Evaluation Criteria For Websites

I’m currently researching evaluation criteria for websites. How do you evaluate websites? What are some good testing and scoring methods for evaluating the quality of websites?

Please note: This article is a work in progress. It’s only 15% complete. It will be updated as I research new information.

Some people consider only the aesthetics or beauty of a website. Others are only concerned with accuracy of the information on webpages. Since I’ve worked in the IT and web design/development industry for over 30 years I sometimes evaluate websites only from a technical viewpoint. However, my purpose here is to develop a more wholistic and well rounded set of evaluation criteria. Let’s start with the criteria listed below and define, expand or simplify the evaluation criteria for websites. As I receive feedback and do more research, I will update and refine this document.

Searching for the Best Websites

On October 21, 2020 I performed a Google search for best websites 2020 award criteria and reviewed the first page of search results. The first item listed was interesting (but really disappointing after I clicked on the link.) “Each year the Web Marketing Association names the Best web sites in 96 industry categories as part of the annual WebAward competition.”  A snippet at the top of page said:

Best websites are selected by judging websites using seven criteria – design, ease of use, copywriting, interactivity, use of technology, innovation and content.

webaward.org

Do you see a problem here? What’s the difference between ‘content’ and ‘copywriting’? What’s the definition of ‘interactivity’ as compared to ‘ease of use’? Why do some people have 4 criteria, others have 5 or 6, and the Web Marketing Association has 7 criteria? It depends on their purpose and point of view.

On October 23, 2020 I asked Google to search for best websites 2020. I discovered an interesting article by Steve Benjamins on SiteBuilderReport. Steve’s evaluation criteria were clearly stated up front: “This list reflects my taste — I prefer websites with strong typography, clear navigation and bold photography.

My Evaluation Criteria For Websites

  • Accessibility – WCAG 2.1 compliance
  • Beauty – Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. How do we evaluate it?
  • Content – captions, copywriting, data, descriptions, grammar, images, photos, stories, text, videos
  • Design – layout, mobile friendliness, navigation, responsive design, structure, typography, etc.
  • Performance – speed of webpage access on various devices from diverse geographic locations
  • Security – HTTPS, SSL, TLS 1.3, vulnerability analysis
  • SEO – search engine optimization
  • Web Standards – proper use of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript according to W3C guidelines

Evaluating Website Accessibility

Accessible websites are inherently more usable, and consequently they get more traffic. Better user experiences result in lower bounce rates, higher conversions, and less negative feedback.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are organized by four main principles, which state that content must be POUR: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust. WCAG is the most-referenced set of standards in website accessibility lawsuits and is widely considered the best way to achieve accessibility.

Perceivable

Provide text alternatives for any non-text content so that it can be changed into other forms people need, such as large print, braille, speech, symbols or simpler language. Text should be adaptable for various screen sizes and layouts.

Operable

Keyboard accessible for users who can’t use a mouse. Also allow for other input modalities and pointing devices. Provide enough time to read before content moves, and ways to help users navigate, and find content, without getting lost.

Understandable

Text content should be readable and easy to understand. Web pages should appear and operate in predictable ways. Help users avoid and correct mistakes – by providing input assistance.

Robust

Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, browsers, screen readers, screen sizes and a variety of assistive technologies. As technologies and user agents evolve, the content should remain accessible.

Introduction to web accessibility and W3C standards. Subtitles and closed captioning are available in 15+ languages. See transcript.

See also https://www.w3.org/WAI/videos/standards-and-benefits/


Evaluating Website Beauty

Beauty has been defined as a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight. Beauty provides a perceptual experience of attraction, pleasure or satisfaction.

While the observation of beauty can be subjective, mathematicians have used the golden ratio to explain beautiful architecture, art, and music. A beautiful website has balance, harmony, and symmetry.

Thomas Aquinas described the three conditions of beauty as: integritas (wholeness), consonantia (harmony and proportion), and claritas (a radiance and clarity that makes the form of a thing apparent to the mind).

Shelly Johnson explains: “True beauty is the state of being authentic and sincere in a way that extends love to yourself and others. It feels real, safe, alive, playful, flowing, authentic, life-giving … True beauty illuminates our entire being and empowers the light of everyone around us.”


