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RE: Slashdot: How should Govt sites be designed?

From: Charles F. Munat <chas@munat.com>
Date: Thu, 14 Dec 2000 14:40:05 -0800
To: "'Dr Nick Fiddes'" <nick@scotweb.ltd.uk>, <kynn@idyllmtn.com>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <006a01c0661e$ce37cf70$0100a8c0@aries>
Dr Nick Fiddes wrote:

"Those of you on the other side of the pond may be interested to take
a look at the UK government's main public site:
http://www.open.gov.uk/  It claims 'WAI-AAA' standard of
accessibility and though I've not analysed in depth I've seen no
reason yet to dispute this."

I think they're exaggerating a bit. For one thing, they use deprecated
elements like border and bgcolor. And they use tables for layout. (They've
also messed up their DTD and the home page won't validate, but that's
another story.)

The bgcolor is totally unnecessary. The page looks terrible in Netscape 3
(it would look better without the bgcolor attribute), and in all later
browsers the same effect could be had by using style="background-color: " or
better yet a class attribute together with the style sheet.

They are also using FONT tags! And <b>! How can this be AAA or even AA? If
they dropped the bgcolor attribute, they could drop the font tags as well.
They should give up on Netscape 3. Let it degrade gracefully to a plain
look. For that matter, they could stop using the table for formatting as
well, although that might be a problem with Netscape 4 (God, I hate Netscape
4).

So:

3.3 (Priority 2) Use style sheets to control layout and presentation. I read
this as no bgcolor and definitely no font or bold tags.

11.2 (Priority 2) Avoid deprecated features of W3C technologies. I read this
as no Transitional XHTML. Strict only.

When you get to Priority 3, it gets even more problematic:

4.2 Specify the expansion of each abbreviation or acronym in a document
where it first occurs. Not done.

9.4 Create a logical tab order through links.... Not done.

10.5 Until user agents render adjacent links distinctly, include non-link,
*printable* characters between links. Does <br /> count? Wasn't there a
thread on this list about this just recently?

13.7 If search functions are provided, enable different types of searches
for different skill levels and preferences. Not done.

5.5 Provide summaries for tables. I don't think summary="alpha" really fits
the bill. What does that mean? (The table holds a row of letters linking to
sections below.) Summaries should make sense to the user, not just to the
page designer (they're not section labels).

There are a few others, too. A big one is 10.3 (provide a linear text
alternative for ALL tables that lay out text in parallel).

Frankly, the site looks great and they've obviously put a tremendous effort
into it. They should be commended for this. But the site is FAR from AAA and
really not even AA, although with a little effort they could quickly get it
to AA in my opinion (others are less sanguine about AA pages using tables
for layout, but I'll leave it to them to argue that point).

I'd cc this to them, but they don't provide an email address, only a
feedback form (another big no-no in my book).

Charles F. Munat,
Seattle, Washington
Received on Thursday, 14 December 2000 17:34:26 GMT

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