Hello Private Eye readers!

It’s an honour to be namechecked in Private Eye, having been a subscriber for donkey’s years. Here are my blog posts about the DTI‘s botched re-design (most recent first).

Given you’re all educated, sophisticated, influential and rich (and such visitors are rare round here), can I take this opportunity to unashamedly pimp my new Web Accessibility book to you? Thanks!

For those who haven’t read Private Eye, here’s the report on page 6 of the 18 August edition. It’s concise, and surprisingly accurate, considering the technical nature of the content and non-techy audience.

Yet another government website redesign has gone horribly awry – this time at the Department of Trade and Industry, which spent £175,000 on a site designed by Fresh01 and implemented by the department’s IT supplier, Fujitusu (Eyes passim).

The finished site went live in May, proudly proclaiming: “This site meets the W3C web accessibility initiative AA-level standard.” W3C standards are designed to ensure that websites work with all web browsers, including those with special features for people with visual impairments or other disabilities. But the DTI’s shiny new site doesn’t.

Two bloggers, with an interest in web accessibility issues, Dan Champion (www.blether.com) and Bruce Lawson (www.brucelawson.co.uk) noticed this failure and have been chasing the DTI via freedom of information law to find out what went wrong. They discovered that the requirements document given to the contractors says it was a “key objective” that the final website should be “a leading example of usable, accessible web design” and that there should have been “a robust programme of usability testing carried out during the design and build phase”.

“The statement relating to accessibility was an error”, the bloggers were told. “It was removed from the website on 19 May 2006 when we reviewed the site in the light of the questions raised.”

They sent more questions, asking how the DTI had planned to monitor that the website met the standards (other than waiting for bloggers to do the work for them) and whether the companies involved remained on the lists of preferred suppliers. However, the DTI wrote back saying that answering the questions would cost more than £600, so they were “not obliged” to deal with the request.

So, DTI spent £175,000 on a website that doesn’t meet the requirements it set, but won’t spend £600 on answering questions that might just help them get the next expensive redesign right.

Dan Champion has an overview of our appeal against the DTI’s silence. Meanwhile, if you feel like writing to your MP, you can complain online.

7 Responses to “ Hello Private Eye readers! ”

Comment by John Hoare

Yeah, I emailed them… but I wouldn’t be surprised if others did as well. It was a treat to open it up and read it, anyway. I too was impressed with the accuracy of the reporting.

Comment by Matthias Willerich

Just read the reply to Jim’s request. Considering the site was a 3-year-project, £175k is actually not THAT much, is it? That’s actually less than one man-day (my english is getting worse here) over the whole period?? Am I calculating that wrong?
175k/(200*3)
Makes you wonder what they DID all that time.