Based on the above discussions of the need for information quality and
my observations from my experience, this section presents an approach toward
defining Web information quality.
Toward a Notion of Web Information Quality
Quality is a difficult term to define for a particular domain or product.
Total Quality Management, derived from W. Edwards Deming's principles,
includes ideas such as continuous improvement and multidisciplinary responsibility
for improving a product. Information quality has much in common with product
quality. Like a physical product, information should meet user needs (satisfy
the customer). Implementing this principle in specific information development
practices and web design features, however, is not so straightforward,
as the type of needs a user has varies greatly from application to application.
However, I propose this as a preliminary statement for web information
Quality as a goal for Web information involves a continuous process
of planning, analysis, design, implementation, and development to ensure
that the information meets user needs in terms of both content and interface.
Thus, quality is more a process of continuous improvement rather than
a set of the characteristics of a finished object (a web). Due to the dynamic
nature of Web information and the context in which it exists, any outward
sign of a web's quality can change over time even if the web itself doesn't
change. In Part V of this book, "Weaving a Web," I describe a
methodology for weaving a web using a user-centered, continuous process
emphasis, with the goal of building up information so that it can lead
Understandable. The web should contain cues and employ composition
principles that build and shape meaning. Web developers can use techniques
from writing methodologies used in paper and other media--audience analysis,
rhetorical devices (for example, parallelism, analogies) and technical
communication techniques (for example, chunking information, cueing the
reader, ordering information). Hypertext is not constrained to be linear--however,
in local doses and at surface particular layers, hypertext is linear prose.
More accurately, hypertext can be thought of as text that is not
constrained in a single expressive object (such as a web) or to a single
perspective for meaning. Web-based hypertext is unbounded text that derives
meaning from its links that unendingly branch into Webspace.
Making meaning at a local level within hypertext, however, still involves
crafting prose (or using visual or aural elements) to create meaning. To
do this, a developer needs to use effective composition principles as opposed
to forcing a user to "construct" meaning by decoding unorganized
pieces of information.
Meaningful. Within its stated scope and context of presentation,
a quality web should somehow reach for a significance beyond itself, a
meaning that can help a user form new relationships among information.
From these new relationships, new knowledge or insights may form. For example,
is an online art gallery, containing online exhibits and a tour of Paris.
While the "information" presented by art is not as obviously
"useful" as scientific information in webs, it nonetheless functions
as art does in our culture--evoking a feeling of human identification such
as emotion or association.