Sunday, February 28, 2010

Web site credibility assignment

The site I chose is a public relations tool for the Benchmark company based in Irving. The company basically promises if clients give them a one-time large payment that covers the whole family for life, and cooperate in the financial aid search, the company will help students find funding for higher education. I've seen this site prior to its present state, and it does not look like how it does now, but considering what I've learned in this course so far, I would still question some of the things on this site. I chose it because it should have some sort of consumer alert.

The Benchmark company's site barely meets credibility criteria. It dabbles in public relations but is "complete" as far as they are concerned. The title of the main page is "Benchmark Company Dallas College Financial Aid." The copyright date at the bottom lists 2008, so I'm guessing that was when the site was redesigned. The audience is potential clients and clients (that's right); therefore, the content is slanted to promote and sell the company. All the links are internal except for the e-mail address and "Forgot my password," which do work. The site does not reference itself in any articles other than "testimonials" selected and posted by the company to prove success stories. On the index page and in the "Who We Are" box, the company calls itself "reputable" on the front page without external links. A link to the company listed as an a not being an accredited business with the Better Business Bureau would help.

The site is authorized on a promotional basis for the company. There is no listing of who created the Web site other than Benchmark Company, listed at the bottom with the copyright. On the contact page lists the address, toll free phone numbers, and e-mail link. To the right of the list is the option for direct message to the company via the site. There is no interactivity unless you have a membership log in. Even though my family is a client, we do not have log in information. The site is a .com. It is for commercial use. The URL is the main source/page. They claim to mail newsletters, which are rarely sent. It would be more beneficial if they could post a downloadable version.

The site could be presented better. It does look professional at first glance. It's free of GSP errors. The format is easy to navigate, except on the front page a slide show blocks part of navigation and is out of align with the rest of the site. (I viewed this site on Google Chrome.) There looks to be a block of information missing. The headings never change. I tried googling the meta tags/keywords in the source page, but the company never appeared even after the third page. "Benchmark" had to be included in the search before the company was found in early results. The site does not include ads. The pictures bother me. They all have the same tone and focus on the "model students." They have no alt tags in the source coding. Benchmark is a private company. They're not coming to a student's graduation. I would prefer to see pictures sent in by clients, like on the testimonial page. The type face is all in serif fonts too.

Overall, the site can probably fool the naive. Who would think the log in would not work even with paying the fee? The company may have been beneficial for some people, but other Web sites such as and look more professional and produce similar results, but at least they are free. Note to potential Benchmark clients: Benchmark sends print outs of the same information you could find on and If this company has actually helped someone who I've met or had a class with, more power to the student for their determination and patience.

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