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C2C Digital Magazine (Fall 2021 / Winter 2022)

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How to evaluate website content with a quick process

By Yu-Ping Hsu, Western Illinois University

In the Presidential Committee on Information Literacy: Final Report, it stated:

In an attempt to reduce information to easily manageable segments, most people have become dependent on others for their information. Information prepackaging in schools and through broadcast and print news media, in fact, encourages people to accept the opinions of others without much thought.  

This paper was written in 1989! However, information literacy is even more necessary now.  Why do we evaluate websites before using their information?  Evaluating internet resources to make sure they are appropriate for our need is significantly important for educators.  Many educators have mastered the advanced search features of the favorite search engine. When they are ready to locate information on the web to support their classroom or training program, educators often felt that it is not enough to locate a web site. Educators also must make sure that the website is reliable and accurate. It is tempting to only follow sites that provide information we agree with.

Figure 1.  Evaluating

This article introduces the process of website usability evaluation and uses a website evaluation tool-CRAAP, Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose which can help educators make sure a web site's content is appropriate for their learners.

The website content usability evaluation

How can we do a quick test of the website usability without doing the complex usability research?  Educators could check the website into five areas:

  • Authority
  • Purpose
  • Content
  • Educational Value
  • Information Architecture


There are millions of web sites. How does one know if the one is looking at has information that is trustworthy? There are several ways to determine the credibility of a site. First, does the site list its sources of information? A web site with NASA as a source will be more reliable than one that lists Bob's Basement Creations. Another factor is the currency of the information on the site. Is the site updated daily, weekly, or yearly? The more often the information is updated, the more reliable it will be. Finally, does the site offer contact information? It may be possible to verify information by contacting the site directly.


Many sites have current, trustworthy content. However, they may also have specific editorial, political, or social agendas that will bias the information they carry on their site. For example, a site sponsored by Planned Parenthood is likely to contain information that supports a position on abortion very different from information on a site for the Moral Majority. Also, the advertising on a site may reveal certain biases of the information the site contains. For example, a web site containing information on the benefits of gun ownership may have an advertisement from the NRA.


Learners need to access sites that have information they can use. The quality and relevance of the content of a web site is essential to determining if a web site is useful as a resource. It is important to determine whether the information contains content that will help in the quest for information. In addition, a good web site will contain links to additional resources that encourage users to seek out more information if they need it. Finally, the content needs to be appropriate to the age group that will be using the information.

Educational value

Teachers and trainers need to evaluate web sites for their educational value. They need to ask whether a source helps meet the learning and performance objectives of the class. Does the site support class assignments and activities? To be useful, the web site needs to have the appropriate depth of coverage for the class.

Information architecture

A site's information architecture should be designed to clarify the mission and vision for a site, balancing the needs of both the site's sponsor and its users. It is used to guide the content and functionality of a site. It specifies how users will find information in the site by defining its organization, navigation, labeling, and searching systems. Finally, it maps out how the site will accommodate change and growth.

Identifying Internet resources

One aspect of this class is identifying internet resources that can be integrated into teachers' teaching or training. It is important that teachers be able identify and guide learners to appropriate web sites. Internet users must go beyond finding information to being able to critically evaluate how useful and appropriate a site is in the context of the classroom.

Use the CRAPP to evaluate website content

After doing the usability test of the website, one should evaluate website resources before using them.  Evaluating website resources is a very important skill for learners of all ages. Since there is no control over the content on the web, there is a possibility that incorrect or misleading information will be passed on as fact. In addition, some web sites are designed for specific audiences. For example, the Wall Street Journal is written for professional business people and probably is not useful to a third-grade student.

Digital literacy is an essential skill for internet users. People are turning more and more to the internet for their information resources. They need to go beyond just finding information to where they can determine the quality of that information.

Not all information in websites is good information.  There are many techniques for evaluating the quality of information on a web site. Most of these center on the structure and usability of the site.  The most popular website content evaluation tool is the CRAAP Test.  See the infographic in Figure 2.  It is developed by librarians at California State University-Chico. 

People can use the checklist to evaluate a web resource or any resource. CRAAP stands for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose.  It is important to understand what information one is looking for when evaluating web sites. For educators, website evaluation needs to go beyond this to questions about the reliability and validity of the information on the site.  This process helps educators determine the credibility and relevance of their selected online resources.

Figure 2.  The CRAAP infographic

The following are examples of the questions that educators can use for the CRAAP testing:

Currency: the content time
  • When was the content published?
  • Is the content updated?
  • Is the website current?

Relevance: the importance of the content for particular needs
  • Does the content answer relevant question?
  • Has one looked at a variety of sources before determining this is the one to use?

Authority: the content credentials
  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • Is there contact information?
  • Does the URL reveal the content or source? Example: .com (commercial), .edu (educational), .gov (U.S. government), or .org (nonprofit organization)

Accuracy: the reliability and correctness of the content
  • Where does the content come from?
  • Can one verify any of the content in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?

Purpose: the reason the content was published
  • What is the purpose of the content?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?


Blakeslee, S. (2004). The CRAAP Test. LOEX Quarterly, 31(3), 4. Retrieved from

(1989, January 10). Presidential Committee on Information Literacy: Final Report. American Library Association (ALA).

Evaluating information applying the CRAAP test. Meriam Library California State University, Chico.

About the Author

Yu-Ping Hsu is an assistant professor of the IDT program in the department of Engineering Technology at Western Illinois University.  Her research interest is in the area of user interaction design approaches to learning that emphasize multimedia, collaboration, emotional responses, information visualization, universal design, and accessibility design.  

She may be reached a 

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