Simon Willison’s Weblog


RNIB redesign a disappointment

25th June 2003

Accessify: RNIB redesign does not go far enough examines the RNIB’s much hyped new accessible web site and finds it sorely lacking. While it includes basic accessibility features such as alt attributes and skip-navigation links it suffers hugely from out-dated development practises and unnecessary markup bloat. Here’s a prime example, taken from the left hand column of the front page of the site:

<td height="35" valign="bottom"><b><font size="+1"><b></b> </font></b></td>
<td><b>About Us<br>contents</b></td>

On further analysis, the front page contains 19 tables, 54 font tags and even an image without an alt attribute. Using tables for layout is not necessarily a barrier to accessibiliy, but I can’t imagine navigating through a maze of 19 tables (many of them heavily nested) is much fun for users of specialist software. Forcing the site through the W3C validator (it doesn’t provide a doctype so I tried using HTML 4 Transitional) produces 84 errors, hinting at a truly flawed underlying site structure.

Ironically, the Good Design page with advice on designing accessible products is pickled with broken links in any browser other than IE thanks to \ being used in place of / in the URLs.

The content management system has some odd side effects as well, such as the bizzare metadata appended to the top of each page:

<meta name="Audience" content="Webteam - Reserved">
<meta name="Audience2" content="Webteam - Reserved">
<meta name="ContentReviewer" content="enter content reviewer email here (if known)">

It may also be responsible for the strange addition of the word “ body” to the end of every page title bar the front page of the site.

All of this isn’t to say the site is bad: the design is nice enough, the accessibility features are way in advance of most commercial web sites and the site content is generally well laid out and well presented. My grips is that it could have been so much more. The RNIB had a chance to lead by example, following or even helping to establish industry best practises and proving to the world that a site can be accessible, standards compliant and look gorgeous to boot. As it is they’ve hit one out of three.

This is RNIB redesign a disappointment by Simon Willison, posted on 25th June 2003.

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