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!

Tampere United Redesign

Front Page of Tampere United\'s redesigned site.

Tampere United, my local football (soccer, natürlich!) team, just released a redesign of their site.

My first opinion: WTF?

Flash, Javascript, font size even smaller than it used to be, almost everything displayed as images (and the list goes on and on and on).

77 validation errors (according to W3C’s Validator). And yes, although valid HTML is not the key to happiness, it is certainly a measure of quality.Tampere United - front page without flash

News -section at front page done with flash (sic!). WTF?

Antti Pohja’s so-called Blog: no RSS, no proper archives, no commenting. Nice stories, though, no complaints to Ato!

Tested with Opera Mini Simulator (latest version):

  • with mobile browsing off (no mobile view):
    Looks quite nice. News don’t work. Menu doesn’t work. Sponsor -list doesn’t work. Images look terrible (at lo-res).
  • mobile browsing on (mobile view):
    Fucking awful (imho)! (Menu comes first, news don’t work at front page, ad’s are really, really big and so on).

Visually the redesign is quite ok. Huge player up front is a nice touch, visually speaking. Colours go well with the team colours (blue and green).

Bearing accessibility and usability in mind the redesign is a total failure:

  • Menu system is based on drop-down menus (CSS-based, I’ll give you that!), but still really hard to use for people with disabilities or for the elderly.
  • Layout is fixed (try to enlarge the text, see what happens! How about lower resolutions, likeTampere United Front page without images 800×600?)
  • Reading order (linearized) is not logical.
  • Alternative texts for images and other content are not that informative (like the picture with team’s goalie, Mikko Kaven: Icon 01 Kaven) or seem to be missing completely
  • No images? Almost no content at Front Page! (Screen capture to the right)

Summary:

I don’t like this redesign. There’s nothing new for me and the old features are even worse than they were. But, as I already am a fan of TamU, perhaps it doesn’t matter.

Perhaps time will tell if I grow to like this one, too. Like I did with the older ones.

Edit:
There seems to be some new features, though. One is videos from games attached to reports (example), with interviews. Too bad this isn’t, technically speaking, not that good. Flash video, yes. Why, oh why does it start automatically?
Overall quality of videos is good, have to give you that!