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					                             Web Site Appraisal:

  Google vs. Yahoo!



Jeffrey E. Collins  BiblioTech  The University of Arizona  November 2006
                                                                          Web Site Appraisal 2

Introduction


It goes without saying that there are a multitude of Web sites on the Internet. What may be a
little less obvious to the untrained eye is the preponderance of poorly designed, inefficient, or
nonfunctional Web sites. This white paper will briefly discuss general criteria for evaluation of a
Web site by focusing on two Internet search engines, Google (www.google.com) and Yahoo!
(www.yahoo.com), as illustrative case studies. This evaluation will then allow you to establish
an effective and user-friendly Web site. This white paper may come in handy for SIRLS
students as they develop their professional ePortfolios.


The content of a Web site is the most important predicator of value. However, there are also
several other key factors in determining whether a site will be successful in accomplishing its
goals. These include usability, design, consistency, navigation, and simplicity. The analysis of
Google in comparison to Yahoo! contributes much to the understanding of what makes an
effective Web site.


Web Site Evaluation Criteria


The design of a Web site benefits from the studies of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). HCI
is the academic discipline that investigates the interface between humans and computers. As a
result, certain aspects of HCI, such as the organization of information, information architecture,
and the management of information are all critical components of the design process. The
usability of resources and the design of the interface are increasingly important as well (Head,
2000). The most important considerations for the evaluation of Web sites include design,
content, and navigation. However, other useful concepts deal with accessibility,
graphics/text/color and backgrounds, and search capabilities.


High-quality Web sites have certain traits in common. Most important among these is the
content of the site. A site that features useful content generally attracts users, regardless of
how well or how poorly it is designed. In developing your Web site, it is critical that you are
aware of the purpose, tasks, environment, and available technology of the potential user, in
order to attract the user and better meet their needs. Understanding and implementing these



                 Jeffrey E. Collins – University of Arizona – November 2006
                                                                            Web Site Appraisal 3

tools will enable you to create a valuable Web site that will, in turn, enhance your business
capabilities.


The following is a brief list of some of the more common components of effective Web site
design and user interface:
       Content (the most important aspect of the Web site)
       Usability (how easy is the interface to use)
       Simplicity (easy for the user)
       Advertisements (best option is to have no advertisements)
       Cross platform design (different users have different forms of technology and computer
        settings such as fonts and screen resolution)
       Consistency (ensure all pages are similar)
       Response times (the quicker the better)
       Navigation (ensure that it is easy for the user to move around on the site)


Google vs. Yahoo!


Two popular Web sites that offer insight into how a site should be developed are Yahoo! and
Google. Each of these sites serves similar functions and share many comparable
characteristics. However, despite these similarities, Google is a better example of a well-
designed and useful Web site for a multitude of reasons, which shall be discussed in detail.


Interface, Design, and Layout


The most obvious difference between these two Web sites is the interface, layout, and design
of the pages. Google offers a very clean and simplistic interface, whereas Yahoo!’s is busy and
cluttered. Simplicity is one of the best estimators of whether a Web site is aesthetically
pleasing, and a simple design should always be used to avoid complexity and confusion to the
user. When a user is not bombarded with excessive text and images, they will feel more at
ease and comfortable while using your Web site. Ultimately, a simplified interface means that
the Web site will be accessible to all types of people with different skill levels, thus increasing
the potential for a significant user return.



                 Jeffrey E. Collins – University of Arizona – November 2006
                                                                            Web Site Appraisal 4



Another key aspect of design and usability is defining or understanding the purpose of the Web
site. Due to the simplistic nature of the Google Web site, it is quickly apparent to the user that
the purpose of the site is for searching. The user is immediately drawn to the center of the
screen where information about the Web site is readily available. In stark contrast, Yahoo!’s
home page is a jumbled mess. It can be unclear to the user what the main purpose of the
Yahoo! main site is. In addition to a search bar at the top of the site, there are also multiple
boxes of information and advertisements, as well as a multitude of links to other Yahoo!-related
sites such as email and music. This, in effect, means more information has to be passed over
the Internet, resulting in slower response times for the site. A key indicator of a useful Web
site is one that is not only easy to use, but also clearly states the purpose of the site, a type of
digital affordance for the Web site. Google accomplishes this in both its design and its layout.


The use of white space in a Web site is also an important facet of usability. Typically, content
should make up fifty to eighty percent of the site’s design (Nielsen, 2000). Google reverses this
trend by utilizing white or empty space for the majority of its home page. As a result, Google
succeeds in creating a clean interface that quickly allows the user to understand the purpose of
the site. In comparison, Yahoo! devotes very little empty or white space to the site. The
consequence is a poor design interface and an overall unclear purpose for the Web site.


Advertisements


Advertising is a necessary feature of many Web sites. However, most users see advertisements
as a nuisance. As such, it is important to avoid advertisements as much as possible. This is
especially true of any large visual advertisements and especially pop-up advertisements. Both
Google and Yahoo! utilize text-based and low-intrusion advertisements when a search is
initiated. However, Yahoo! makes use of several other types of visual advertisements through
its Web site, which ultimately do not reflect the needs of the user. Advertising should not be an
issue for the student’s professional ePortfolio.




                 Jeffrey E. Collins – University of Arizona – November 2006
                                                                          Web Site Appraisal 5

Consistency


Consistency is a significant element of Web site design. Although both Yahoo! and Google offer
many of the same features (email, news, and search), the internal pages of each respective
Web site are drastically different. Google continues with its theme of clean interface throughout
every one of its Web pages. This has the effect of uniformity and consistency. Yahoo!, on the
other hand, has drastically different pages in its Web site. For example, Yahoo! Autos looks
completely different than Yahoo! Music or Yahoo! News. Each channel maintains a link to the
main Web site, but ultimately, there is little consistency within the Yahoo! Web site.


Navigation and Usability


A final element of successful Web site design is the navigation and usability of the Web site.
When designing a site, it is essential to create pages that can be viewed by multiple users with
access to multiple technologies. Not everyone has the same size monitor, not everyone uses
the same Internet browser, and not everyone utilizes the same font type or size. Thus, it is
imperative that one keeps the user in mind in developing a functional Web site that can be
accessed and used by all. Finding your way through a Web site should be relatively easy to do.
Utilize devices such as breadcrumb trails (strings of text), headers or footers, and tabbed
browsing to further alleviate the confusion of navigating a Web site. Some of these devices
may not be available utilizing Drupal for the student’s ePortfolio.


Conclusion


Designing an effective Web site can be a daunting task. However, if one follows the tenants
and principles outlined here, a successful Web site can be developed. By comparing two similar
sites (Google and Yahoo!), valuable insight is gained into effective Web site design. Most
importantly, provide valuable content, utilize a clean interface and layout, and keep the user in
mind. For students, creating an ePortfolio can be a daunting task. Utilizing a few of these
guidelines will, hopefully enable the student to create a thorough and effective ePortfolio.




                 Jeffrey E. Collins – University of Arizona – November 2006
                                                                         Web Site Appraisal 6

Resources



Head, A. J. (2000). Design Wise: A Guide for Evaluating the Interface Design of Information

       Resources. New Jersey: Cyber Age Books.


Nielsen, J. (2000). Designing Web Usability. Indianapolis: New Riders Publishing.


SIRLS ePortfolio Web site. http://eportfolio.sbs.arizona.edu/drupal/


SIRLS ePortfolio Web site competencies. http://eportfolio.sbs.arizona.edu/node/87


SIRLS ePortfolio Web site reflections. http://eportfolio.sbs.arizona.edu/node/70




                Jeffrey E. Collins – University of Arizona – November 2006