Evaluating Website Content

Some people evaluate website content from an academic perspective, while others evaluate content from an advertising and marketing perspective.

Jim Kapoun published an article in 1998 about website content evaluation listing 5 criteria:

  • Accuracy
  • Authority
  • Objectivity
  • Currency
  • Coverage

Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada provides 6 criteria for evaluating website content:

  • Authority
  • Purpose
  • Coverage
  • Currency
  • Objectivity
  • Accuracy

The CRAP Test, developed by Molly Beestrum, provides an easy to remember acronym for evaluating website content:

  • Currency
  • Reliability
  • Authority
  • Purpose/Point of View

Website Testing Tools

Evaluation Criteria For Websites - Performance (94), Accessibility (100), Best Practices (93), and SEO (91) scores for this page.

Summary of Website Evaluation Criteria

I’m not ready to summarize this material yet… I’m still doing research.


Related Links and Resources

A raw list of my research links — not as formal as academic footnotes or a bibliography. Nonetheless, it’s a helpful record of online resources I discovered and used in writing this article.

  1. Five Criteria For Evaluating Web Pageshttps://ccconline.libguides.com/c.php?g=242130&p=1609638 ~ Reviewed on 20-Oct-2020 {Jim Kapoun is footnoted by the writer – as the Library Director at Waldorf College in Forest City, Iowa. The chart is from Kapoun’s article, “Teaching Web Evaluation to Undergrads,” which appeared in College and Research Libraries News, July/August 1998: 522-523.} This link was last updated on July 10, 2019 and still shows up in Google searches, but has been superseded by the CRAP Test For Evaluating Websites (See point 4 below.)
  2. Five Ways to Evaluate the Quality of Your Website Designhttps://www.straightnorth.com/insights/5-ways-evaluate-quality-your-website-design/ ~ Reviewed 29-Oct-2020
  3. Six Criteria For Websiteshttps://cdn.dal.ca/content/dam/dalhousie/pdf/library/CoreSkills/6_Criteria_for_Websites.pdf ~ Reviewed on 20-Oct-2020
  4. CRAP Test for Evaluating Websiteshttps://ccconline.libguides.com/c.php?g=242130&p=2185475 ~ Reviewed on 20-Oct-2020
  5. Using the CRAAP Test to Evaluate Websiteshttps://laulima.hawaii.edu/access/content/group/MAN.XLSETEC687.201213/review_html/documents/Myhre_S.pdf ~ Reviewed on 20-Oct-2020
  6. Evaluating Internet Sourceshttps://lib.nmu.edu/help/resource-guides/subject-guide/evaluating-internet-sources ~ {Six Criteria: authority, accuracy, objectivity, currency, coverage, and appearance.  For each criterion, there are several questions to be asked.  The more questions you can answer “yes”, the more likely the web site is one of quality.  } ~ Published 15-Nov-2018 ~ Reviewed on 20-Oct-2020
  7. Quickly Evaluate A Websitehttps://libguides.wccnet.edu/researchtoolkit/evaluatewebsite ~ Last updated 21-July-2020 ~ Reviewed 20-Oct-2020
  8. Rubric for Evaluating Web Pageshttps://www.csus.edu/indiv/k/kaym/rubric/webpagerubric.html ~ Reviewed on 20-Oct-2020
  9. Multi-Criteria Decision-Making Models for Website Evaluationhttps://www.google.com/books/edition/Multi_Criteria_Decision_Making_Models_fo/nv2SDwAAQBAJ ~ Reviewed on 23-Oct-2020 {A 254 page ebook by Kemal Vatansever and Yakup Akgul. Published in 2019. Summary: “Satisfying the end user’s needs is one of the key principles of designing an effective website. Because there are different users for any given website, there are different criteria that users want. Thus, evaluating a website is a multi-criteria decision-making problem in which the decision maker’s opinion should be considered for ranking the website. Multi-Criteria Decision-Making Models for Website Evaluation is a critical scholarly resource that covers the strategies needed to evaluate the navigability and efficacy of websites as promotional platforms for their companies. Featuring a wide range of topics including linguistic modelling, e-services, and site quality, this book is ideal for managers, executives, website designers, graphic artists, specialists, consultants, etc.”}
