Comparative analysis of homepage website visibility and academic ranking for UK universities16 May 2015
Introduction. The pressure on universities worldwide has increased to transform themselves from isolated educational institutions to profit-generating businesses. The visibility of a Web page plays a role in attracting potential clients, as more and more young users are depending on the Web for their everyday information needs. One of the purposes of this study was to evaluate the visibility of homepages of top UK universities, and rank them. Secondly, the existence of a correlation between Website visibility ranking and academic ranking was investigated. The goal of this research was to provide a repeatable method of measuring university Website visibility, and for comparison with measurement of other institutes' Websites. Method. Website visibility elements were identified, and content investigation used to rank them according to an academic model. A scoring system was designed to cater for subjective measurements, producing a ranked list of university homepages. This was compared to an industry standard academic ranking for UK universities. Results and Analysis. Five sub-lists provided a wide span of resulting scores, combined into the final result list. In some cases it was clear that homepages were designed based on good practice (Universities of Liverpool and Cambridge), while in others little or no effort was expended to achieve a high degree of visibility. There was no correlation between the two types of ranking. Conclusions. Website visibility is a design feature often ignored in the design of university homepages in the UK, which could lead to missed opportunities. Guidelines are provided to improve this situation.