Quality analysis of the website of the cybernewspaper VilaWeb

Author: Mar Iglesias García and Cristina González Díaz (Universitat d'Alacant)
Citation:  Iglesias García, Mar; González Díaz, Cristina (2012). "Quality analysis of the website of the cybernewspaper VilaWeb ". Hipertext.net, 10, http://www.upf.edu/hipertextnet/en/numero-10/vilaweb-analisis-calidad-web-ciberdiario.html

marIglesiasGarciaCristinaGonzalezDiaz

Abstract: This article presents a quality analysis of the cybernewspaper VilaWeb, a digital native cybermedium. The study has been conducted in two different periods, applying the methodology of analysis and evaluation of digital resources devised by professor Lluís Codina. The first analysis was conducted in 2009 and the second one was conducted in 2010, after changes in structure and redesign were introduced in VilaWeb. Thus, a comparative analysis has been established between both designs and structures of the cybernewspaper. Conclusions point out to claim that this cybermedium is of excellent quality and gather both its strong and weak points, as well as a series of recommendations to improve those aspects that require so.
Keywords:
Evaluation, cybermedia, methodology of analysis, quality, web, VilaWeb
Table of contents:

1. Introduction
2. Methodology
3. Analysis
3.1 Analysis records
4. Results
5. Conclusions
6. Bibliography

 

1. Introduction

Since Internet was born, there have been many studies to evaluate the quality of hyperdocuments.[1] Their goal has mainly been to evaluate their efficacy and the quality of their contents, as well as to measure the quality of their websites in relation to communicating with the users (Evans and King, 1999; Olsina et al., 1999; Bauer and Scharl, 2000; Buenadicha et al., 2001; Jiménez Piano, 2001; Burgos and Ruiz, 2003; Hassan et al., 2004; Miranda and Bañegil, 2004; Gómez Diago, 2004; Ayuso and Martínez, 2006; Robert et al., 2006; Rovira et al., 2007; Jiménez and Ortiz, 2007; Bradshaw, 2008; Rodríguez-Martínez and Pedraza-Jiménez, 2009; Guallar and Abadal, 2009).

Among the great variety of methodological proposals to analyze the quality of hyperdocuments, the methodology of evaluation developed by professor Lluís Codina (2000a, 2000b, 2003, 2006a and 2006b) stands out and is considered a consolidated model (Merlo, 2003; Calderón, 2006: 5; Robert et al., 2006: 3). This methodology, based on information systems theory, has been tested and progressively refined through different channels. Thus, it has been used in several PhD dissertations, in research projects, and several researchers have been applying it from 2000 in different contexts, as in the evaluation analysis of BiD electronic magazine by Rodríguez Gairín (2001) or in the latest research by Castellanos Díaz (2011) on the analysis of South American cybernewspapers. Regarding its scientific reliability, this methodology has been evaluated, in its several developments phases, by being published in specialized journals and presented at scientific conferences.[2]

These are the reasons why this methodology has been chosen to apply it to VilaWeb, the first online-born newspaper in Spain (Díaz Noci and Meso, 1999; Graells and Vives, 2001; Iglesias, 2002, Díaz Noci, 2004; López García, 2008) that has become a referent in the world of digital information (Corominas and De Moragas, 2000; Masip, 2002; López, 2002; Almirón, 2006, Iglesias, 2010). This study is included within the frame of a wider research that offers an in-depth analysis of VilaWeb since it appeared in 1995.[3]

 

2. Methodology

The methodology used is a demanding one, and includes organization, representation and access to information, as well as ergonomics and adaptation to the digital medium. The three basic components of the methodology used are parameters, indicators and procedures.

The purpose of the set of parameters and indicators presented by Codina (2006b: 2) is to contribute quality criteria for web spaces or publications that revolve around the social and cultural world in its widest sense: mass media websites, university websites, online publications on culture and science, museum websites, administration websites, and so on. That is to say, the focus is on websites whose main function is to provide access to information.