  10. Performance and Evaluations of Websiteshttps://www.google.com/books/edition/Performance_and_Evaluations_of_Websites/8C6GDwAAQBAJ ~ Reviewed on 23-Oct-2020 {A 121 page ebook by Durgesh Singh. Published in 2019. Summary: This book is based on the quality criteria of website performance and evaluation using quality evaluation tools. Durgesh Singh is a polymath in the domains of Microsoft .NET technologies and an array of other technologies including JavaScript, AngularJS, Node.js, Ionic and SQL Databases, etc. He is the founder of viastudy.com}
  11. Handbook of Research on Web Information Systems Qualityhttps://www.google.com/books/edition/_/xjm9mAEACAAJ ~ Reviewed on 23-Oct-2020 {A 558 page book by Coral Calero, Mario Piattini. Published in 2008. Summary: “Web information systems engineering resolves the multifaceted issues of Web-based systems development; however, as part of an emergent yet prolific industry, Web site quality assurance is a continually adaptive process needing a comprehensive reference tool to merge all cutting-edge research and innovations. Handbook of Research on Web Information Systems Quality integrates invaluable research on the models, measures, and methodologies of Web information systems, software quality, and Web engineering into one practical guide to Web information systems quality.”}
  12. An Approach to Measuring Website Quality Based on Neutrosophic Setshttps://www.google.com/books/edition/An_Approach_to_Measuring_the_Website_Qua/UAhZDwAAQBAJ ~ Reviewed on 23-Oct-2020 {An 11 page paper written by Dragisa Stanujkic, Florentin Smarandache, Edmundas Kazimieras Zavadskas, and Darjan Karabasevic. Summary: “Gathering the attitudes of the examined respondents would be very significant in some evaluation models. Therefore, an approach to the evaluation of websites based on the use of the neutrosophic set is proposed in this paper. An example of websites evaluation is considered at the end of this paper with the aim to present in detail the proposed approach.”}
  13. Framework for a Global Quality Evaluation of a Websitehttps://doi.org/10.1108/14684521211241404 ~ Reviewed on 23-Oct-2020 {A paper written by Álvaro Rocha in 2012. Purpose: “This paper aims to propose a high‐level structure for a global quality evaluation of a website. This structure is based on the characteristics, sub‐characteristics and attributes of three main dimensions (content, service, and technical quality) that will substantiate the development of broad website quality evaluation, comparison and improvement methodologies, according to particular sectors of activity and evaluator’s perspective.” Findings: “Considering the results of some studies, as well as the systematization of the knowledge available in several bibliographies, website quality can be grouped into three main dimensions: content quality, service quality, and technical quality. There has not yet been an evaluation methodology that focuses on these three main website quality dimensions in a broad and transversal sense.” See document preview via ResearchGate.}
  14. Website Quality Evaluations: Criteria and Toolshttps://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1057231702902055 ~ Reviewed on 23-Oct-2020 ~ DOI: https://doi.org/10.1006/iilr.2002.0205 ~ An article by Nicolae-George Dragulanescu in September 2002. See also https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10572317.2002.10762580 (updated December 2013) DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/10572317.2002.10762580 ~ Related 25 page slide deck via ResearchGate (pdf).}
  15. The Best Websites of 2020https://www.sitebuilderreport.com/best-websites-2020/ ~ Reviewed on 23-Oct-2020
  16. The Best Website Designs of 2020 So Farhttps://www.creativebloq.com/features/best-website-designs-2020 ~ Reviewed 23-Oct-2020 {This reviewer’s criteria is about design trends. “…outlandish outfits on the fashion catwalks can subtly influence the more wearable clothes found on the high street, it’s worth web designers keeping at least half an eye on the higher end of website creation. Even those that seem overly flashy can still give you inspiration and ideas that you can incorporate, in different ways, into your own designs.”}
  17. 20 Award-Winning Best Website Designs to Look in 2020https://www.spinxdigital.com/blog/top-10-website-designs-2020/ ~ Reviewed on 23-Oct-2020 {Observations and questions: Is this the top 10 or top 20? URL says top 10, but title says top 20. Please make up your mind. Why does the article also contain ‘best websites’ of 2014, 2015, 2016 and other years? The article has apparently been edited and ‘SEO optimized’ several times. Near the bottom of page it says: “team has worked a lot on designing a great SEO web architecture based on keywords research”.} 
