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Andrew Hawkins on Evaluating Websites and Online Services

I’m Andrew Hawkins from ARTD Consultants in Australia. We all know the internet is increasingly used by governments to support or deliver social policy and programs but if someone asked you to evaluate a website or online service, what would you need to know?

Building a successful website is no less complicated than providing a service in a more traditional format. First people must be able to locate the service, in this case from a basic internet search or banner advertising. Second, people must be able to access it, including people with disabilities. Once people access the site it’s important they can navigate the site intuitively and find content well written, credible, and useful.

Lesson Learned: There is a lot of technical knowledge needed to build a website; you don’t need to know it all to evaluate one. You do need to know what questions to answer. And it helps to know someone who works in web design—thanks Philippe Lasserre!

Hot Tip: Most simply, websites are built from words in a text file. These provide instructions and content. Internet browsers follow the instructions and display the content on your screen.

Hot Tip : Three fundamental questions you may want to ask about a website or online service

  1. Can people find the website? In other words, when someone types a relevant keyword into a search engine such as Google, will they find your site? Improving a site for better search results is called Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). The goal is to appear at the top, or at worst, in the first few pages of search results.
  2. Can everyone, including those with a disability, access the website? About 20 percent of Americans have a disability—and a legal right to access websites. Website Accessibility is about checking a site meets certain standards, most commonly those developed by the W3C consortium. This is particularly important for government operated or affiliated websites.
  3. Is the website easy to read? Formulae exist that measure the readability of text, for memos, newspapers and websites—results are based on things like the number of words per sentence and the number of syllables per word.

Rad Resources

Hot Tip: I’ll be presenting an AEA Coffee Break Webinar on Website Evaluation on March 22. It’s free for AEA members! You can learn more and register on the Coffee Break Homepage.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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