Chapter 5: Pathway Pages and Content Analysis

Many of the ways to identify pathway pages and their effectiveness can by accomplished by doing a content analysis of a website. A useful method for organizing a content analysis is to divide the analysis into three sections. These sections will help clarify how friendly the site is to visitors.

The first section of a content analysis is the objective data. This is where properties such as page lengths, date ranges and the number of steps necessary for a visitor to find information are identified. As noted by Redish, “site visitors hunt first” (90), and they “don’t want to read while hunting.” (90) Therefore, it is important to identify how long it takes to find information, how much information a visitor much plow through, and how many steps are involved in answering visitors’ common questions.

The second section is the subjective data, which analyzes the sites based on usability, findability, actionability, audience, accuracy and knowledge level. For usability, we have to answer the questions: Are there too many text links? Too few? Is content too short? Too long? Findability reveals that content is neither useful nor usable if no one can find it. Actionability questions whether the user know what to do next after reading the content. Audience identifies whether the site is prioritized for the different audiences. Accuracy and knowledge level ask if the content is inaccurate or out-of-date content, and does the content require the user to have prior knowledge in order to understand? Combined, the subjective data provides a clear view of whether visitors find a site useful or not.

The final section of a content analysis is the user lifecycle analysis. Here, we analyze the phases a typical visitor might progress through when utilizing a site. It identifies the gaps in the site design and plan. Ultimately, the content analysis will tell you whether the pathway pages have enough information, graphics or pictures and are easy to navigate. As Redish cautions, “many people choose the first option” because they are “trading time for benefit.” (99) Doing a thorough content analysis will help identify whether the site has the right amount of text, is not confusing to visitors, and clarifies “the essential message of the page.” (92)

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