  18. 21 Award-Winning Website Designs & What They Did Righthttps://www.impactplus.com/blog/18-award-winning-website-designs ~ Published 23-May-2018 ~ Reviewed 23-Oct-2020
  19. 27 of the Best Website Designs to Inspire You in 2020https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/best-website-designs-list ~ Reviewed on 23-Oct-2020
  20. Web Accessibility 101: A Beginners Guidehttps://www.essentialaccessibility.com/blog/web-accessibility-overview ~ Reviewed on 21-Oct-2020
  21. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1- https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/ ~ Published 04-June-2018 ~ Reviewed on 21-Oct-2020
  22. Introduction to Web Accessibilityhttps://webaim.org/intro/ ~ Last updated 14-Apr-2020 ~ Reviewed on 21-Oct-2020
  23. What Are the Four Major Categories of Accessibility?https://www.boia.org/blog/what-are-the-four-major-categories-of-accessibility ~ Reviewed on 24-Oct-2020
  24. A DIY Web Accessibility Blueprinthttps://alistapart.com/article/diy-web-accessibility-blueprint/ ~ Reviewed 31-Oct-2020
  25. Developing Empathyhttps://alistapart.com/blog/post/developing-empathy/ ~ Reviewed 31-Oct-2020
  26. From Empathy to Advocacyhttps://alistapart.com/article/from-empathy-to-advocacy/ ~ {“As people who make websites, we may find that thinking of ourselves as advocates for our users, rather than creators of a product or providers of a service, transforms the way we work.”} ~ Reviewed 31-Oct-2020
  27. Evaluating the Aesthetics of Websiteshttps://uclic.ucl.ac.uk/content/2-study/4-current-taught-course/1-distinction-projects/11-07/theuma.pdf ~ Reviewed on 29-Oct-2020
  28. Only Screen Deep? Evaluating Aesthetics, Usability, And Satisfaction In Informational Websiteshttps://stars.library.ucf.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1277&context=etd ~ Reviewed 29-Oct-2020
  29. Golden Ratiohttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_ratio ~ Reviewed 31-Oct-2020
  30. Beautyhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beauty ~ Reviewed 31-Oct-2020
  31. The Beauty Trap in Designhttps://automattic.design/2019/10/25/the-beauty-trap-in-design/ ~ {Quote: “I’m a sucker for beauty. It shames me to admit it, but my favorite experience as a UX professional isn’t solving problems for the user, or knowing that I contributed to a ten percent increase in the client’s conversion rate. My favorite experience, and maybe some of you relate to this, is when a series of otherwise unremarkable letter shapes, buttons, colors, and blank spaces combine to create a breathless moment of aesthetic delight for the eye and mind.”} Reviewed 31-Oct-2020
  32. Style Tiles and How They Workhttps://alistapart.com/article/style-tiles-and-how-they-work/ ~ {Quote: “Style tiles are a flexible starting point that define a style to communicate the web in a way that clients understand. A style tile is more refined than a traditional identity mood board and less detailed than a website mockup or comp. When an interior designer redesigns a room they don’t build multiple options of the designs they’re proposing, they bring color swatches, paint chips, and architectural drawings. Style tiles act as paint chips and color swatches for the interface that we can execute on any device or at any dimension. It’s a truly responsive solution to visual design.”} ~ Reviewed 31-Oct-2020
  33. How Core Web Vitals Affect Google’s Algorithmshttps://neilpatel.com/blog/core-web-vitals/ ~ {Quote: “While we spend a lot of time focusing on keyword optimization, mobile-experience, and backlinks, Google pays a lot of attention to the on-page experience. That’s why they’ve rolled out a new set of signals called Core Web Vitals. These signals will take into account a website’s page loading speed, responsiveness, and visual stability.”} ~ Reviewed 10-Nov-2020

See Also

You might also enjoy reading my WordPress Cloudflare Notes — about performance optimization — and speeding up WordPress websites.


Originally published on 20-Oct-2020 / Last updated by Doug Vos on 14-Nov-2020

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