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Web Searching, Sleuthing and Sifting
(tutorial series)

keeping Current with Web-based Resources


Developing Virtual Collections
Interested in building a Virtual Collection of resources?


Evaluating Web-based Resources:
A Practical Perspective

The following are suggested criteria for evaluating Web resources for e-libraries:
General Criteria
Suitability for Audience
Ease of Use
Appropriateness for Digital/Web Format
Special Characteristics of Web-based Media

General Criteria
  • Suitability for audience
  • Content
  • Timeliness 
  • Ease of use
  • Presentation
  • Appropriateness for digital/Web-based format
  • Special Characteristics of Web-based Media


Suitability for Audience
  • is the site suitable for your audience? (what is the age & maturity level of the intended audience, content, attitude) 
  • are the site’s sponsors suitable for the intended audience? 
  • a Web site is the sum of its parts. Make sure you know the “parts” (check banners, hyperlinks, awards & affiliations and other evidence of sponsors’ presence such as web hosting)
  • how is the user guided to other sites? (check channels and review portal interfaces - be aware of pseudogateways)
  • is there a credible, contactable authority responsible for site content & maintenance clearly identified (viewpoint/bias) 
  • is the information accurate? 
  • is the information useful in its present format? 
  • in an accessible and appropriate language for target population? 
  • what is the depth and scope of the information? Is this even throughout all content at the site?
  • are sources cited? (and if so, are they reputable?)
  • is there a hyperlinked webliography of cited sources?
  • are external links for additional information included?
    • is currency a top priority? 
    • is the date the source was last updated clearly shown? 
    • how often is it updated? 
    • is it an “active” project that is still actively maintained? 
    • are dates of external link checks noted?
    Ease of Use
    •  is it clear how to navigate through the resource’s pages? 
    • is it clear where you are (which sub-level) and how you got there? 
    • is the site well-organized along logical lines? (is there a site map?) 
    • is the site searchable (internal search engine?)? 
    • what is the estimated learning curve for the target audience?
    • how accessible is the site? if it is popular, are there mirror sites? 
    • how long does the site take to load? 
    • are “buttons” or menu items clearly labeled in a useful manner? 
    • are there any “annoying” features which make it difficult to use? (such as white type that won’t print or new browser windows) 
    • if the site uses frames, are they applied in a meaningful manner that aids navigating? 
    • are there a high per centage of dead or inactive links either internally or externally?


    • is the information presented clearly and logically in a format useful to the target audience?
    • is the interface uncluttered and easy to use? 
    • are the navigational elements clearly identified? are links to other pages easy to find? 
    • are graphics used wisely to enhance and supplement the text? do they load quickly? 
    • how does the site appear in browser(s)? 
    • is white space used well to ease reading from the screen? 
    • are there any “annoying” features such as flashing banners, overuse of animated gifs, rude color schemes? 
    • would the site be difficult for users with disabilities or special needs to use? (potential problems: small type, frames, poor use of white space, lack of color contrast between elements)
    • is a “text-only” version of the site available?
    • are graphics (especially navigational aides such as buttons, icons and imagemaps) labeled with the <alt> tag to identify them to non-graphical browsers such as Lynx?

    Appropriateness for Digital/Web Format

    • does the resource take advantage of unique characteristics of the medium or is it just a bad “translation” from a print resource? 
    • would (or does) a print (or other) source work fit the information need better? 
    • does the site contain digital information that may be used in other applications/formats? (graphics, statistics, text, software, presentations)
    • what makes this resource useful in electronic format? (why not use print?)
    • is it a realistic option to recommend in this format? (would the a target population prefer to use an electronic or print version?)
    • is the resource available in other formats? (for example, a print counterpart for journals)
    • what are the search capabilities for information at the site (full text indexed or PDF files that are not searchable)?
    • are full text and graphics available for articles? (perhaps with hyperlinked webliographies)
    • does the content need to be updated frequently?

    Special Characteristics of Web-based Media
    • does the site contain or implement an unique aspect of Web-based resources such as:
    • is this a high quality, free resource?
    • is it especially useful because it is always available (no restrictions on time or location)?
    • is there an internal search engine that indexes the whole site (full text) -- this may or may not extend into searching the Web in general?
    • is it a search utility that indexes the Web or parts of it (subject specific indices)?
    • is the resource an archive of discussion groups such as newsgroups or listservs?
    • is the resource a collection of data in special formats such as images, statistics or data sets, audio or video data?
    • does the resource enable access to “experts” in the field who share their knowledge through question and answer format? (such as homework helpers, “ask the scientist /health practitioner /mathematician /artist /teacher /lawyer etc)?
    • is it an online community or provide unique resources for a demographic or professional group?
    • is it a gateway or other tool such as a portal or database that organizes part of the Web for a specific audience?

    Copyright © 1998-2019, Simone Leroy, Director of Learning Technologies, MIA
    Last Updated: June 2019, Links Checked June 30, 2019

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