“AND FLASH GORDON WAS THERE IN SILVER UNDERWEAR”

(UPDATED)    The TTC has updated its list of companies and individuals who have bought the tender documents for the Web-redevelopment project. Let’s do a quick check for Failed Redesigns for all companies. Do their homepages have valid HTML and CSS? In essence, do the cobbler’s children go unshod? Keep in mind that this is merely one indicator, but a rather significant one.

  1. Another Take Studios: 2 & Valid ✓
  2. Bad Math: 43 (claimed XHTML 1.1, served as html) & 5
  3. Bell: 118 & Valid ✓
  4. Boden Inc.: 33 & Valid ✓
  5. Brandworks: 4 & Valid ✓
  6. CMI Group: 8 (no DOCTYPE) & no stylesheet
  7. Cogeny: 12 (no DOCTYPE; Flash intro) & no stylesheet
  8. Cyberplex: 13 & Valid ✓
  9. Elemental Inc.: 53 & 2
  10. Extreme Group: 23 (no DOCTYPE) & no stylesheet
  11. GJP Advertising: 6 & Valid ✓
  12. GSI International Consulting: 59 (no DOCTYPE) & two screens of errors I’m not going to bother to count (≈134; “1000 is not a font-weight value”)
  13. Haven Knowledge Systems: 165 & 1
  14. IBM.com/ca/: Valid ✓ & erroneous URLs, but the CSS with media="all" passes
  15. IC Group: 43 & 6
  16. International Web Dev. Corp. (sic): 84 & Valid ✓
  17. Infinite Media: 10 & 6
  18. iStorm: 23 (no DOCTYPE) & Valid ✓
  19. Jig Technologies: 20 & Valid ✓
  20. Mighty Digital (nice homepage): 2 (no DOCTYPE) & 16
  21. Navantis: 27 & Valid ✓
  22. Nortak: 16 (no DOCTYPE) & no stylesheet
  23. One Stop Media Group (or Fourth Wall Media, depending on which line of the address you believe): 9 (claimed Strict) & 1 (Fourth Wall: 9 & Valid ✓)
  24. RÄDIANT CÖRE: 2 & 3
  25. Razorbraille: 10 (no DOCTYPE) & Valid ✓
  26. Redwood Custom Comm. Inc., presumably at redwoodcc.com: 14 (no DOCTYPE) & Valid ✓
  27. Scott Thornley & Company Inc.: 9 (no DOCTYPE) & Valid ✓
  28. 7th Element Webworks: No apparent Web site
  29. Siva: 39 & 1
  30. Slingshot: Uncheckable & Valid ✓
  31. Solstice Solutions: Valid ✓ & Valid ✓
  32. Tattoo Direct & Digital: 19 & 2
  33. Thornley Fallis: 64 & Valid ✓
  34. TPM Communications (a video house): 54 (no DOCTYPE) & no stylesheet
  35. Y Factor, with a ridiculous homepage URL (YFactor.com/Public/Home.[“asspix”]): 218 & 16

(It was too difficult to insert 105 additional links for homepages and validation results. You can look them up yourself.)

Let’s assume that one-third of these companies place a bid. (It does require a $50,000 bond.) IBM might use in-house talent, but do you think there are ten other Web-accessibility experts floating around out there who could be hired on? You can’t file a bid without one on your team, and you have to back up their qualifications. (“I know how to make a text-only site” is not a qualification. Neither is “I know how to jury-rig some text-size and colour changers, accesskeys, and text-to-speech.”)

How’s that gonna work out, do you think?


Update

(2007.08.22)    A couple of the shops listed above have fixed their validation errors. Good show for that, I guess.

If you think I’m being unduly doctrinaire, you must be new here, but in any event, for the TTC redesign you have to meet WCAG Priority 2, which requires valid code 100% of the time. The potential bidders have not necessarily claimed P2 on their own sites, but I’m using those as a proxy for their competence at building a new TTC site that does meet Priority 2. Whenever anyone claims to meet P2, the first thing we do is try to bounce them for invalid code. And 33 out of 35 of them bounced (now 31, I guess).

Of perhaps greater interest is the list of potential bidders that still use tables for layout on their homepages. I checked 19 of the above list (life is too short), and found these companies are still locked in the early ’90s:

  1. Another Take
  2. Boden
  3. CM Inc.
  4. Cyberplex (of course)
  5. Haven
  6. iStorm
  7. Navantis (yes)
  8. Redwood
  9. Siva
  10. Bad Math

A lot of these are not just table-layout sites but table-layout-with-Flash sites. And Brandworks appears to be all Flash and JavaScript.

These rather basic competency tests are enough to suggest that nearly all potential bidders will be prone to talking a good game without any proven ability to deliver. My mental image has Cyberplex doing the following, but all of them are apt to blow smoke up our asses. They’ll promise the world, hack together a homepage that barely passes, somehow snag the contract, then saddle us with the same bullshit found on their homepages (Microsoft, tables, Flash, tag soup, Microsoft, “asspix,” Microsoft, tables, tag soup, Microsoft).

We need code quality and smart development, of which valid code is a required indicator here. If their homepages are any indication of their abilities, many or all of the potential bidders with invalid HTML or CSS and/or table-layout homepages may oversell their abilities to the point of fraud. Zero-taste, low-acumen, IE6-only TTC is perfectly able to fall for it.

I would not want to appear before the public inquiry that would later be called to find out why the TTC wasted a quarter-million dollars on a “new” Web site that’s about as bad as the existing one. As always, even though this money is coming out of the capital budget, it is useful to think of those expenditures in terms of bus lines cancelled and number of stations by which the Sheppard subway would be shortened. Get this right.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2007.08.16 13:06. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:
https://blog.fawny.org/2007/08/16/ttc-competency1/

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