Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Evaluation of web sites – what is this?

Evaluation is such a problematic word because it implies testing according to criteria but covers wider ‘softer’ issues as well. Everyone who looks at a web site tablet, mobile app, or any electronically delivered information, is subconsciously judging what they meet. Our problem as developers is to be on top of general evaluation criteria as well as be aware of more specialised market-driven information. Some aspects of evaluation such as accessibility are linked to legal requirements, so we have to conform to those anyway. We’ll not be looking at accessibility specifically here as we tend to treat evaluation for that separately.

Perhaps we should start with a definition of evaluation. It is about judging or assessing the value of something in a structured way. Under a general evaluation appraisal, we can find guides for assessing web sites that emphasise looking out for: authority, accuracy, reliability, being up-to-date, relevance to you, feel (University of Reading). The University of Berkeley, Evaluating web pages, offers similar advice covering techniques and questions to pose about web pages for evaluating them. So, we may have education graduates worldwide who have been trained to evaluate our pages. It might be useful for your clients to understand these general criteria as some of the criteria relate more to actions of theirs for keeping the information current.

But the great majority of people do not employ a common set of criteria when assessing information. They employ subconscious criteria according to their age, need, behaviour trends, and more. This is where market research extends the measures for evaluation. It offers insights of how to tailor the information and experience better for a particular group.

Then we get more precise guidelines of how to engineer information electronically for particular needs. Take for example Kantar Media’s September 2013’s publication on, Over 50s in the digital age, where they define the over 50s behaviour trends with electronic information giving valuable pointers of how to reach this group and how to engage them better. If you remain sceptical can you argue with Webcredible’s success results (if they are true, of course!).
  • 36% increase in made-to-order in online revenues for Laura Ashley
  • 50% reduction in mobile homepage drop-offs for Macmillan Cancer Research
  • 44% conversion improvement and 168% uplift in leads for Propertywide
  • 80% increase in hotel ‘look-to-book’ conversions for Thomson
Perhaps stats like that may influence your clients to agree to some market research, or it might help you define some criteria of successful evaluation for your own sites.