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Web Site Evaluation
Leslie M. Klish

There are five main areas to keep in mind when designing a web site:

Text
Navigation
Links
Graphics
General Design

Within each of these areas there are many things to consider to keep your web site looking professional and attractive. It is important to remember that there are all kinds of people from all corners of the world looking at your web pages. Consistency, ease of navigation, and appearance, are some of the most important pieces of designing web pages. You want all of the pages within your site to have a consistent appearance. When your visitor clicks to another page within your site, she/he wants to know that she/he is in the same site. It is important to set up your pages so that your visitor always knows where they are within the site. Consistent background, colors, buttons, and style can help with this important aspect of building a web site.

Text
There are several important things to remember about the style of text that you choose for your website. Text size should enhance readability without being too large. The background and the text should not be in competition. They should complement each other, as should all of the colors you choose for your site. You should be sure that the focus of your site is clear and not overshadowed by graphics, backgrounds, animations, or other unnecessary bits of web design. Finally, you should be sure to include enough white space in your design to help with the readability of the site. If the text stretches across the entire length of the page, or if a reader has to scroll to read the text, it diminishes the attractability of the site.



Navigation
It is important that the navigation of your site be simple and straightforward. You need to choose a design that allows your visitors easy access throughout your site. You should allow your visitors access to linking pages in more than one style. Graphic links should also be offered as text links for those visitors who browse the web with their graphics turned off. It is also important to offer links in more than one area. It is always nice to offer links at the bottom of the page as well as the top. Visitors do not want to have to go all the way back to the top of your page to reach a link. If you choose to use frames it is important to let your visitors know where one frame begins and another ends. Using the same background color for both frames can be confusing. Using image maps can be great, if they are easy to understand and clearly done.



Links
The color choice for active and visited links is an important decision for your site. Colors should complement the text and background colors. They should be clearly visible and underlined to indicate that they are links. Links should also give your visitor a clue as to where they are in the site. Outside links should be used sparingly and with good reason. Once a visitor leaves your site, they may not return.



Graphics
Graphics are another important piece for your web site. Graphics can easily be overdone. Animated graphics are especially easy to overdo. You want to make sure that if you do use animated graphics, they turn off automatically. You also want to make sure that the graphics don't end up being the focus of your page. Graphics should make sense on your page. They should not be used simply because they are "cool". Every graphic you use should have an alt label to let your visitor know what is coming up. Graphics should not be too large, the download time of graphics is an important consideration. Most people don't want to wait for large graphics to download. If you use graphics as links, make sure you always have a matching text only link. It is also important to use browser-safe colors since the appearance of your site can vary greatly from browser to browser.



General Design
Probably the most important piece of the general design is whether the page fits in a 640 x 460 space. Readers do not want to have to scroll to read your page. Every page of your site should have the focus of the page fit into a 640 x 460 space. You need to pay attention to the download time of your site. If the download time is too long, you will lose visitors. Graphics should be used to break up large areas of text. Too much text is a turn-off. And, it is very important to use repetitive themes to indicate to your visitor that they are still in your site.



Below Average Site
Saint Anthony School
I chose this site as an example of a below average site because there are many indications of poor design which are evident to the visitor. The colors are not complementary. The text stretches across the entire page which forces the visitor to scroll to see the page. All important information is not immediately visible in a 640 x 460 space. The background is distracting. The poorly designed table is stretched unnecessarily across the whole page and extends beyond the page. There is no consistency between pages. The colors, background, heading, and buttons are completely different in each page. There is nothing to tie the pages together except an animated arrow at the bottom of the some of the pages. This animated arrow is almost the same color as the textured gray background, making it difficult to see, and it is not clearly an indication of returning to the home page. There are no page titles to explain what each page is about, or to indicate a repeated title for the site.



Average Site
ACLU American Civil Liberties Union
I chose this site as an average site because it holds many elements of good design. The site has a consistent title on the top of every page with the ACLU logo. The navigation is easy to use and clearly identified. Sideways scrolling is not necessary, the page fits the 640 x 460 space. The important information is clearly visible within this space. The text is not overcrowded or stretched across the page. The graphics are used appropriately. The text is readable and the colors are complementary. Some possibilities for improvement might include improving or eliminating the large Capitol Building image map in the center of the page and enlarging the text size of the links. I would also question the focal point of the home page. Should the focal point be the Capitol Building?



Above Average Site
Merriam-Webster Online
I chose this site as an above average site because it shows exceptional qualities of good design. Everything that we want to see in a site is applied here. The consistency between pages is achieved with the repetition of the Merriam-Webster logo and the color coordination. The links are offered in a side table as well as at the bottom of the page. The use of graphics is limited. The page is done in the 640 x 460 space. The text is not crowded or stretched across the page. There is good use of white space. The readability is excellent. The alignment is consistent. The proximity is well done. This is an example of a well designed site.