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Questions for Selectors for BEOnline+

In addition to ensuring that the content of online resources for which the Library provides links from its OPAC or web pages meets the selection criteria laid out in LC's Collections Policy Statements, selectors need to mindful of some important distinctions between print and Internet publishing. Foremost among these disctinctions is the fact that most free resources on the web have not gone through the traditional editorial review process associated with print publications, a situation which may adversely affect both the substance and the presentation of the information on the web site. Further, the technologies used to create and mount the site may enhance it, or alternatively obscure its content (or lack thereof), or impede its accessibility by those having low-end machines, slow connections, or text-only browsers. In addition, the ease with which resources may be placed, modified, linked to, or removed on the Internet raises issues of permanence, maintenance, and intellectual property rights that may also need to be considered. The questions below are designed to help selectors focus on some of these issues when evaluating a resource for BEOnline Plus.

For sources of information on best practices for web site design, see Web Design References from the University of Minnesota and Usability.gov.

Accessibility

  • Is access to the site free? If some parts of the site require a fee, is there a substantial amount of free information available on the site?
  • Are there any restrictions on the use of the site stated that would impact on selection of the site?
  • Is the web site's server reliable, and generally available?
  • Is the site "graphics" heavy?
  • Does it take a long time for the site to load?
  • If the site uses multimedia, including graphics, sound, video, etc., do these elements enhance the site rather than being distracting?
  • If plug-ins are required to use features of the site, are links to sources for the plug-ins provided?
    Could the site be used by those having low-end equipment or text-only browsers?
            For example, is there a link to a text-only page, or for .pdf files, a link to Acrobat's accessibility page, http://access.adobe.com/?
  • If registration is required, does the need for registration seem appropriate and does the site include a privacy policy regarding the information collected?

Authority

  • Does the site make clear the individual or group responsible for the resource(s) presented on the site?
    Is this individual or group a recognized authority on the topic of the site?
  • Is there a copyright statement on the site?
  • Does the producer of the web site have the legal right to put this material on the web? If it appears that the web site producer does not own the intellectual property rights for the material presented, is there a statement that the material is posted with permission and the source of the material given?
  • If the site is maintained by an organization, particularly one not widely known, does it include information about the history and purpose of the organization?
  • Does the site include contact information (including a postal address and telephone number, as well as email address) so that users may report problems, ask questions about or verify the information presented on the site?

Content

  • Does the site include a statement about what is available on the site?
  • Is the site free from obvious biases in the information presented, or if a particular view is advocated, is that focus made clear?
  • Is the intended audience clear?
  • Is the site "complete"?
    Does the coverage seem appropriate for the stated coverage and intended audience? Is much of the site still "under construction"?
  • Does the quality and depth of the material presented on this site compare favorably with that available from other print and electronic resources?
  • Does the site make effective use of the web as a medium to enhance the information presented?
  • Is there a date on the page indicating when it was created or last updated?
  • Is the site current? Is the frequency of updating suitable for the subject covered?
  • Does the site maintain an archive of earlier versions?
  • Does it offer unique information, rather than primarily listing links to other resources?
    In the latter instance, care should be taken not to select multiple resources each listing essentially the same links, if those resources do not have additional value-added features.
  • If the site includes a list of other Internet sites on the topic, in a random check of some of those links, are the links current, or do you get frequent "404" messages that the sites cannot be found?

User Interface/Navigability

  • Is the site free from errors in spelling and grammar?
  • Does the site have a "search this site" or "site index" option?
  • Does the site include a "help" feature?
  • Does the site follow accepted design principles?
Last reviewed November 2010.
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  July 31, 2012
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