Audience Dialogue

Website effectiveness checklist

Though evaluation checklists can seem very rigid, they are useful (as long as you take them with a grain of salt) in ensuring that you don't overlook any aspect of what you are evaluating. Here are the 16 top-level headings of the checklist we use for website evaluation, divided into four main groups: usage, functionality, reputation-building, and improvability. The full version, with 140-odd subheadings, is available only to our clients.


Target audience are aware of the site, and visit it


Potential users know the site exists


Site is easily found (through search engines, etc.)


Site is always available, without delays


Site is visited by a reasonable percentage of its target audience


Users are easily able to perform their desired tasks


Site is easily accessible by people and computers with disabilities


Pages are free from obvious errors, in the most commonly used browsers, window sizes, and screen resolutions



1 Information design

Clear, unambiguous information architecture

2 Ease of navigation

Users have no problems finding the information they want

3 Visual design

Visual aspects of the site help users in their tasks

4 Language

Style of language used matches users’ needs and capabilities

5 Helpfulness

Site helps users perform their tasks


The site enhances the reputation of its owners


Users can easily discover site’s owners and physical address



1 Confidence-building

Inspires confidence among users

2 Content quality

High quality content, relevant to target audience

3 Up to date

Site is clearly up to date


Promises made on the site are fulfilled (including offline)


Users are offered multiple ways of contacting the organization, which responds without delay


Site effectiveness is able to be assessed, and thus improved

Stated objectives

A set of measurable objectives has been agreed

Feedback mechanisms

Content writers are regularly supplied with user statistics

Review process

Page content is regularly reviewed, and links checked

Closing the loop

A system is in place for applying feedback to improve the site

So ends the short version of our checklist. How does your site stack up? But a word of warning: just because a site meets all the criteria in the checklist, it doesn't automatically follow that the site is effective - or vice versa. One of the world's most effective websites (in business terms) is - but that site would not come out well on the above criteria. However, it has a huge audience, and because many of them use it often, they can overlook the deficiences in usability. With the scale that works on, it's very likely that they have conducted extensive research, and have shaped the site to maximize their income. But based on the research we've seen, it would not be a good idea to imitate the Amazon site for a different kind of business.