The first step is to know what we want to evaluate and to make a list of parameters. Once that list of parameters is done, we must decide a way to measure them. This is where the indicators come in, as in answering the question: "how to evaluate the parameter?", and a procedure is established to know whether the parameter is fulfilled or not.

The parameters are grouped in sections by functional affinity, to facilitate the analysis. In this methodology, four sections are proposed:

I. Content. Includes aspects about the source and the individual or collective, personal or corporate authorship of the cybermedium.

II. Access to information. Examines the organization and structure aspects of the publication, the information architecture.

III. Visibility. Regards aspects of the presence of this cybermedium within the global Internet context.

IV. Usability. Determines the ease of use of those options involving any kind of activity, such as participating in forums.

Each of these sections has a series of parameters, with their corresponding indicators determining quality, and different elements might be found on each indicator. In the methodology provided by Codina (2006a: 9) the following components are provided for each indicator:

Name of the indicator

Definition

Presentation of the indicator. Non ambiguous description of the indicator

Examination

Review questions to take decisions on the quality of the indicator.

Explanations/ examples

Examples of cybermedia helping to understand how to evaluate the indicator.

 

Procedure/source of information

Orientations on the advisable operations to proceed to the evaluation and the main source of information for the indicator.

Score     

 

The rating sale for the indicator. A rating system 0-1 establishes a binary scale (good/bad) rating whether an element is or is not fulfilled.

But if a 0-3 rating system is recommended, it means it is able to distinguish between bad fulfilment (0); limited fulfilment (1); notable fulfilment (2), and excellent fulfilment (3).

Table 1. Components of each indicator. Source: Adapted from Codina (2006a).

Next table shows the whole set of parameters and indicators applied to VilaWeb (see table 2). As Luis Codina (2006b: 1) indicates, it is not necessary to apply them all in every circumstance, but surely they do represent most of the useful indicators to evaluate the quality of a hyperdocument focused on providing information.

Parameter

Indicator                          Possible score

Section I. Content
           1. Source/authorship

1.1. Authorship

0-3

 

1.2. Adequacy

0-1

 

1.3. Communication

0-1

2. Content

2.1. Subject/audience/goals

0-1

 

2.2. Intrinsic interest

0-1

 

2.3. Originality/opportunity

0-3

 

2.4. Editorial policy

0-1

 

2.5. Quantity

0-3

 

2.6. Rigor

0-3

 

2.7. Edition

0-3

 

2.8. Update

0-3

 

2.9. Multimedia resources

0-3

 

2.10. Interactive resources

0-3

 

2.11. Archive

0-3

Section II.
         3. Navigation, retrieval

3.1. Main navigation

0-1

 

3.2. Expressiveness

0-3

 

3.3. Identification

0-1

 

3.4. Sequential path

0-3

 

3.5. Structural navigation

0-3

 

3.6. Orientation

0-3

 

3.7. Hierarchy

0-3

 

3.8. Local tables of contents

0-1

 

3.9. Index

0-3

 

3.10. Semantic navigation

0-3

 

3.11. Tagging system

0-3

 

3.12. Information retrieval

0-3

 

3.13. Advanced search

0-3

 

3.14. Documentary language

0-3

4. Ergonomics

4.1. Ease

0-3

 

4.2. Flexibility

0-3

 

4.3. Clarity

0-3

 

4.4. Legibility

0-3

 

4.5. Multimedia resources

0-3

 

4.6. Speed

0-3

Section III. Visibility
                      5. Luminosity

5.1. Links

0-3

 

5.2. Linking context

0-3

 

5.3. Anticipation

0-3

 

5.4. Opportunity

0-3

 

5.5. Quality

0-3

 

5.6. Update

0-3

 

5.7. Treatment

0-3

6. Ubiquity

6.1. Title

0-2

 

6.2. Transparency

0-3

 

6.3. Meta-information

0-2

 

6.4. Dublin Core

0-1

 

6.5. Popularity

0-3

Section IV. Usability
                      7. Processes

7.1. Status vision

0-3

 

7.2. Conventions

0-3

8. Errors

8.1. Undo actions

0-1

 

8.2. Messages

0-1

 

8.3. Consequences

0-1

9. Adaptation

9.1. Adaptation

0-3

 

9.2. Redundancy

0-3

 

9.3. Access

0-3

 

9.4. Policy

0-3

Table 2. Parameters and indicators to analyze. Source: Adapted from Codina (2006b).

