Bruce Lawson's personal site

Snakeoil salesmen:

newspaper ad offering free diagnosis of 'sick' websitesI saw an advert in a magazine for a company offering “web-doctors” to diagnose bad websites – ironically called, which redirects to some firm called byteart. A quick glance at their site shows that they promise a “free review of .. accessibility and legal compliance” as well as “Search engine visibility”. Given that a good Google rank is intimately related to accessibility, I thought I’d check on their accessibility for five minutes.

The main header of the page “Welcome to your free website review” is an image with no alt text, so a screenreader user would get no context for the following marketing blurb. The main image on the left also contains content text, but with a blank alt attribute. These are priority one violations of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, as that text is impossible to access for someone who can’t access the images. You can only submit the form if you have JavaScript enabled – another priority one error.

The form fields have no associated labels, violating priority 2. There is no DOCTYPE, so it cannot validate – another priority 2 error.

Most hemorrhoid-suckingly terrible of all, the page has literally no useful semantic structure. There are no paragraphs (lumps of text are merely separated by “<br><BR>”); the “list of services” isn’t a list; in fact, the only structure is a form and a table that is purely for layout – a layout that would be trivial to duplicate in CSS.

Headings for oblivion

There aren’t even any headings that would help a screenreader user move around the page, and which are also used by search engines to rank content. Sickwebsite claim expertise in Search Engine Optimisation, so I did a search on “free website review” – the phrase that they have most prominently displayed on their page (in a no-alt image).

Google seems not to know they exist.

The reason I pick on is not because they are invalid or because they aren’t using the latest bleeding-edge css trickery. We all make validation mistakes, and we can’t all code like Brothercake. We’re all learning, experimenting and refining our techniques – that’s why we’re professionals and not charlatans.

I’m calling them out because they are attempting to sell a service by claiming expertise they don’t have. They claim to be an “experienced team of web-doctors and nurses”, but in these days of new professionalism, we don’t need doctors with leeches, magic spells and textbooks on the four humours. You need web standards.

Sickwebsite: Physician, heal thyself.

13 Dec 2005: I notice that sickwebsite‘s owners are amending the site, to include alt text and a DOCTYPE (though the code doesn’t yet conform to that doctype). This is to be given two cheers (the third cheer is reserved for valid, semantic code and removal of mandatory JavaScript). For the record, here’s the old code that I discuss above. The copyright on it belongs to them. (And they’re fucking welcome to it.)

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7 Responses to “ Snakeoil salesmen: ”

Comment by Gez Lemon

Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a website that listed accessibility charlatans (or any other type of charlatan). Whenever someone commissions a website, they could just check that the company they’re commissioning isn’t in the charlatan directory.

Comment by Dan

Wow – you think that’s bad check out

This guy’s dragging the name of web professionals down in my area. Try clicking on the w3c validation button on his front page for a good laugh. ‘Award Winning’ ‘Accessible Web Design’ my ass.

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