Nokia’s Site Chosen as “Best In Finland”

[Update: I was contacted by Webmark about the survey. Read Updates at end of post.]

According to various (finnish) sources (TietoviikkoDigitoday, Tietokone etc),  Nokia.fi was chosen as “best web site in Finland, 2008“.

I don’t even want to begin to conversate about Nokia.fi’s pros or cons – I’ll just focus on how this achievement was published in the news.

Well yeah.

I spotted the news at Digitoday. It states that Webmark, “a company that measures quality of web sites”,  found Nokia’s website the best in Finland (according to their evaluation/survey).
Then Digitoday, as well as all other publishers, continues jabbering about survey/evaluation done, which sites made it to Top-10 and so on.

Nice.

Except that:

  • I didn’t find a single link to survey/evaluation made
  • I didn’t find a single line mentioning tools used in the evaluation
  • I didn’t find a single line mentioning source for this bit of news
    (Where did it come from (Heaven?)? Was there a press conference (where? when? who was invited?)? Did the company post a press release?)

Jolly good.

Now, as I’m by nature mean, nasty and curious, I googled Webmark first. Found eventually their finnish site. And yes! There it was, the press release about “Best Site in Finland, 2007”.

Wait, what?

2007? It should be 2008 now,  shouldn’t it?

No press release about year 2008, just 2007.

Nice.

Well, back to Google.
Tried “webmark suomen paras verkkosivu“. No source, no press releases from original source, just different posts with (virtually) same content. (Other queries returned same results, too.)

Back to original post at Digitoday.  CEO’s of Webmark and Accenture are mentioned, as well as that “at the same time published research done by Accenture” – hey, I’ll just see Accenture.fi for origins!

Nothing at all about these things at  “press” -part of their pages.

Makes one wonder.

Hey guys at Webmark, Accenture, Digitoday and so on, if you read this, please post (all or at least one of the following):

  1. original press release
  2. origin of this news (if it was published at conference or something, where and when?)
  3. actual evaluation data
  4. methods used at evaluation

.. and then I’m willing to believe Nokia.fi is “the best web site in Finland, 2008”.

Update 25.3.2009

I was contacted by Webmark about this post and spent interesting times discussing the survey and methods. I also received some additional material, which made some points mentioned above quite clear.

  1. Original press release was published at the given date at Webmark’s site, only in the afternoon (read it here, pdf)
  2. Announcement was made at “Vuoden verkkosivut 2008” -conference, 19.3.2009. (See the program here.)
    Why didn’t I find the link
    nor the page? Only mention at Webmark’s front page about the announcement and conference (symposium?) was a flash -based banner, which got caught in my Adblock (it’s not a good idea to name banners “banner”, you know.). And when it comes to no origin at news about survey, thank our beloved and overworked reporters!
  3. Evaluation data is not available, but is based on methodology by Mr. Harri Oinas-Kukkonen from University of Oulu.
  4. See point 3 and press release.

(Bit more later…)

Helsinki, UN and Certain Surveys.

United Nations (UN) just released their survey about municipal websites, world wide. Actual title was “Digital Governance in Municipalities Worldwide (2007) ~ A Longitudinal Assessment of Municipal Websites Throughout the World” (PDF-link!).

What was the survey about? (Bolding by yours truly, quotes from the summary part of the survey) In the survey they “evaluated the websites of municipalities in terms of digital governance and ranked them on a global scale”. Cities and nations were selected as follows: “The top 100 most wired nations were identified using data from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)…”.  and “The largest city, by population in each of these 100 countries was then selected for the study and used as a  surrogate for all cities in the respective country…”

To summarize: top 100 most wired nations were under inspection, of which biggest cities’ websites were evaluated. Helsinki is the most crowded city in Finland, so Helsinki’s website (www.hel.fi) was evaluated.

Five components were evaluated:

  1. Privacy/Security;
  2. Usability;
  3. Content;
  4. Services; and
  5. Citizen Participation

I’ll leave other aspects alone and concentrate on the second component, usability. On the survey they examined “three types of websites: traditional web pages, forms, and search tools”. Sounds like a good selection to me, although in my opinion those are just parts of one website. What was then, in fact, evaluated? Branding, structure, consistency (colours, navigational elements etc.), requirements stated (clearly), availability of sitemaps and alternative versions for documents, basic forms’ usability, search tools and so on. Quite good a selection (imho), again.

In the content-component they also evaluated the “Bobby compliance” (sic!) or access to web site via a TDD Phone Service. (Side notes: Bobby was originally “a free online tool provided by the Centre for Applied Special Technology (CAST) used to validate websites for WAI and Section 508 compliance” (Wikipedia). At 2005 it became “Watchfire WebXACT” -tool (still free to use online) and was finally integrated by IBM at 2008 and is nowadays part of IBM’s Rational Policy Tester Accessibility Edition and therefore not available for free use.)

In the usability section Helsinki was ranked fourth overall and in the content section sixth overall. Not too bad, eh? About Helsinki was said: “Helsinki increased in its overall score and its ranking
significantly from those in 2005 and 2003. Helsinki was ranked 35th with a score of 34.62 in 2005 and was not ranked in the top five cities in any of the categories.” Now Helsinki is among top ten in four out of five categories (privacy, citizen participation, usability and content – if I’m not wrong).

Hooray for Helsinki and hooray for Finland, as the survey quite clearly states that “(The largest city, by population … was … ) used as a  surrogate for all cities in the respective country“. Points for Finland, not for Helsinki, I’d say, although finnish media wanted to state so (for example Helsingin Sanomat says that “Helsinki’s Website is the third best in the world” /  (HS: Helsingin verkkosivut ovat kolmanneksi parhaat maailmassa).To claim that Helsinki’s site is the 3rd best in the world is at best misleading and at worst just plain wrong.

Anyway, pretty nice results.

Why am I not pleased?

Helsinki’s site is in my opinion not as good as all this hype could lead us to believe. Good, yes, they’ve done a lot of work, but still! The URI structure is awful (take http://www.hel.fi/wps/portal/Helsinki?WCM_GLOBAL_CONTEXT=/Helsinki/fi/Etusivu as an example), layout is table-based, front page has a lot of HTML errors and so on. Quite minor things, have to give you that.

The thing I’m worried about at the moment is that the given UN Survey will now be used as a way to measure basic quality of web sites in Finland (“Survey says that www.hel.fi is the third best in the world!”) and the not-so-nicely-implemented features will be forgotten (at hel.fi and other sites, too). Quality of finnish sites has improved but is not that good when accessibility and usability are taken into account. Even technical quality can be questioned in many cases.

To sum things up: Helsinki (or actually Finland) scored pretty well on municipal websites survey. Overall quality is ok, but in my opinion not as superior as the media tends to say. we still have a lot to do!