The study has been conducted in two different periods. The first analysis corresponds to the cybernewspaper in 2009, in the months of May and June (see figure 1). The second analysis has been conducted during those same months of 2010, after the changes in image and structure introduced in VilaWeb (see figure 1).[4]

Iglesias_figura1Iglesias_figura2

A total of 9 different parameters with 55 indicators have been applied. The analysis has been conducted following the order of the previous list (table 2). In the first period studied (2009), the whole hyperdocument was analyzed directly on the Internet, and samples were retrieved every day, with WebCopier[5] software for further checking. The same procedure was followed in 2010. Thus, a comparative analysis has been done between the two images and structures of VilaWeb.

 

3. Analysis

Professor Codina (2006a: 11) suggests a first phase of identification of the hyperdocument. The authorship section is thoroughly examined. The result is an identification record of the publication, as shown below (table 3).

Identification record

 

Title and URL

Diario Electrónico Independiente VilaWeb  http://www.vilaweb.cat

Subject and goals of the cybermedium

General information newspaper in Catalan

Target audience

Aimed at the Catalan-speaking community

Source (author, editorial)

Partal, Maresma i Associats

Starting date

May 1995

Table 3. Identification record of VilaWeb. Source: Elaborated by the authors

A second phase involves the scrutiny of each of the indicators, following the same order as in the table of parameters and indicators. In this phase, notes are taken following the methodology indications. The results are the analysis and conclusions records.

 

3.1 Analysis records

Following empirical evidence, Codina (2006b: 48) recommends assigning 0 to 3 points to each indicator, according to how each one of them adapts to an ideal situation,  except those indicators that, because of their binary nature (are fulfilled or not fulfilled) should be rated 1 if fulfilled and 0 if not. Regarding the indicators going from 0 to 3, it is advised to interpret 0 as a serious mistake, 1 as a mistake, 2 as correct but to be improved, and 3 as excellent.

As the analysis has been conducted at two different times, but applied to the same cybermedium, the records include the differences corresponding to each of the periods studied. Thus, the scores of each of the analyzed hyperdocuments have been indicated and so have been the detected differences, at the end of each record. Due to limitations of space, the 55 analysis records cannot not been presented, so two indicators are showed next as an example.

The first indicator is from the first section (I. Content) and corresponds to the content analysis of the hyperdocument, which also includes aspects regarding the source and authorship of the cybermedium. The goal is to evaluate if authorship can be clearly identified and whether the source is reliable. Next, the record of the first indicator is shown (table 4), as well as the figures illustrating the analysis.

Indicator 1.1 Authorship

Definition

Intellectual responsibility of the cybermedium and identification of the person or organism responsible for publishing the cybermedium in its current form.

Examination

Are intellectual responsibility and/or the data regarding the responsible person or organism well-defined? In this case, is there a detailed indication of the publication or website staff: editor, editorial board, advisory board, etc? Is there information on the headquarters: postal address, telephone, email, etc?

 

Examples

Example of good practice: the authorship statement, as in Corporate Watch (http://www.corpwatch.org)

Procedure/source of information

The data on authorship are found at the bottom of the home page. Regarding alternative (or supplementary) sources, places and databases informing on the ownership of domains, the information from Alexa (www.alexa.com) and what is provided by Whois Source (www.whois.sc) are the same data we find in VilaWeb.

2009 Results:

 

This information is found on the home page of VilaWeb and is Partal, Maresma i Associats. It is found in the main website and also in the secondary websites (figure 3). There is no detailed indication of the staff of the publication.

2010 Results:

 

This information is also found in the home page of VilaWeb (figure 4). After the changes in layout and structure, a detailed indication of the staff can be found at http://www.vilaweb.cat/quisom (figure 5).

