No matter what profession you are, I’m sure you’ve had someone ask you your professional opinion. My husband is an economist and people are always asking him what he thinks of President Obama’s plan. Commanding him to predict the future of the economy, my husband always replies that his expertise is retail food pricing and not macroeconomics.
Similarly, once people hear what I do, they inevitably want my opinion on:
- Their own Website
- A commonly used Website
- A Website they want to copy
Evaluating a Website requires experience and, you guessed it, expertise in many areas. A writer, like me, will evaluate content. A usability expert will evaluate the usability factors. A SEO professional will look at the SEO. You get the picture. But how do we approach evaluating a Website from a global view? And with some monster sites, like Amazon or The New York Times, can we?
I think there are several different factors, and not surprisingly, I think they lead toward an industry standard. In other words, they look like a lot of other Websites, because their writers, developers, designers and usability people have all followed best practices.
Here are a few questions I always ask when analyzing the effectiveness of a site:
- Is the standard horizontal navigation, search box in the right hand upper corner, utility navigation under or below it, logo on the left, in place? Described by Jakob Nielsen in Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed, good Websites are moving toward a standard, as newspapers did 150 years ago. Know where to look for the weather in today’s paper? Exactly.
- Are the pages properly tagged, using title tags? When you view the code, can you see more Meta tagging?
- Are you given direction where you are in the site? Breadcrumbs, highlighting of navigation, etc…
- Is Contact Us easily found?
- Do the pages load pretty quickly (depending on your service) and are pictures displayed so they don’t get in the way of reading the text?
- What color is the font? (This one drives me crazy- there are so many good Websites that are ruined because they picked the wrong font in the wrong color).
- CAN YOU FIND WHAT YOU’RE LOOKING FOR WITHOUT BANGING YOUR HEAD AGAINST THE MONITOR?
These are just some of the elements that I think about. There are many others. What elements do you think are critical for evaluating a site?