09 December 2007

Understanding the use of agricultural websites

The CGIAR ICT-KM program just launched a guide to evaluating the impact of a website.

Subtitled 'A guide for CGIAR centers to evaluate the usage, usability and usefulness of their websites,' the guide provides much useful information for other agricultural information and communication professionals. It is organized around 3 U's approach that assesses the Usage, Usability and Usefulness of a website and its content.

The guide rightly starts with planning, covering the website focus and scope, channels and packaging, access, promotion, and monitoring and evaluation. It goes into some detail on 'measuring usage', diving into web logs and what they actually show, web analytics, and trends. It shows how usability and quality can be improved by working with users and testing prototypes, and it introduces ways to assess the usefulness of a website, particularly through user surveys. Appendices discuss some problems and limitations of web log data, explain how to use Google Analytics, and give a glossary of terms.

This is a very useful - and usable - guide that helps us better understand how people view and use a web site.

Introduced as version 1.0, we look forward to a next version that would also discuss ways to track and assess emerging web 2.0 tools and approaches where content usage is often 'off-site' and very participatory. It would be interesting to explore how web sites interact with each other, and how they interact with other communication tools. More generally, it may be time to develop some benchmarks that would help us assess and position similar websites or similar-intentioned aspects of a website.


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