Austin Community College Webs

find a federal government-related website and review it
critically, kind of like you would do with a book review. By “federal government”, I mean any site that
originates from the federal government or interacts with the federal government. For example, sites
dealing with interest groups, political parties, think-tanks, political organizations, etc.would be fine as long
as they are not directed at the “state-level”. As part of your critique, let me know if the site has good
information, if you found it useful, if you would recommend it

Example Below:

WEBSITE CRITIQUE OF http://www.fda.gov/ “Welcome to Internet FDA”

The “Welcome to the Internet FDA” website has numerous positive and negative factors in it’s access, design, and content. To simplify the reading of this critique I have broken down each into separate areas and listed pros/cons for each item.

Access (Pros & Cons):

Pros:

v Site opens quickly even though it contains complex tables and graphs

v Home page is intuitive – common sense oriented and easily takes the computer user where they need or want to go

v Home page of Site does not require a large amount of modem space to load and use

v No messages seen about needing to load special programs to run. My PC utilizes Internet Explorer 5.0 browser and I was able to access all links/information with ease

v Nice bonuses: Site has “text only” areas if you prefer and table of contents is broken down into concise detailed areas both for the professional and the general public

Cons:

v Some links load slowly due to extensive graphics, such as the Department of Veterinary Medicine (DVM). Computers with less than 56K modem would have difficulty loading this page. This page has large graphics but little text on cover.

v Links within text are provided but they tend to lead to areas that ask for more information before transferring the user to another link/index table. Time consuming to say the least. Discovered this upon checking out the link for “radiation emitting products”, since this might be a link of interest to the general public. This link led to another index with more links that finally took me to another index which provided technical information that could be understood by professionals in that career area but probably not by general public

v No clear essential instructions provided before links and/or interactive portions

Design (Pros & Cons):

Pros:

v For the Professional working in the medical/food/cosmetic/animal industry (such as yours truly) the design of this Site is excellent. Offers an index to the pages utilized most by these professionals (Foods, Human Drugs, Biologics, Animal Drugs, Cosmetics, Medical Devices/Radiological Health, Toxicology Research, MedWatch and Department of Health/Human Services)

v For the general public there is a “Special Information” index which is easy to use, however it is located at the bottom of the Home Page and could easily be missed

v Women’s link off home page is concise and easy to read. Has a short, descriptive title and informative bulleted points.

v “KIDS” link is fun and appropriate for children of all ages. Teaches about pros/cons of things such as smoking, drugs, etc. Offers learning activities in the form of puzzles and games. Loads fast and has bright colorful “kid friendly” links such as The Yorick. The Yorick is a Bionic Skeleton, which teaches children (and adults) about Bionics and artificial body parts and/or devices. It catches the viewer’s attention by using a skeleton with cool glasses on and a catchy title underneath the picture saying “Meet Yorick.” This caught my eye right away and intrigued me enough to further explore the link. In addition the KIDS link offers good advice about owning/caring for a pet along with a quiz to take prior to obtaining a pet. I could go on and on about the fun design of this link, suffice to say it was my favorite and a definite plus for the website as a whole.

v Most of the links/pages designed to incorporate ease of reading and simple concise directions to links/pages with more information.

v Pages/Documents are designed to provide adequate links and information thereby minimizing “back/forward” navigation for information.

v Site offers a “Survey” to allow users to make suggestions and answer “yes/no” questions about site and possible improvements.

Cons:

v Home page has a lot of wasted space. Over 1/3 of the page is wasted with empty space and requires the user to scroll down extensively for information/links.

v There doesn’t appear to be cohesiveness between pages in the website. No two pages are designed the same.

v Pages are formatted differently which might be confusing for the general public to use.

v One of the links reviewed, “radiation emitting products” was complex and hard to understand. I picked this link because this might be something the general public would have interest in. The first link led to another index with more links, which finally took me to another index supplying technical information that the general public might not understand. FDA needs to break down their links into two areas upon accessing, an area for the “professional user” and one for the “general public”. This would help lessen the frustration I experienced in the preceding example.

Content (Pros & Cons):

Pros:

v Most of the pages are easy to read and understand

v Home page offers a “Contact Us” index tab which links into an extensive and detailed list of contacts within the FDA. Very helpful and informative.

v The mission statement or description under the “About FDA” area on Home Page is clear, concise and informative. Gives history of FDA and its objectives.

v Contents and links are suitable to the overall anticipated audience.

v Sites do not link into other “questionable” sites.

v No dead-links or out-of-date links seen. Spelling and grammar are correct on all pages reviewed.

v Date of Site Updates found in all footers/headers except those listed under “Cons.”

Cons:

v Date of Site Updates not found or clearly seen in: Department of Veterinary Medicine, Human Drugs (there was a date of 10-22-00, but no specifics as to what this date meant), and Devices & Radiological Health (did not find update information until I tested the “site map” link and found it there, was not on cover page)

v Jargon is used which might make it harder for the general public to understand site information. The “About FDA” page offers an “acronyms & abbreviations” section, however no dictionary provided for unfamiliar terms for general public (i.e., Adverse Drug Reactions).

v FDA overview pages are wordy and over-informative. Might be confusing for the general public and lead them to missing a valuable link to information they are searching for.

SUMMARY:

Overall I enjoyed my perusal of the website www.fda.gov/ “Welcome to Internet FDA.” I found a large amount of information and surprises along the way during my “journey.” Such as the KIDS link, which offered valuable education delivered in an appealing way for children. Most of the pages are easy to navigate. Downfall is, many of the pages are geared to the Professional and NOT the General Public. If I were allowed to make revisions to this Site, my first would be to separate out the links into “Professional (along with a list of Professions)” and “General Public” and go from there into other areas. I think this would minimize the amount of time spent in the website and make any time spent pleasant and productive for all users. Bottom line: Kudos to the FDA for creating a fun and informative site. I think some visitors will be pleasantly surprised when visiting this site. It is not your typical anal-retentive government agency site, but mostly colorful, fun and informative.

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