An Analysis of Public Garden Websites

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University of Delaware
Over 38 Million Web sites are now available for on-line viewing. Public gardens are a small portion of this astonishing number and are increasingly using the Internet as a means to inform the public of their presence, including their mission, collections, and programs. Likewise, the information provided on a public garden’s Web site may educate, entertain, and encourage the user to become involved with the garden through visiting or donating their time or money. The purpose of this research was to analyze and describe the current use of Web sites by public gardens in the United States. Surveys to admissions-charging public gardens with Web sites offered insights into the garden’s Web site creation and maintenance processes and content decisions. The development, maintenance, content, and methods of analysis of individual public garden Web sites show trends in the following areas: development costs and time, maintenance frequency and associated costs, types of staff used for site content development, design, and maintenance, methods of enriching a site’s content through links, plug-ins, and interactive features, and the methods used to determine a Web site’s usability. Results indicate that the majority of institutions have had Web sites for over 2 years, spent under twelve months in planning and development, and spent less than 300 hours and $2000 to create the Web site. Many Web sites were created using much less time and money resources, meaning that Web sites should be achievable for most public gardens. A majority of Web sites are maintained and updated either monthly or seasonally for under $2000. Thirty-one percent of Web sites have been analyzed for usability via focus groups, interviews, or some other method. Additional research on Web design uncovered key characteristics found in an effective Web site. Key design issues include navigation, page layout, and content of main and subsidiary pages. Well designed Web sites are eye-appealing and easy to navigate in order to find the desired information quickly. Web sites can be improved by increasing the content available on-line, the quality of the design and navigation, and by having realized goals and purposes. Usability testing can help an institution determine users’ needs and aid in the process of site improvement. A Web site can serve as a marketing tool while also educating the public on the garden’s mission.
Technology, Websites, Internet, Marketing