When we select Web resources for inclusion in the Scout Report, our fundamental criteria include:
- Information maintenance
When evaluating websites, we are concerned primarily with high-quality content. To evaluate the quality of a site's content, we ask these questions:
- What is the scope of the content?
- Who is the intended audience?
- What is its purpose?
- Is it up to date?
- Is it accurate, as far as we can determine?
The Web is a peculiarly democratic medium, allowing many people to make information available to the world. We at Internet Scout support the involvement of as broad a constituency as possible, but we also try to ascertain the authority of website creators within the subject area. Questions we consider include:
- Who is the author? This is crucial -- we rarely select anonymous pages
- Is the author likely to be authoritative, as far as we can tell
Sites don't necessarily have to be kept up to date if they are clearly labeled as archive sites. However, if a site hasn't been updated in a year and isn't specifically designated an archive, we are not likely to select it for inclusion.
As browser and HTML advances allow greater flexibility in the creation of web pages, we evaluate sites on the basis of utilitarian concerns. While flashy design is not necessarily a drawback, users must be able to make effective use of the site. Questions we consider include:
- How is the site organized
- Is it easy to navigate
- Does it depend on graphics, and if so does the provider maintain a separate, pared-down version
- Will the pages take an inordinately long time to load on machines with slow connections
- Do users need specific helper applications to take full advantage of the site
- Does the site deliver content in a well organized fashion
- Is the site pleasant to look at, stylistically and graphically
It is crucial that the links at the site (not to mention the site itself) can be reached. If some or most of them don't work, we won't select the site for inclusion. We check the main page of each site for availability at least three times in the days before the Scout Report is released.
We have no set policy on this, but we take a very critical look at for-fee sites, because payment requirements tend to discriminate against many potential users, especially those in education.