Visual Analysis

For Essay 1, you will investigate ONE web site and use specific criteria to develop an opinion of the site you have selected.  To help you with your decision, and to respond to the discussion forum, you might want to consider answering the following questions.  Why did you select the site you chose? Which criteria did you use to evaluate the quality of the site? Why did you decide on these questions? What did the visual and written information of your site tell you, the reader?   Your working draft should be about 700-900 words. No use of I, Me, We in the essay. No personal statements. This is not a personal essay, but an analysis of the website. Format this draft in MLA Format even though you will no doubt rework some of the content and development in your revision process. Content Criteria for Analysis First, you will cover each of the areas listed on this document: 6 Criteria for Websites These six criteria deal with the content of Web sites rather than the graphics or site design. Apply these criteria when you research the web site for your essay. 1. AUTHORITY Authority reveals that the person, institution or agency responsible for a site has the qualifications and knowledge to do so. Evaluating a web site for authority: ? Authorship: It should be clear who developed the site. ? Contact information should be clearly provided: e-mail address, snail mail address, phone number, and fax number. ? Credentials: the author should state qualifications, credentials, or personal background that gives them authority to present information. ? Check to see if the site supported by an organization or a commercial body 2. PURPOSE The purpose of the information presented in the site should be clear. Some sites are meant to inform, persuade, state an opinion, entertain, or parody something or someone. Evaluating a web site for purpose: ? Does the content support the purpose of the site? ? Is the information geared to a specific audience (students, scholars, general reader)? ? Is the site organized and focused? ? Are the outside links appropriate for the site? ? Does the site evaluate the links? ? Check the domain of the site. The URL may indicate its purpose. 3. COVERAGE It is difficult to assess the extent of coverage since depth in a site, through the use of links, can be infinite. One author may claim comprehensive coverage of a topic while another may cover just one aspect of a topic. Evaluating a web site for coverage: ? Does the site claim to be selective or comprehensive? ? Are the topics explored in depth? ? Compare the value of the site’s information compared to other similar sites. ? Do the links go to outside sites rather than its own? ? Does the site provide information with no relevant outside links? 4. CURRENCY Currency of the site refers to: 1) how current the information presented is, and 2) how often the site is updated or maintained. It is important to know when a site was created, when it was last updated, and if all of the links are current. Evaluating a web site for currency involves finding the date information was: ? first written ? placed on the web ? last revised Then ask if: ? Links are up-to-date ? Links provided should be reliable. Dead links or references to sites that have moved are not useful. ? Information provided so trend related that its usefulness is limited to a certain time period? ? the site been under construction for some time? 5. OBJECTIVITY Objectivity of the site should be clear. Beware of sites that contain bias or do not admit its bias freely. Objective sites present information with a minimum of bias. Evaluating a web site for objectivity: ? Is the information presented with a particular bias? ? Does the information try to sway the audience? ? Does site advertising conflict with the content? ? Is the site trying to explain, inform, persuade, or sell something? 6. ACCURACY There are few standards to verify the accuracy of information on the web. It is the responsibility of the reader to assess the information presented. Evaluating a web site for accuracy: ? Reliability: Is the author affiliated with a known, respectable institution? ? References: do statistics and other factual information receive proper references as to their origin? ? Does the reading you have already done on the subject make the information seem accurate? ? Is the information comparable to other sites on the same topic? ? Does the text follow basic rules of grammar, spelling and composition? ? Is a bibliography or reference list included? Visual Criteria for Analysis Next, you will cover Branding and Home Page and Navigation as it relates to the site you have selected. Branding and Home Page #1: Purpose As simple as it sounds, the most important thing a website needs to communicate is what the website does. There should be clear indications (through text, images, etc.) about what the site is. Is it a news site? A blog? An e-commerce site? Some combination? What industry is it? Mortgages? Pharmaceutics? If a viewer can’t tell within three seconds what the site is, they will probably leave. #2: Possibilities Your visitors will want to know what they can do with the site. Can they buy stuff or just read news? Can they comment and post reviews? Can they play games or just learn about them? Visitors also want to know how large the site is. When you walk in a department store, you can get a sense of scale. When you “walk into” a website, it’s sometimes difficult to tell how large it is. Help viewers know if there is a lot to offer by giving them clearly marked sections of the site. #3: Starting Point Strangely enough, some websites are hard to figure out where to start. Give your visitors a focal point (or a couple focal points). Don’t let them guess where they need to click first. Visitors have a specific reason for going to your site, so make sure they know where to begin. If they start down the wrong path, you may lose them forever. #4: Visual Appeal Aesthetics matter! As much as we would all like to believe that all visitors care about is is the content, it’s not true. The visual appeal of a website has been repeatedly proven to make websites seem more credible. People also believe that the website works better (even if it doesn’t!) if the website looks nice. #5: Personality You have total control over your website’s personality. How do you want it to present itself? Informal? Serious? Fun? Excited? Professional? Funny? Every word, image, and color you choose will impact the personality. Keep the personality consistent in your headings, colors, and word choice throughout the entire site. This is an important branding consideration. #6: Color Scheme Run your color scheme by a professional designer. Or, at least ask several people what they think (and you can’t ask your spouse or mother!) You shouldn’t have more than 3 or 4 colors dominating your design and all the colors should match. Also, recognize that about 9% of all men have some form of colorblindness, so you may need to accommodate for that, depending on your content. #7: Welcome Blurb Similar to a tagline, a welcome blurb quickly (in a sentence or two, or even simple phrases) should elaborate on the tagline. “We don’t just sell baby furniture. We well sell the cutest stuff out there.” DO NOT let your welcome blurb turn into “Happy Talk” (See #29). Welcome blurbs are not always necessary, but they can help clarify the purpose of a website. And they should be very short.   Navigation #1: A Way Home I always tell my students: don’t let your website feel like IKEA (or a hospital)! When we walk into most buildings, we know where we are in relation to the front door–IKEA and hospitals are the exception. There is nothing more frustrating than feeling lost. If visitors don’t know how to get back to the homepage, they’ll probably just leave. (If only that were a luxury we could have in IKEA–you can’t just leave until you find the door! #2: Search If your website is larger than 15 – 20 pages, you really should have a search bar. Research has shown that about 50% of all web users expect a search bar, and go to it almost immediately on any new site they visit. Don’t count out half of your visitors because you don’t have a search bar. Simple, small sites can get away with not having one. #3: Page Grouping The way you group your pages is important. If you sell leather gloves, will you put them under “lawn and garden” or “automotive”? Or both? Make sure the way you group your information is consistent with industry norms and customer expectations. #4: Organization/Visual Hierarchy Websites should be organized by importance. Is the most important thing the most obvious? Largest? Highest on the page? Is anything important “below the fold”? (Meaning, is it below the bottom of the monitor, where visitors will have to scroll to see it?)

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