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Global Rank: Improving a qualitative and inclusive level of web accessibility

Simone Borsci, (1) ECoNA – Interuniversity Center for Research in Cognitive Processing in Natural and Artificial Systems, University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Italy; (2) Department of Human and Educational Sciences, University of Perugia, Italy
Co-author(s): Simone Borsci(1), Stefano Federici(1,2), Maria Laura Mele(1), Gianluca Stamerra(1)


Through the Web communication development, new users' needs are rising related to the amount of information and its findability, and also in relation to the increasing necessity to ensure quality for user-technology interaction. The current model of information ranking by search engines is based on quantitative Web Popularity (WP) and it binds the user to a cognitive adaptation based on the rank-system restrictions (Brin and Page, 1998). This heterodirected adaptation transposes the "rich-get-richer" (Cho and Roy, 2004) effect from technologies to reality. Search engines order any query outputs in a top-down hierarchical, so the highest website occurring in the rank is perceived by users as qualitatively better than others, i.e. as the best answer to the users' queries. In this way, it has become a common idea that search engines and ranking lists are structured to offer as fast as possible the best answer to the users' queries. A certain "cognitive consonance", according to which websites with best rank value have the best content quality (i.e. demand met supply), has produced a circular and vicious process: since popular websites are already better reachable in the virtual space.

It is important to reconsider WP as it is able to inform and settle information on a qualitative and inclusive level rather than just on a quantitative level, easing users'cognitive adaptation to the technology. The users adapting to the Internet technology reproduce the rich-get-richer phenomenon, which only the introduction of a quality index can resolve. As we show, WabScore (Zeng and Parmanto, 2003) could be used to obtain such a quality index, thus allowing rank positioning reorganization. We show that a known rank of universities' websites did not consider websites accessibility in its classification. Using WabScore, we calculated the accessibility mean value of a representative sample of Universities' websites, and our analysis showed that it was .35 (sdtv=10), indicating a presence of 35 out of 100 barriers. We modified the universities' rank formula using WabScore as an accessibility index, and demonstrates how the WP and accessibility connection could reorganize rank orders without altering their properties and goals. We named our modification of this rank: Global Rank. Our modification is based on the idea that accessibility diffusion and promotion is strictly related to web structure qualities. This connection between WP and accessibility not only avoid digital divide, but it downsizes users' cognitive workload, making it simpler for users to find information.

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