Scores     0-3                                                                            

2009:  2 (There is no detailed indication of the staff)

 

2010:  3 (There is a detailed indication of the staff)

Table 4. Record of the Authorship indicator on VilaWeb. Source: Elaborated by the authors


Iglesias_figura3

Figure 2: 2009. Final fragment of the home page, showing the authorship data of VilaWeb

 

Iglesias_figura3

Figure 3: 2010. Final fragment of the home page, showing the authorship data of VilaWeb

 

Iglesias_figura4

Figure 4: 2010. Fragment of http://www.vilaweb.cat/quisom with a detailed staff description of VilaWeb

 

Next table shows the record of the first indicator about the main navigaton of VilaWeb (table 5) included in the second section (II. Access to information). This record analyzes aspects of organization and structure.  

3.1 Main navigation (table of contents)

Definition

Main navigation of the cybermedium

Examination

Does the publication have a characteristic main navigation presenting a vision/table of contents or main sections of the site?

Examples

www.dlib.org

Procedure/source of information

Examination of the home page of the cybermedium. The main navigation must be present in the home page. It can occupy most of it or might as well be present as a navigation bar in the upper part, on the left or on the right.

2009 Results:

VilaWeb has a characteristic navigation with a table of contents including the main sections. The home page has a horizontal navigation bar in the upper part, and also a scroll-down menu with general content.

2010 Results:

The horizontal menu is gone in the home page of the website and it has been replaced with a scroll-down mouseover menu. The text of the menu is no longer in sight, so it loses general visibility.

Scores    0-1

 2009:   1 (The navigation war is a menu of visible text)

 

 2010:   0 (The menu is only visible following a mouseover movement)

 

Table 5. Record of the Main navigation (table of contents) indicator on VilaWeb. Source: Elaborated by the author.

 

Iglesias_figura6

Figure 5. 2009. Textual horizontal drop-down menu

 

Iglesias_figura6a

Figure 6. 2010. Drop-down mouseover menu

 

4. Results

 

Following the methodology from professor Codina, the global score is obtained by dividing the totality of points by the number of indicators applied (Codina, 2006b: 48). Therefore, if the best possible score was obtained (139 points), the maximum value in the scale of a hyperdocument fulfilling all indicators applied (55) would be 2.52. Thus, the qualitative translation applied to the quantitative data obtained in the evaluation would go from 0 (minimum value) to 2.52 (maximum value), among which it should be specified that, from 0 to 0.63, quality would be regarded as bad, from 0.64 to 1.26, quality would be regular, from 1.27 to 1.89, quality would be good and from 1.90 to 2.52, quality would be excellent.

Next table shows how results were noted down and data was re-counted (table 6).

Parameter

Indicator  Possible score                                Posible puntuación

2009 score

2010 score

Section I. Content      1.Fuente/autoría

1.1. Authorship

0-3

2

3

 

1.2. Adequacy

0-1

1

1

 

1.3. Communication

0-1

1

1

2. Content

2.1. Subject/audience/goals

0-1

1

1

 

2.2. Intrinsic interest

0-1

1

1

 

2.3. Originality/opportunity

0-3

3

3

 

2.4. Editorial policy

0-1

1

1

 

2.5. Quantity

0-3

3

3

 

2.6. Rigor

0-3

3

3

 

2.7. Edition

0-3

3

3

 

2.8. Update

0-3

3

3

 

2.9. Multimedia resources

0-3

3

3

 

2.10. Interactive resources

0-3

3

3

 

2.11. Archive

0-3

3

3

 

Total score of content

32

31

32

Section II.3. Navigation recuperación

3.1. Main navigation

0-1

1

0

 

3.2. Expressiveness

0-3

3

2

 

3.3. Identification

0-1

1

1

 

3.4. Sequential path

0-3

3

2

 

3.5. Structural navigation

0-3

2

3

 

3.6. Orientation

0-3

1

1

 

