Analysis and Evaluation of WWW Sites

         This assignment works best if the students are given the task of defining the elements to be analyzed (as a class) and if they have had time to evaluate a few sites in class. I must acknowledge that I had only begun to flesh out the details of this assignment and hadn't finished it when I received an inspiration to do so: Marcy Bauman (1996), at the University of Michigan at Dearborn, assigns a similar WWW analysis to her students; however, her students go one step further--they email their suggestions for improvement to the web site maintainer. After receiving several evaluations of my own site from Marcy's students, I decided that I should get moving on this assignment. Although I think that the idea of mailing suggestions to the site maintainers is very useful, I did not include it in this assignment--partly because my students had not had a chance to learn email netiquette and partly because many of the sites on the web are "maintained" by individuals who have not written the pages.

On a related note, in late April, Marcy instigated a discussion on several lists about quality on the World Wide Web. The discussion is being held in a Hypernews forum; to read or contribute to the discussion, point your web browser to

         For this essay, you will be analyzing and critiquing three different sites on the World Wide Web. Your first step will be locating the sites you wish to analyze: you need to find one site that pertains to or serves as entertainment (e.g. sports, film, music, games, etc.); one site that is an information resource (e.g. online journals or newspapers, academic and scientific data sites, etc.); and one site that is a person's personal home page.

         Once you have located suitable sites, make sure you note the address (URL) exactly as it appears in the box labeled Location: at the top of Netscape. You should also note the time and date, the author, and the title of the first page. If you have a disk with you, you may want to click on File, Save As and save the site on disk. If you want to save the images as well, you must save each one separately (hold the cursor over the image and click on the right mouse button to see a pop-up menu; choose save image as...). I recommend that you do this.

         The essay itself will consist of five parts: the analysis of each site (which should contain a link to the site being analyzed) and a comparison of the different types of web page based on content (Entertainment, Information, Personal Home Page). Since the three different types of web site are an artificial distinction (that is, I am asking you to identify different sites as one or the other), you will also work with your peer groups to create a collaborative series of lexia which consider the identification of different genres of web sites (with copious specific examples, of course).

         Each analysis will consist of a careful consideration of the following elements (based on our class discussions about writing on the WWW):

1. Content
Provide a brief description of the content and critique its effectiveness: are there spelling and/or grammatical errors? How accurate is the information provided? Where did the content originate? Is the style consistent with the type of information provided (i.e. is it appropriate in terms of language, organization, clarity?). What is the ratio of image to text? Are the images appropriate for the subject of the site? (provide a brief description of the graphics used).

2. Presentation
How easy or difficult is it to read the content? Is the background (if any) distracting or does it interfere with the reading of the text? What is the layout like? Are images placed in positions that make sense when viewed with the text? Does the site rely too heavily on graphics or imagemaps? How long does it take to load? Is white space used effectively, or does the page seem too cluttered? Does the page use frames (and is it effective?)? Do the colors work or not work for this site?

3. Organization
Is this site clearly organized? Describe the pattern of organization used. Is it easy to find information on this site? How is navigation effected at this site? Can you easily find your way back to previous pages? How many links go to pages at a different site? Are links connected to text or do they rely on terms like "click here"?

         Once you have analyzed these three elements, I would like you to provide a paragraph or two of recommendations for the author--what would improve the site you have visited? If you think that the site is excellent and in no need of improvement, highlight the effective strategies that have been used to make the site work.

        When you write up each analysis, I would like you to begin by identifying the site, its main theme or focus, and its intended audience. Follow this information with your analysis of the three elements listed above, and finish with your recommendations or highlights as a conclusion. At the end of each analysis, provide a bibliographic entry for the site in this format:

Author's lastname, Firstname. "Title of the First Page." full address (date).

Use a hanging indent and capitalize as you would for MLA style, but try to avoid breaking up the address between lines. Do not place a period after the address, but do make sure that the address is correct. The (date) should be the date you last visited the site and verified its existence and location.

Follow the path.

To the path of Theory.

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Contact the author!