Overheard via Twitter and Donncha today: the British Prime Minister’s office has recently launched its official site, number10.gov.uk. The site reportedly runs on WordPress, and the blog format was intentional on the design team’s part.
The site aims to bring interactivity to governance, by allowing readers to field questions and submit electronic petitions to the Prime Minister’s office.
Our new site aims to keep you up to date with all of the developments of the PM’s activities through news stories, videos, Flickr images and our Twitter channel.
There are also plenty of interactive features available, including the opportunity to post your video questions directly to the PM, submit e-petitions and take part in webchats with ministers.
Readers reported slow loading and a few errors during the first few hours of operation, but that was attributed to traffic spikes; the caching plugin supposedly did its job in optimizing for speed once the static files were in place.
J. Angelo Racoma is a technology journalist for CMSWire and TFTS. A former editor at Splashpress Media, The Blog Herald and Performancing, he now does consultancy work through WorkSmartr.com. Follow him at racoma.net and on Twitter.
It’s worse than that.
The site has BASIC accessibility errors and is riddled with invalid mark-up and it’s certainly not anywhere near acheiving a WCAG-aa pass (including manual checks).
That Accessibility page does nothing for the user other than repeat the usual “offer the basic facts regarding an initiative while failing to fully implement them with any understanding of the underlying principles – all likely of NO VALUE to the user or at best, offering what they already know (such as text resizing – oh dear!).
This deployment (using WordPress) has been rolled out bereft of any meaningful testing – and I’m still trying to work out why the breadcrumb offer me “Home is greater than Footer is greater than Accessibility”. And how does Footer work as a directory? And god help those on 800px monitors – OK, the percentage of users on these is decreasing, but you still have to cater for it!
When a site such as this fails Guidelines 12.4 and 13.1 (twice), I cringe – BASIC schoolboy errors.
And where’s my VISIBLE ‘skip to content’ link?
Lip service only to Accessibility, as usual.
I expect the addition of BETA in the branding is there to fend of any such criticisms but ask yourself;
Why launch a site if you haven’t tested it?
What does slapping a BETA on there say about the owners of the site?
Why wait until the end of the year to fix BASIC problems?
Have they the minerals to submit this site to an accessibility audit?
I wonder what this awful customisation/implementation of WP cost the British tax payer! No more than a couple of grand, I hope but the true cost I wager will be much higher.
No 10, sack the amateurs, hire professionals and stop wasting peoples time and money.
It’s not as awful as you imply, Bob. The vast majority of people aren’t going to actually notice or care about the things you mention, which aren’t really things other huge sites out there don’t break.
Just because it’s a government site doesn’t mean it’s going to be perfect. Indeed, usually they’re crap — at least this is a step in the right direction. I trust you’ve contacted them to let them know of your concerns? Hopefully with less of the emotional clutter you filled your above comment with.
Work is needed, but don’t write it off as a complete waste of time. Technical issues aside, the actual goal of the site is sound and it will probably be a development appreciated by far more people than are pissed off by guidelines 12.4 and 13.1. And do you really care about a few thousand for a website when so many millions are squandered elsewhere? It’s a relative drop in the ocean.
With regards to your 800px point, it might be worth noting that the content is (possibly intentionally) completely visible on 800×600, as is the main navigation. It’s only the peripheral stuff on the side that’s lost on such users, which I think is a perfectly acceptable compromise now they’ve been squeezed down to a ~7% minority.
Granted, technical ways of getting around it do exist (ie: converting from three column to two when on 800×600), but having a horizontal scrollbar is something I’d imagine 800×600 people are now used to.
Sir, granted it’s a step in the right direction (I’m sure Jacob Nielsen wouldn’t agree), yet I stand by my comments and ask, “what about the governments own DDA”? Offer the RNIB (for example) your ‘mitigating circumstances’ and see if they agree with you. I wager that they won’t be so forgiving.