3.7. Hierarchy

0-3

3

3

 

3.8. Local tables of contents

0-1

1

1

 

3.9. Index

0-3

2

2

 

3.10. Semantic navigation

0-3

3

3

 

3.11. Tagging system

0-3

3

3

 

3.12. Information retrieval

0-3

3

3

 

3.13. Advanced search

0-3

2

2

 

3.14. Documentary language

0-3

3

3

 

Total score of navigation

36

31

29

4. Ergonomics

4.1. Ease                      

0-3

3

3

 

4.2. Flexibility

0-3

3

3

 

4.3. Clarity

0-3

3

3

 

4.4. Legibility

0-3

3

3

 

4.5. Multimedia resources

0-3

2

3

 

4.6. Speed

0-3

2

3

 

Total score of ergonomics

18

16

18

Section III.
                     5. Luminosity

5.1. Links

0-3

3

3

 

5.2. Linking context

0-3

3

3

 

5.3. Anticipation

0-3

3

3

 

5.4. Opportunity

0-3

3

3

 

5.5. Quality

0-3

3

3

 

5.6. Update

0-3

3

3

 

5.7. Treatment

0-3

3

3

 

Total score of luminosity

21

21

21

6. Ubiquity

6.1. Title

0-2

1

2

 

6.2. Transparency

0-3

3

3

 

6.3. Meta-information

0-2

1

2

 

6.4. Dublin Core

0-1

0

0

 

6.5. Popularity

0-3

3

3

 

Total score of ubiquity

11

8

10

Section IV. Usability       
                      7. Processes

7.1. Status vision

0-3

3

3

 

7.2. Conventions

0-3

3

3

8. Errors

8.1. Undo actions

0-1

1

1

 

8.2. Messages

0-1

1

1

 

8.3. Consequences

0-1

1

1

9. Adaptation

9.1. Adaptation

0-3

1

1

 

9.2. Redundancy

0-3

3

3

 

9.3. Access

0-3

3

3

 

9.4. Policy

0-3

3

3

 

Total score of usability

21

19

19

                                                  Total score that could be obtained : 139

 

Total amount for 2009 indicators: 126 

 

Total amount for 2010 indicators: 129 

Global score that could be obtained (total score/number of indicators) 139/55               2.52                                  2.29

Global score 2009: (global score/number of indicators) 126/55                                                 2.29

Global score 2010: (global score/number of indicators) 129/55                                                 2.34







Table 6. Comparative record of the VilaWeb analyses in 2009 and 2010. The data shadowed in green show the total score of each section, the data shadowed in orange correspond to the indicators whose score has decreased after redesign, whereas the blue shadowing shows the data that have increased. Source: Elaborated by the authors

 

5. Conclusions

After the thorough analyses conducted, VilaWeb has obtained a high score both in the two periods analyzed. Following the methodology chosen (Codina, 2006b: 49), a series of conclusions can be drawn and some recommendations made for the weaker parts. Firstly, the record with the conclusions from 2009 is presented (table 7), followed by the conclusions from the 2010 analysis (table 8).

Conclusions from the 2009 analysis

1. Strong points: VilaWeb has obtained the highest score in all the parameters of the content section. The strong points of this hyperdocument are content updates and clarity, among others, as well as interactive resources. In the visibility section, VilaWeb obtains the highest score in all indicators except title and meta-information, but these faults are easy to solve. Thus, it is observed this is a well-established cybermedium fulfilling the requirements demanded in the indicators of this methodology.

2. Weak points: Some faults in structural navigation and orientation have been detected. This problem might be aggravated by a previous change of interface that, because it was not homogeneous, has caused differences in the navigation of some sections of VilaWeb. Besides, it is not possible to make advanced searches and it should present a more integrated use of audiovisual files. Regarding visibility, some faults have been observed, as the HEAD element in VilaWeb only containing the basic <title> tag. There are no tags such as <author>, <keywords> and <description> and no tags with Dublin Core meta-information.

