My lad could build a web site for £50

The public are rightly concerned with how much Local Government spend. Me too! After all it’s my money as well.

So it is with a curious mixture of agreement, at least with the sentiment of prudence,  and chagrin that I greet that statement which we all must have heard or read, about our web efforts… “My lad could’ve built that for £50. Why do you need to waste so much of my money?”

Commenter’s on your web site utter this phrase. Members of staff in the council where you work mumble something similar. Councillors have it in their eyes when they ask you questions.

I agree we spend lots of money on web sites, either by paying outside suppliers to do the work or our own IT development staff.  Simply put, building and maintaining local government web sites isn’t cheap.

Recently I had cause to look at something that was constructed on the basis of “why can’t we do this? It’s cheap and it looks good”.

Here is the list of problems with that “cheap and effective” set of pages I looked at…

Review of web pages…

Accessibility

No skip links

Non symantic markup e.g. empty <ul> (index page line 39) and <div> (index page line 41)

Index page – Orphaned <label> tag for ‘Order by:’ text

All textural information is included within the <form> tag meaning that a screenreader (in forms mode) wouldn’t read any of the relevant information on the page.

Forms – ‘Required’ text unreadable for visually impaired users due to red text on lighter red background.

Validate Code

Index page failed on:

Line 9, Column 56: Bad value X-UA-Compatible for attribute http-equiv on element meta.

Line 36, Column 44: Element br not allowed as child of element ul in this context. (Suppressing further errors from this subtree.)

Browser Checking

A number of issues eg.

CSS3 border-radius used extensively which doesn’t render in IE.

Layout issue in IE7 – Just a simple hasLayout fix would be required

Miscellaneous

HTML 5 DocType used, though not yet widely supported.

No Meta Data for page content etc.

Site doesn’t appear to work fully e.g.

  • ‘named section’ doesn’t have any data
  • <div> which is meant to hold suggested search terms doesn’t have any data

These are just the first glance issues without considering the usability of the pages at all.

This piece is not intended to knock others developers. It’s merely to highlight the differences.

Local Government sites are poured over by all and sundry from the SOCITM crew with their electronic ‘testmeisters’ marking us down for any slight misdemeanour let alone major infractions. RNIB  seeking to jump on people for  non compliance and the government with their recommendations. All are critical and admonishing if we get it wrong.

Commercial sites are relatively free of these encumbrances and it shows. They don’t have to be hidebound by the requirements of others in quite the same way. And yet it’s these very sites we are compared with when it comes to cost – not that I necessarily believe all commercial sites are cheap. They are not, but when you are compared to the 5 bob sites knocked up by the next-door neighbours 16 year old lad who doesn’t give a fig for compliance with standards, usability and government requirements it gets just a bit irksome.

Organisations like local and national newspapers are keen to point and shout if we dare spend money – sorting out these issues and complying with all the ‘papier-rouge’ inflicted on us by some self-seeking quango’s and central government.  I suppose it shows their ignorance and consequently we should take no heed, but it stings, no matter how ignorant the  critic

Why? Because it’s a cheap shot and  we’re an easy target? After all, the average individual – let alone a journalist – has no terms of reference on the other things councils do like building roads, providing education, providing social care or collecting rubbish etc. They’ve  never done any of these themselves so there is no comparative information…but they may have knocked up a web site and in their view it was easy.

So why so much? After all it’s just a piece of ‘electronic media’. It’s not real and so it can’t have cost much can it? And yet… HOW MUCH!

“My lad could’ve built that for £50”.

Ohhhh  Sighhhh….

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One thought on “My lad could build a web site for £50

  1. £50 – for a 16 year old.

    Surely £25 is nearer the mark.

    You are dead right, it seems to me you guys are easy pickings for commentators looking for something to get cross about.

    In all the commercial websites I’ve seen produced including some big blue-chip ones the issues you deal with such as real accessibility and external monitoring aren’t even on the radar.

    I would actually like to see the Public Sector do more by way of split testing live sites to really improve the service. That said, only a few commercial organisations understand this, and so a live website is an endpoint rather than a startpoint.

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