Presentation Abstract

From Picas to Pixels: Evaluating Texts for the Web

Italo Calvina once said that "a classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say." This may be no less true of webtexts. But how do we adequately evaluate these new modes of writing, especially in light of their graphical qualities and connections to computer programming?

Suggestions for evaluating webtexts in regards to their design and use abound;s however, little addresses the actual quality of writing and structure.

In "Reader as User:sApplying Interface Design Techniques to the Web" Karen Chauss (1996) tells us that one of the most important factors in evaluating webtexts is user interface--the way in which the text is designed and how the reader responds to that design. Along these same lines, Jakob Nielson (1991) claims that we must consider "utility," "integrity," "usability," and "aesthetics" when evaluating hypertext documents. Others, such as Patricia Wright (1991) contend that hypertext should address such areas as "acceptability to readers," "adaptability by readers for the task at hand," and "skills of the readers as information users" and should be evaluated based on this criteria. More ambiguous criteria emerge as the focus of "Skills of the Readers as Information Users." Here V. Balasubramanian argues that hypertexts should address both practical issues, such as the ability to allow for keyword searches, as well as lofty and more nebulous goals, such as to "chang[e] the very nature of the work being done by creating some sort of an interdependency between the system and the users," and find "new ways of thinking."

While most of us may agree that the graphical and digital nature of webbed writing warrant attentiveness to aesthetic and utilitarian qualities and that "new ways of thinking" may be needed for this new medium, we may also recognize that some of the criteria used for evaluating print classic teay also apply to webtexts--that good writing (and its structure, organization, and message) is good writing no matter what medium it is presented in.

The focus of this presentation, then, is to explore the notion of evaluating webtexts beyond the issue of graphical design and digital quality by examining specific examples of hypertextual writing. Questions I will ask here are: What is the framework underpinning the hypertext?sDo the individual pieces of the webbed text support the framework?sWhat is the purpose of a particular webtext? What constitutes an appropriate and effective use of hypertextual writing? What is the best way to reach an audience reading a webbed document?sWhat attributes of print classic are applicable to webtexts?sIn what way are the criteria used for evaluating print classic writing different for webbed writing?

Author: Dene Grigar

Target Audience: Not Applicable

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