Global assessment

Excellent (2.29)

Evaluation dates on 2009

May and June 2009

Table 7. Record with the strong and weak points from the 2009 analysis. Source: Elaborated by the authors

Conclusions from the 2010 analysis

1. Strong points: After the changes in structure and image, the content part is still VilaWeb's strongest point. Besides, the identification of authorship and sections and the speed have improved, as well as the use of multimedia resources, with VilaWeb TV being more integrated into the cybernewspaper as a whole. It is also remarkable the use of interactive resources, since users might be able to participate in Facebook and Twitter besides linked surveys and forums.     

2. Weak points: The problems in structural navigation and orientation remain, because the scroll-down menu is not always visible. Regarding visibility, albeit improved, most of the Dublin Core meta-information tags do not appear.

Global assessment

Excellent (2.34)

Evaluation dates on 2010

May and June 2010

Table 8. Record of strong and weak points in the 2010 analysis. Source: Elaborated by the authors

 

The score obtained in both cases indicates that this hyperdocument is of excellent quality and that the changes in image and structure have slightly improved it. Thus, VilaWeb has the content part as a strong point; this is the part showing best scores, and the identification of authorship and sections and the speed, as well as the use of multimedia resources, have improved. Nonetheless, some structural navigation and orientation problems remain, because the menu is not always visible (although it can be scrolled-down with a mouseover movement).

Next table provides with recommendations to improve the hyperdocument (table 9).

 

Recommendations

1. Regarding structural navigation, the main menu should be visible at all times. This would make navigation easier without having to roll the mouse over the menu.

2. Regarding the orientation and tagging system, a breadcrumbs system should be adopted to indicate the path the user has been following up to the current point, so coming back to any of the previous levels is always possible with just one click.

3. Although the VilaWeb browser makes different searches also sorted out by date, there should be a part allowing for advanced searches.

4. The weakest point of VilaWeb is the lack of meta-information in its source code. All the codes proposed by Dublin Core should be applied.

Table 9. Recommendations record. Source: Elaborated by the authors

 

The in-depth analysis of VilaWeb following the methodology by professor Codina (2006a and 2006b) shows it is a quality hyperdocument that obtains a very high score. The changes to improve the parts wherein scores are lower are not difficult to solve, so it is recommended implementing them in future redesigns of the cybernewspaper.

 

 

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Notes



[1] The term hyperdocument comes from contracting "hypertextual document". It is a complex digital document, formed by a collection of elements, following an internal composition and to be read or visualized in a non sequential way. It is an ordered and coherent collection of nodes and links (Díaz Noci, 2004). It is also called 'website' (Aguillo, 2000: 238)

[2] This line of work has been further developed and expanded by professor Codina (Rodríguez-Martínez et al., 2010 y 2012) within the R+D project "La evolución de los cibermedios en el marco de la convergencia digital. Análisis del mensaje" [Evolution of cybermedia within the frame of digital convergence]. Analysis of the message], attached to the coordinated project "Evolución de los cibermedios en el marco de la convergencia digital", [Evolution of cybermedia within the frame of digital convergence] funded by the Spanish Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (2010 - 2012).

[3] The whole research is based on the case study, with the purpose of obtaining the necessary data to make a global analysis of the cybermedium (Iglesias, 2010). The participant observant methodology is used for data gathering, in-depth interviews, and the quality of the hyperdocument is evaluated as described in the present article.

[4] The new design of VilaWeb first appeared publicly on 24 November 2009, and meant a change for the previous internal and external structure of the cybernewspaper. The new format, designed by the studio of América Sánchez, discards the vertical orientation to be found in most cybernewspapers (Larrondo, 2007) and is structured around horizontal blocks, to be visualized as a space occupying the whole screen. Thus, it becomes detached to the formal characteristics similar in many cybernewspapers and assumes an identity of its own.

[5] WebCopier is a program that allows downloading complete websites to see them offline. This tool is able to simultaneously download up to a hundred files, supports JavaScript, Java Classes and Macromedia Flash, and searches between links, so it is also able to download adjacent websites.

 

 

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