Evaluating Web Sites

"Just because it's in print doesn't make it correct"

- Randall


Purpose of Lesson:
  • You should understand the criteria for evaluating a Web site and be able to write a critique using this information.
  • Before you begin this lesson, take a look at the Professional Web Page Design created by Randall S. Davis and ask yourselves if it is a good web site or not.

I. What things to you look for when you evaluate a Web site?

So you've seen a few Web sites: some good, some bad. But what really makes a site great? Unless you know how sites are constructed and have tried to use different parts of a site, you probably aren't able to determine if the site is a winner or not. The points have been divided into two groups: basic criteria for both Internet users and webpage developers and advanced, more technical points for webpage designers. Here is a list of criteria to guide you:

  1. Authority and Credibility
  2. Citation and Accuracy
  3. Content
  4. Design
  5. Timeliness or Currency
Rating Scale:
  • 3 = Good (the point is done according to the objective)
  • 2 = Fair (some of the objectives of the point have been completed, but not all)
  • 1 = Poor (little work has been done to complete this objective)
  • 0 = Not completed (there is no evidence that the point was done)
[*: Points used for grading your culture pages]

I Authority and Credibility

Point: Even if the website indicates who created it, you are not sure if that person or organization is an authority in that field.
Result: Many Internet users can be mislead to believe something that is not true. You might accept someone's suggestion on a good place to stay during your vacation to England if the person writing the page has extensive experience in travel or he or she works as a travel consultant.

Criteria- General Score
* Is there information on the site that tells you about the author (a link to his/her personal page)? [ Example ] 3 2 1 0
Is the creator of the site well-recognized for his or her work?
[NOTE: You can use the search engine, Altavista, to check how many other sites have link. Just type "link:" in the search box plus the webpage address of the site, for example, link:http://www.cnn.com] [ LinkstoYou ]
3 2 1 0
Does the author/webpage creator have any other publications suggesting his qualifications and authority on the subject of his or her site? [ Example ] 3 2 1 0
* Is there contact information (e-mail address written out so it can be viewed when the page is printed, and a complete mailing address and phone number for commercial sites? (esl_lab@hotmail.com, NOT E-mail) 3 2 1 0
If you send an e-mail, will you receive a prompt response? 3 2 1 0

II. Citation and Accuracy

Point: There are specific or consistant standards for citing material used on Webpages.
Result: A lot of unreliable and incorrect information is found on the Web, and many users are lead to believe that they can trust the information.

Criteria - General Score
* Does the author provide a full reference section on resources (books, other web sites, encyclopedias, etc.) consulted to create the content for the site? Without references, it is difficult for a visitor to verify the accuracy of the information. [ Example ] 3 2 1 0
* Does the author use correctly paraphrasing, text quotes, and blockquotes throughout the paper to give credit to the original source of the material? 10 9 8 7 6
5 4 3 2 1 0
* Is the information current (the references used are within the last few years)?
[NOTE: Just because a website has been "updated" recently does not necessarily mean that the content has been changed. Some say that their site has been updated even if they only thing they have done has been to change a graphic or a word here or there.]
3 2 1 0
* Is the page without grammar and spelling mistakes?

10 9 8 7 6
5 4 3 2 1 0

III. Content

Point: A webpage should have a purpose for being on the Internet, not just "Hey, Look! I made a homepage!"
Result: Too many useless pages fill the Web making it difficult to quickly find what you want.

Criteria - General Score 
* Does the page contain a thesis statement to introduce the contents of the paper? 3 2 1 0
Is the information and language use appropriate for the intended audience? Is the information clear and does not assume or require special of special terms to understand the content? 3 2 1 0
* Is there enough quality information on the site to achieve its goals? Is there an introduction, body, and conclusion in the paper? Do the paragraphs in the body actually explain the points mentioned in the thesis statement? 50 - 0 Points
Does the site contain any distracting advertising that is unrelated to the content of the site? 3 2 1 0
* Has the author of the website been careful in his or her selection of external links added to the site? (informative, accurate, credible, current, good design, etc.) 3 2 1 0
* Does each page contain the author's name, organization, and webpage address for reference (particularly useful when printing one page)?
Paper written by Randall Davis
3 2 1 0
Does the site provide a unique contribution to the Internet (new insight or ways of thinking)? 3 2 1 0

IV. Design

  • Doctor HTML: Best Tools: spelling, verify hyperlinks
  • Web Page Garage: Best Tools: spelling, browser compatibility, easy-to-understand rating system, meta tag creator, dead link locator
  • NetMechanic: optimizing images, spell checking
  • SpinWave: optimizing images
  • SpellCheck.net: spell checking
  • Ask Bobby: An advanced tool for checking pages for accessibility for those with visual impairments.
  • Screen Resolution Tester : check what your page will look like of different computer devices and screen sizes
Criteria  Score 
* Does each page on the site have a link taking you back to the main page for easy navigation between pages? 3 2 1 0
Is the main content within two or three clicks of the main page? 3 2 1 0
* Is the text easy to read for all, particularly for visually impaired users of the Internet? (size, color, and style of text) 3 2 1 0
* Are the colors and design of the site create a user-friendly atmosphere? 3 2 1 0
* Does the design of the page make it easy to print out so everything fits across the width of the page? 3 2 1 0
Is there a site map or table of contents on one page for visitors to see the entire content on one page? 3 2 1 0
* Do the graphics serve a clear purpose? 3 2 1 0
* Has the author identified the original source of the graphics used on the page and has indicated that they are being used with permission? 3 2 1 0
Is there a search engine on the site to help visitors find what they are looking for? 3 2 1 0
Criteria - Advanced Score
* Do the description and keywords in the meta tags reflect the actual content of the site? 3 2 1 0
* Are graphics clearly labeled for those visitors coming with images off? 3 2 1 0
* Does the page load quickly (under 14 seconds for a 28K modem)? 3 2 1 0
* Is the overall file size of the page under 47K?

Test size with NetMechanic

3 2 1 0
* Have width and height sizes of images been added? 3 2 1 0
* Have images been optimized to load quickly for slower connection speeds? 3 2 1 0
Does the author provide a Web-based form for submitting questions and comments? 3 2 1 0
Are needed plug-ins or software need for using the site clearly identified? 3 2 1 0
* Does the site work well and look good on the two main Internet browsers: Netscape and Internet Explorer? 3 2 1 0

IV. Timeliness or Currency

Criteria  Score 
  • * Does the page tell then when it was first created and when it was last updated? 
  • Is there a What's New page to indicate when the page was last updated and what (substantial) changes were made at that time? Changing the spelling of one word shouldn't be considered an update! 
  • Is there any indication of the direction the site will take in the future? 
3 2 1 0

3 2 1 0

3 2 1 0

II. What Web tools are available for validating Web content?

Two good sites for testing web pages include Web Page Garage and NetMechanic. Now, after looking at these criteria, what do you think of the Professional Web Page Design home page? Look at the new version of Professional Web Page Design. What changes do you notice? Could anything else still be changed to make it better? top


Beck, S. (2000). The good, the bad, and the ugly. [Online].

Branham, C. (1998). A student's guide to research with the WWW.

McIntyre Library (1999). Ten C's for evaluating Internet sources [Online].

Schrock, K. (2000). Kathy Schrock's guide for educators. [Online].

Copyright © 1998 - 2005 by Randall S. Davis, All rights reserved.