Web standards and accessibility not really in the UK?

by oneafrikan on April 20, 2006

Jason wrote something about web standards in South Africa recently and it made me think about web standards in the UK, and who is actually passing the litmus test when it is passed as law and people are supposed to be working towards standards and accessibility.

As an aside, I found Jasons post interesting, but not surprising at all – if you’re interested in my comment you can read it here.
So back to the web standards thing, I’m curious to see how some big sites on the web in the UK score, so here are my results – to do this I used the Validate HTML Tool (DID NOT check for anything else) found in the Firefox Web Developer Extension, and in all instances I was just checking the home page of each site.

Here they are as of today, 2006-04-20:

  1. http://www.guardian.co.uk/failed with 52 errors
  2. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/uk/failed with 192 errors
  3. http://news.ft.com/home/ukfailed with 36 errors
  4. http://www.merton.gov.uk/ (my local borough website) – Passed validation
  5. http://www.westminster.gov.uk/ – after 140 seconds I gave up, and this was after inputting the url at the validation site, not using the tool from the web developer toolbar (that took 160 seconds before I gave up!)
  6. http://www.conservatives.com/failed with 4 errors
  7. http://www.labour.org.uk/homefailed with 1 errors
  8. http://www.bbc.co.uk/failed with 37 errors
  9. http://www.zen.co.uk/failed with 158 errors
  10. http://www.ebay.co.uk/failed with 187 errors
  11. http://www.gumtree.com/failed with 9 errors
  12. http://jobserve.com/failed with 126 errors
  13. G8 Glenagles 2005failed with 36 errors
  14. I’d love to do more but that’s all I have time for! – would be interesting to check some of the big sites. Feel free to chime in an add your own as a comment if you like.

Now here’s the rub:
I completely expected most of the sites to show errors (call me cynical), and was pleasantly surprised to see that the Merton Borough website was the onyly one to pass validation – congrats to the developers and designers that delivered that work! – and am not sure what to think of the Westminster site not validating (the validation service was not down since I can validate other sites).

I’m really disappointed in all the papers, as well as the BBC, as they’re information portals, and probably have the most to lose while having the most to live up to. You would EXPECT the G8 site to pass validation but it didn’t, whilst both political parties although not passing validation did have the least errors, which is commendable. I’m a perfectionist so not going the last few metres to ensure compliance seems like a waste. The Conservatives site had one problem with an attribute=”value” and another with an image not closed properly, so they’re really easy fixes, while the Labour Party site had one illegal character in a link, which is probably just an oversight on someones part, but should be checked, flagged and fixed!
As for the rest, shame on you in this day and age, where standards compliant developers, consultants and agencies are everywhere.

On a technical note, from what I could tell, most of the errors that were coming up are not that hard to fix. And if, like most good web developers should, you have a version control system in place, you simply make the changes to your markup, functions, classes, then deploy. You should be checking your output at every stage, and the fact that major sites are getting so many errors speaks volumes for their _LACK_ of quality control and testing processes.
I’ve seen so many developers and software engineers focus on developing rock solid backend code, that they completely forget about their actual users and what gets ouputted to them.

As for the project managers and business people that may read this, if your people are writing code that creates this kind of ouput for high traffic sites like this (excluding the passes of course!), you’re either underpaying or overpaying your people (depending on your employment philosophy), not competent enough yourself to spot this, don’t have good version control systems in place to make changes quickly when you spot them, or just plain ignoring the benefits of standards compliant markup. Do something about it!
Anyways, this was an intersting exercise and rant over – time to do some real work ;-)

Disclaimer: If you validate this site, you will notice that there are 17 errors (at time of checking), all of which are fixable. I am working to fix all of them as part of my new theme.
Do you have any thoughts / comments / ideas?

2 comments

This was a really nice read, the links are great too !

by Aaron on July 3, 2006 at 4:00 pm. Reply #

It’s quite sad that some of the major UK websites don’t validate, and, as you say, most would with a few easy fixes. Whilst the number of errors on the websites is quite shocking, I’ve always found that once you fix one bug, several validation errors/warnings will disappear!

Would be interesting to see a follow-up of this for 2007/2008!

by Richard on December 17, 2007 at 11:40 am. Reply #

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