant to serve the users of the technology. How best to do that involves constant evaluation of ourselves.