Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

Successful Web Pages: What Are They and Do They Exist?

Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

Successful Web Pages: What Are They and Do They Exist?

Article excerpt

The Internet and its World Wide Web (WWW) are rapidly becoming a way of life for many in business, industry, and education. Many libraries are placing a Web home page on the Internet. However, who knows what a successful Web page should look like? How do we define success in this new context? This study establishes a research-based set of guidelines for design of World Wide Web pages. It provides an analysis of what guidelines currently exist and compares selected parts of these guidelines with a sample of existing Web pages.

The Internet and its World Wide Web (WWW) are rapidly becoming a way of life for many in business, industry, and education. Numerous newspaper advertisements as well as television commercials and programs list the companies' WWW address. WWW home pages are readily available to anyone with a computer, a modem, and a way to connect to the Web. The number of hosts worldwide on the Web increased from 1.3 million in January 1993 to over 12.8 million in July 1996[1,2] and appears to be doubling in size approximately every twelve to fifteen months.[3] During the same time period, in Europe alone, the number of hosts increased from 303,828 to over 3 million.[4] Virtually anyone, anywhere, can place a Web page on the Internet.

Libraries and other information agencies have quickly joined the ranks of companies and agencies creating Web pages. An obvious reason for this interest in placing Web pages on the Internet is to communicate information about the company or agency providing the pages. This is done through the use of visual elements, such as print or photos. Pages that do not communicate the desired information because of poor page design fail in their purpose. An agency which places a Web page on the Internet does so with the assumption that the user will comprehend the content of the page and that he or she will continue through the provided links to other pages in the Web site. The design of the page can affect whether or not the user goes beyond the first page. In addition, the design of the page sends a message to the user about the organization.

The fact that anyone may place a Web page on the Internet provides ample reason for the enumeration of some perimeters based on current and relevant research. By following sound, research-based guidelines, a library or other organization can be assured that it is represented on the Web in a complimentary manner and that the pages to which it provides organized access are useful to their users. Unfortunately, little research has been done, probably due to the newness of the Web. Research has certainly been conducted on the design of television and computer screens. However, in virtually all cases the purpose of the screen being examined is very different from that of a person, agency, or company placing a home page on the Web. In many cases the research relates to screen design for education or training, but also may be for noninstructional situations (e.g., air traffic monitoring, airline arrival/departure schedules, pilot/driver navigation systems, online job aids).

Looking at existing Web sites one can find pages with many colors in various combinations, an extraordinary number of graphics having little or nothing to do with the content of the page, typefaces of every conceivable style, and layouts that would make even the most novice of graphic artists scream in horror. This exploratory study is a preliminary step to establishing a research-based set of guidelines for design of World Wide Web pages. It provides an analysis of what guidelines currently exist and compares selected parts of these guidelines with a sample of existing Web pages to determine whether or not Web page designers are currently following the published guidelines. This synthesis and comparison has implications for universities, businesses, and other agencies around the world.

Research Questions

For this study, the following research questions were posed:

1. …

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