UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Archive for December 13th, 2007

Will The UK Government Shut Down The Queen’s Web Site?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 13 December 2007

In a post on All UK Government Web Sites Must Be WCAG AA Compliant I recently warned of the dangers that the UK Government’s blunt instrument of mandating that all UK government Web sites must comply with WCAG AA accessibility guidelines could be counter-productive as the current WCAG 1.0 guidelines are widely felt to be out-of-date and government departments which seek to comply with the guidelines may well result in Web design patterns which are now widely felt to enhance the effectiveness of Web sites but which infringe guidelines released back in 1998 being discarded.

I recently viewed the Official Web Site of the British Monarchy (don’t ask) and spotted a visible <FONT> tag preceding a news item about the Queen’s speeches in Uganda.

Her Majesty's Web Site

Surely the Queen’s Web site isn’t using <FONT> tags, I thought? The Queen can’t possibly have employed a self-taught Web coder who hasn’t updated their skills in over five years? But looking at the source code and validating the page my worst fears came true: 36 HTML errors, no DOCTYPE, spacer GIFs, unclosed <FONT> tags (as I had spotted), <IMG> tags with no ALT attributes, a mixture of XHTML and HTML elements, …

Now this page clearly fails to comply with the UK Government proposed accessibility requirements. What, then, will happen if these proposals are accepted and the Queen fails to correct the errors by next year’s deadline? Will the Government attempt to shut down Her Majesty’s Web site? Will the Government take the Queen to court? But won’t “Regina vs Regina ” lead to a constitutional crisis? Will this lead to the demise of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic? Or will such a vindictive move by pedantic civil servants lead to a backlash, with the possibility of the Tower for the more extreme of the ‘accessibility standardistas‘?

More seriously the British Monarchy Web site probably does provide a good example of a service (perhaps not quite a public-sector service, though) which would be improved by simply following the WCAG guidelines.  So maybe my concerns would only apply to those Web sites which are seeking to be more interactive and user-focussed than the brochureware approach which the British Monarchy site provides.

Posted in Accessibility, HTML | 4 Comments »

Remember PeopleAggregator?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 13 December 2007

The flurry of posts about OpenSocial (from Michael Nolan, Andy Powell, Tony Hirst, Scott Wilson and George Roberts amongst those whose blogs I regularly read) reminded me about PeopleAggregator, the open social networking service I subscribed to a few months ago.

PeopleAggregator was developed by Marc Cantor, who set up the company which developed Macromedia Flash – and “says he’s paying penance today for the role he played in locking users into Macromedia Flash“. As described in a TechCrunch articlePeopleAggregator is all about using open standards to prevent lock-in in one of the most important sectors of the new web – online social networking” and it will “share information with other services through common identity standards for our profiles and through APIs (application programming interfaces) for our writing, multimedia and contacts.“.

PeopleAggregator would seem, therefore, to fit in with Ross Gardler’s beliefs that Communities can’t flourish in walled gardens. I would agree that the ability to get data out of services is important – although I also feel there’s a need to explore successful services in order to see what can be learnt from their success.

So in the summer I joined PeopleAggregator – expecting to find this service being widely blogged about as an alternative to Facebook. But there has seemed to be little interest in the service – and revisiting it I find that a search for groups containing “web” shows 5 groups, the most popular, web3ers (on what’s beyond Web 2.0) having just 8 members.

Why the lack of interest in PeopleAggregator (software which is available for downloading, enabling institutions to set up their own social networking environment)? And why, in contrast, is their such interest with Google’s announcement about their OpenSocial APIs and the companies, including Myspace and LinkedIn, who are supporting this initiative? Is this because we love Google and MySpace’s commitment to openness – or perhaps because, on this occasion, they are the underdogs (but underdogs with a chance of success)?

Posted in Social Networking | Tagged: | 1 Comment »