Top Ranked University Web Sites - U of M is #8

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Interesting Chronicle of Higher Education article on top ranked university websites. The U of M shows up as #8. It should be noted that part of the ranking is related to the total number of web pages (size variable). The complete rankings are available at the Cybermetrics lab website.

1 Comment

This is only an "interesting article" because it concerns a ranking of university web sites that is comical at best, and misleading and dangerous at worst.

The 4 criteria for the rankings are:

1. Size (S), or number of pages.
2. Visibility (V). The total number of unique external links received (inlinks).
3. Rich Files (R). Files in Adobe Acrobat (.pdf), Adobe PostScript (.ps), Microsoft Word (.doc) and Microsoft Powerpoint (.ppt) formats.
4. Scholar (Sc). Google Scholar provides the number of papers and citations for each academic domain.

Criteria 1-3 can be dismissed immediately out of hand: anyone who understands web design knows that the size of a site, the number of links to a site, and the number of "rich documents" on a site have nothing to do with good design. (in fact, the article or your featuring of it never begs the most important question: what does "top ranked" even mean?). Of these 3, the second may mean something relevant, as it pertains to popularity.

Criterion 4 pertains to articles cataloged by Google Scholar. A high ranking in this criterion would seem to suggest a good academic web site. So perhaps this is the most meaningful criterion of all four.

Unfortunately, it is under Criterion 4 that the U ranks the lowest (#19). The U ranks the highest for rich documents (#4), which merely means that we have some of the laziest web content managers in the world; the easiest and quickest way to add content to a site is to link to a Word, Excel, Powerpoint, or PDF document. But because these are the least accessible (and most proprietary) ways to publish content, it is the worst of the four criteria to rank high in.

This ranking shows a severe lack of understanding about how to rank web sites. The ranking criteria have almost nothing to do with the things that are most important: usability, accessibility, and quality of content. It is unfortunate that this article and the rankings were not examined more critically, but I'm glad that this posting was published in a blog venue where the comments could clarify the misinformation being focused upon.

Sincerely,

Kristofer Layon, MFA
Director of Web Design & Online Collaboration
Office of the Senior Vice President for System Academic Administration
University of Minnesota

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This page contains a single entry by rmr published on February 11, 2009 11:27 AM.

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