Great Web Sites for Kids Selection Criteria

Established by the first ALSC Children and Technology Committee, 1997

How to Tell if You Are Looking at a Great Web Site

The Web is a lot like a flea market: there’s a vast selection of sites to choose from but not a lot of order to it. Some sites are offered by reputable “dealers” and some from individuals who want to show off their personal favorite items. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s a hidden treasure, what’s worth taking a look at, and what’s a waste of time.

It’s not hard to find sites if you use a search engine like Google, or a subject directory like Yahoo (or Yahooligans for kids). But how can you tell if a site you find is worthwhile?

Sometimes what is in a Web site’s address can indicate the nature of the site. Sites from commercial businesses usually include “.com”; federal government sites end in “.gov,” K-12 school sites often include “k12” in the address, and college and university sites often include “.edu.” Sites from non-profit organizations often include “.org.” A site with a tilde (~) in the address usually indicates that this page is maintained or created by an individual, rather than representing an organization, a business, or a school.

Children’s librarians evaluate books, magazines, tapes, and software for children to find the best of all. Web sites are no exception. On this page, we have collected some excellent sites for young people. "Children" are defined as persons of ages up to and including fourteen and Web sites for this entire age range are considered. We will share with you what we look for in a great Web site.

Notes:
  • Every site does not need to meet every one of these criteria to be a great site, but the more of them a site does meet, the more likely it is to be a worthwhile place to spend time.
  • The content on the Web changes faster than anything we have ever seen in our culture. Therefore, in any recommended list of Web sites, the recommendations apply only to the primary sites that are listed, not to every site linked from the primary sites.

A. Authorship/Sponsorship: Who Put up the Site?

  • The name of the individual or group creating the site should be clearly stated.
  • The creator should give a source for information in the site where necessary.
  • The Web site author or manager should provide a way for users to make comments or ask questions.
  • The Web site author or manager should be responsive to any questions regarding copyright, trademark, or ownership of all material on the site. Sites that knowingly violate copyright statutes or other laws should not be linked, listed, or recommended.

B. Purpose: Every Site Has a Reason for Being There.

  • A site’s purpose should be clear and its content should reflect its purpose, be it to entertain, persuade, educate, or sell.
  • Advertising should be limited and appropriate.
  • Sites devoted strictly to sales will not be considered as Great Sites.
  • A good site should enrich the user’s experience and expand the imagination. Sites promoting social biases rather than enlarging the views of the child should not be considered Great Sites.

C. Design and Stability: A Great Site Has Personality and Strength of Character.

  • The information on the site should be easy to find and easy to use.
  • The site design should be appealing to its intended audience.
  • The text should be easy to read, and not cluttered with distracting graphics, fonts, and backgrounds.
  • Users should be able to get around the site easily.
  • Pages consisting mainly of links should be well-organized and appealing to young people, and the collected links should be well-chosen and useful to children exploring the subject.
  • The site’s design should be appropriate for the intended audience.
  • The site should be ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant, as much as possible.
  • A game or recreational site should have a clear interface and playing instructions.
  • The page should load in a reasonable amount of time.
  • The page should be consistently available and load without problems; stability is important.
  • Required “plug-ins” or other helper applications should be clearly identified.
  • The design elements and features on the site, such as searchable databases, animations, graphics, sound files, introductory and transitional pages, etc., should enhance and not hinder the accessibility and enjoyment of the site.
  • The interactive features should be explained clearly.
  • A user should not need to pay a fee or type in personal information (such as his/her name or e-mail address) before using the site.

D. Content: A Great Site Shares Meaningful and Useful Content that Educates, Informs, or Entertains.

  • The title of a site should be appropriate to its purpose.
  • A site’s content should be easy to read and understand by its intended audience.
  • There should be enough information to make visiting the site worthwhile.
  • If there are large amounts of information on the site, some kind of search function should be provided. There should be at least an outline of topics covered, allowing the users to find topics and move among them easily.
  • Spelling and grammar always should be correct.
  • The information should be current and accurate, and if the topic of the site is one that changes, it should be updated regularly. A “last updated” date is a plus.
  • Links to more information on the topic should be provided.
  • Graphics on the site should be relevant and appropriate to the content.
  • The subject matter should be relevant to and appropriate for the intended audience.
  • The viewpoint presented should be comprehensible to the intended audience.
  • The skills required to use the site’s features and structure should be appropriate or appropriately challenging for its intended audience.
  • In informational sites, especially those used to support school assignments, quality of content should be most important. Appealing sites for general audiences that are accessible to young people sometimes provide the highest-quality content.
  • Some sites, such as health and life-education sites, may include mature content. Such material should be developmentally appropriate to the information needs of youth.


ALA's Great Web Sites for Kids are currently maintained and updated by the ALSC Great Web Sites Committee