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Ranking the Websites

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The two websites are alike in that they both provide their users with valuable information, which can be used by students to plan for their college education, to apply for a place in their choice college, and even to pay for that college online. Both have searchable database for which users have to feed their search criteria for the colleges being sought for. Both have the capability to save searches for later review instead of having to search again.

To guide new users, the two websites have popular search lists that are sought for by most students such that one can quickly assess them without having to search for personal results. The search engines when tested simultaneously are relatively and equally fast in returning results.  Finally, both domain names are very descriptive, elaborate, catchy and memorable in respect to what each website provides i.e. navigation (http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator) or college search (http://www.collegeboard.com). 

Website A features advice content for college students such as preparing for college, education finance aid and careers. This advice is not provided in website B. Website B also features two types of search criteria where one is usable by students who know which college they want to attend and only want to know the updated information on that college (College Quick Finder search). The second one is used to match the over 3, 800 colleges in the database with a personal preferences (College MatchMaker). On the other hand, website A only features a singular search for a particular college that the user must be aware of.

One other distinct difference between website A and website B is that website A is a college navigator while website B is a college search website. The navigator site allows a user to pinpoint colleges by their locations. The college search site only allows a user to identify a set of colleges that matches particular preference criteria. 

Website A features a better site design, rich with features and highly complicated links to various parts of the website. Almost every word on website A is an active link to other pages in the website. This allows website A to feature more and highly complicated features than website B simply because instead of explaining a feature, the feature is just linked to the appropriate page. Website B is however more relevant to a college student needs by virtue of incorporating application and payment capabilities to the colleges in their database.

The same phenomena is lacking in website B since there is a lot of explanatory details on almost every feature on the web pages of the site and minimal links to auxiliary pages.  This complicated page linking featured by website A makes it very hard to use for those not very conversant with surfing. Website B and its explanations for the features is thus very easy to use.

The most important differentiation for this essay is that based on the reliability/credibility/ethos of the websites. To begin with, on the news segment of each website the regularity of their press releases and news is indicative of the frequency of updating the site’s contents. Website A has materials updated on 7th April 2010 (the same date of analysis and retrieval) while the latest update on website B was on 22nd February 2010 (two months back). On the same page, it is evident that website A updates their content on a daily basis, something possible in a government site with civil servants under state employ. The commercial site takes even months before they update their content, something typical of commercial sites with limited resources and staffing.

The most remarkable feature of website A in credibility is that it links to numerous other credible sites with specialist information and sometimes linking to .pdf documents authored and certified as valid academic documents and publications. This feature is totally lacking in website B. Website A has a team of highly qualified professionals employed permanently to create, monitor and update the information posted on the site. These professionals are under a state employed Commissioner (currently Stuart Kerachsky, a former senior vice president at Mathematical Policy Research, Inc. His experience in education research, employment, child development, etc is underscored by a Ph.D. in economics from University of Wisconsin). Website B is served by unidentified but proclaimed board of trustees, which sounds more like a high sounding phrase used in most commercial sites to build on their lacking credibility. This therefore makes website A more credible than website B.

The above sited differences fall in favor of website A being more credible, reliable and dependable as a resource site. Not only is the site manned by highly qualified government employees already identified on the site, but also information is updated in a nearly daily basis. The incorporation of links to other relevant sites, to publications and peer reviewed articles in .pdf format makes it win hands down when it comes to ethos. The site features and the design makes website A seem superior, though not easier to use, than website B.

This is then enhanced by additional advice information on planning for, preparing for and funding college education. There is also a link to a children guidance application (kidz zone) that makes it rank even hire in comparison to website B.

Both of these websites offer related information in an almost similar way. They are a great resource for college students offering searchable databases. Nonetheless, by considering the site design, the domain names, the site features, the credibility of the authors and sponsors of the information and the frequency of updating the site content, website A comes out as the most reliable of the two.  This goes on to prove that in most instances, government online resource centers are usually comparatively better in features, credibility and usability than commercial websites whose only interest in serving as online resource centers is in increasing advertising revenue from the resultant web traffic. 

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