Website analysis

Students investigate pre-selected websites in light of Halliday’ s social semiotic framework, taking into account three major features of context:

  • FIELD – what is happening
  • TENOR – who is taking part
  • MODE – the role of language and other semiotic features

All the websites pre-selected for the task are rich in various modalities and are targeted at a multicultural audience. The task has been divided into three steps corresponding to each of the three context features and comprising of a set of guiding questions to enable the participants to have a closer look at a website of their choice.

Institution reporting the task:

Language of task instructions:


Target Group:

Foreign languages
Foreign language teachers



References and acknowledgements:

Teachers College, NY Open University (GB)


Comparison & analysis

Estimated Duration:

3 sessions


Website analysis


website analysis
socialcultural context



Language Configurations:

Lingua Franca

Language(s) that the task can be used in:


Dominant language production:

Writing/reading asynchronous

Target Competences:

Media literacy

Specific pedagogical objectives:

Development of students analytical skills

Suggested Communication Tools:

Suggested Resources:



In your teams, please agree on one of the following websites which is of interest to you and which informs you about the topic in more than one way (i.e. not only written text): – information for English speaking visitors to Russia&acute s most famous museum – the Hermitage. – a website which offers a comprehensive guide to British history – a website with information and tips for international students and researchers interested in studying in Germany. A lot of information about different aspects of living in Germany – the comparison of British and American educational systems plus a lot of information for prospective students in either UK or the USA. – maintained by Polish Cultural Institute in the UK – this is a very well known international website for travellers. Please, choose one or two countries to focus on. Native American art: about a non-Western culture/for English-speaking audience – It’ s a guide to Tatra Mts: in English/mainly for audience of English-speaking visitors or researchers Guide to Polish communities in New York: in English/for audience interested in Polish culture Merc Benz international website: for the international audience EU booklet on culture in Europe: principally for English-speaking audience Intro to Manchester University for international students: in English for international audience Info for Chinese students going to the USA: in English/for Chinese speakers of English

FIELD questions:

Examine and evaluate the resource you have chosen by addressing the following questions (you can split up the work in the group):
1. What is the site about?
2. What activities are provided?

3. What can you say in terms of reliability of the website? How did you arrive at your judgement?

4. Are there any cultural values and beliefs embedded in the materials presented? If so, what are these? Give a brief description, please.

TENOR questions:

1.Who are the intended participants/users of the site?
2. Is the site intended for individual use, pairs or groups of people?
3. How interactive is the site, i.e. does it mainly provide information, or, is there an opportunity to contribute to the site(s) (can you rate the sites, leave a comment, upload images or pictures, etc.)?
4. What is the user&#39 s status (passive viewer/reader, actively engaging in an activity, a mix of both, etc.)?

MODE questions:

Please, take a closer look at the various communication modes/channels available on the website you have chosen:

  1. spoken mode (code – including languages and language varieties, vocabulary, syntax, voice and pronunciation, nonverbal signals)
  2. written mode (code – including languages and language varieties vocabulary, syntax, paragraphing, i.e. rhetorical structure, punctuation, etc.)
  3. image mode (photo, drawing, diagram, graph, logo, layout, colour three-dimensional representations, etc.)
  4. gestural mode (gestures, sign language, dance)

Which modes are represented on your chosen site and which functions do they have? Look at what the other groups have found about the sites they have chosen. Post at least one comment/reply to one of the other forums for each of the three parts of the task.

For a sample website analysis see the attached document.

Learner Texts:


Document related to the task:


Criteria for Completion:

By the end of this task the students should have engaged in a group discussion of the meaning of various elements of a selected website and their role in conveying the meaning to the intended audience.

Comments and suggestions:

Since such a complex website analysis can be overwhelming, students may need a model analysis of a similar site. An example can be found here: [link].


Carolin Fuchs (Teachers College, NY), Mirjam Hauck (Open University), Andreas Müller-Hartmann (University of Education, Heidelberg)