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Rating Criteria and Excellence Awards

Many of the sites included in our links display stars, indicating they have won an excellence award rating from Growth House. Actually, all the sites we list are excellent -- that's why we link to them! We focus on the "best on the net", not every possible site. To suggest a site for inclusion in our search engine, send us mail. We feature some sites each month in our free monthly electronic mail newsletter.

Sites are rated relative to others in the same class, so they must stand out from the crowd to get a top rating. Here are our rating criteria.

Sites and books must have a primary focus on life-threatening illness, hospice care, palliative medicine, grief, bereavement, or related end of life issues. Check our site map to see what we cover. To get a top rating a site must be either very comprehensive in its coverage or must focus on a specific content area in unique detail.

[jester icon] Our Whimsy Winners, on the other hand, are lighthearted sites that balance our other content. Whimsy Winners may deal with any topic, but must be kid-safe and either fun or uplifting to visit. Whimsy Winner sites are marked with the jester icon.

Exclusion Criteria
We do not link to sites that have any of the following characteristics:
  • We do not link to sites which take a morbid, sensational, trivializing, or joking approach to death.
  • We do not link to sites such as cemetery tours, individual funeral homes, near-death experiences, sites primarily intended to describe the afterlife or communication with the departed, and other death-related sites not primarily designed to provide support for those faced with terminal illness.
  • We do not link to individual memorial sites. We generally do not link to commercial memorial sites because there are many online memorials available for free.
  • We do not link to sites that advertise specific health products, alternative healing services, or other professional services such as counseling.
  • We do not link to sites which have sexually-explicit content, with the exception of sex education resources related to HIV disease prevention.
  • We do not link to personal home pages.
  • We do not link to sites that belittle others or are disrespectful of diversity. Please see our statement on diversity for details. We give higher ratings to sites that go out of their way to welcome all visitors, regardless of religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, or other demographic factors.
Geographical Scope
Resources must be either regional, national or international in value, or be located in the San Francisco Bay Area. Our site offers very detailed coverage for the San Francisco Bay Area but generally does not list local resources in other areas unless the sites have other value-added features of general interest. We provide links to national directory services that can help you find resources in your own area. Resources outside the San Francisco Bay Area must be reachable via the Internet or via an 800 phone number. Resources in the San Francisco Bay Area need not be on the Internet.
Commercial Content
Our rating system has a powerful bias for free content (that's what we think the Internet is all about). If we include them at all, sites that sell things generally get low star ratings unless they have very exceptional free content that is hard to find elsewhere. Is the site primarily a marketing tool with some free content, or is it primarily a free site with secondary commercial content? We occasionally include purely commercial sites to draw attention to marketing trends on the Internet or to make people aware of commercial products we think have real value, but these are exceptional cases. Non-profit sites with smarmy fund-raising appeals also turn us off.

Are You Selling A Book?
If you would like us to consider your book for inclusion in our online bookstore you may send us a free review copy that we will not return. To arrange a book submission, send us mail. We generally do not link to sites that sell a single book unless the item is quite unique. This is partly due to the fact that we cannot be sure of the commercial reliability of small, unknown sites.

Link Exchange Schemes
Growth House does not "trade links" -- sites either qualify for our listings or they don't. If you want to link to us, go right ahead. However we may or may not link back to you depending on how your site fits our rating guidelines. In addition, sites that participate in those annoying advertising link exchange schemes using obnoxious banners automatically get rejected by our rating system. Most of these link exchange systems trample on web privacy by invasive use of cookies to track your movements across the web.

Do You Solicit Donations?
In most cases it is difficult to verify the services or even the existence of organizations behind web sites. For this reason, we hesitate to give excellence awards to small sites that solicit donations. Even when it is granted our excellence award does not constitute an endorsement that donations will be well spent; our ratings apply to the information content of websites, not the financial integrity of web site sponsors.

[dollar sign] Commercial Content Icon
Sites that have commercial content or aggressive fundraising pitches may be marked with a dollar sign icon. This is to warn people that there may be some selling involved if they visit the site. Many of these sites have excellent free content, however, and that's why we include them.

Positive Emotional Tone
Will the site be of benefit to persons seeking emotional support? Does the "site personality" have a life-affirming tone? Sites that have a mixture of good supportive material and limited morbid content may be listed but will generally get a low rating.
Sites offering good links to other resources get higher ratings than sites that are entirely self-contained.
Technical Design
We often use the automated analysis tools at Doctor HTML to quantify our reactions to site designs. For a free analysis of your technical design visit Doctor HTML and run your own analysis. Here are some of the things we look at:

Navigational Scheme
Is the site well-organized and easy to navigate? Is there a site map? Is there a site search engine? Is it easy to figure out how to communicate with the webmaster if you have a question, and does the site seem to invite communication with its visitors?

Bandwidth Requirements
As a rule of thumb, we consider any individual page that requires more than 50K of bandwidth (text and images combined) to be bandwidth-intensive. Such pages will be difficult for persons with 14.4 modems to view on slow network days. Please remember that many factors can slow down delivery of your page over the network. If your site overall has a typical page size exceeding 50K, your content must be exceptional to merit an excellence rating. Skip the animated GIFs and get on with the content.

Please don't put a huge music file as the first thing you load on your page. It takes forever, blocks display of the page content, and will drive away visitors. Does that great rendition of "Feelings" really justify keeping your visitors on ice for five minutes waiting to see content? For tips on how to use music effectively check The Vision Team's music page.

Frame Capturing
We do not link to sites that use frames in a way that "captures" the visitor. Some frame coding methods result in all links being viewed within frames, even if the user is trying to leave your site. Frame capturing is an obnoxious practice that interferes with the normal flow of movement on the web. This can be corrected by adding a "target" specification in the A HREF tag for links that leave your site:


The HTML code looks like this:

<A target="_top" HREF="">Click here</A>

This code will take surfers out of your frame, whether your site contains frames or is framed in someone else's frames.

Is the site generally up when we check to see if it is there? If we have trouble reaching a site we may place a "site not responding" notice by its listing; if we have problems three times over several weeks the site will be removed from our links.
We give higher ratings to sites that appear to be updated on a regular basis. Are there signs of "link rot," with many outdated links? If a site specifically claims to be a directory service, or claims to offer current information, we may put them to the test by scanning the site with an automated analysis spidering tool to look for broken links or pages that haven't been updated since the invention of the telegraph.
All sites selected to appear in our links may display one of the following Growth House excellence award notices at their sites.

To add award code to your site, use your browser to view the source code for this page and cut and paste the appropriate HTML fragment into your own page. This is the honor system, so please don't use our badge unless you have earned it! If you need help installing an award, let us know.

All sites included in our links may display the following notice:

The following graphical badges are available for sites that received Excellence Awards. Whimsy Winners should use the whimsy badge at the bottom of the page.

Growth House Award Badge
Growth House Award Badge
Growth House Award Badge
Growth House Award Badge