Tuesday, July 11, 2000

You Call That Web Site Testing?

I received this spam (scroll to bottom) the other day from a company claiming to audit web sites. Unfortunately, I have no idea what they could actually audit since accessibility, usability, and compliance are not even remotely demonstrated on their own site.

So I offer up this email to you folks (with names changed to protect the offenders) in case you get the same spam. If your boss hears of this and wants to use it, or a client thinks it's worth purchasing, steer them away.

Validation can be done by the W3C validator for free, accessibility features can be tested by Bobby for free, load time can be done with a stopwatch (and that nifty IE5/win add-on that shows all the images and d/l time on a page - try it, or ImageReady, FireWorks, or many other utilities), links can be checked (and should be) by a human or any number of shareware or online utilities (search on "link checking" at download.com for some samples), and usability can be achieved through some pretty simple testing (I refer you to Jakob Nielsen, or an evolt article). You don't need to pay people without a clear understanding to do it for you.

Ultimately, as developers, we are all responsible for testing our own work. Having another set of eyes review it is good, but paying someone to do it is often pointless. Few organizations can stay on top of the technologies if all they do is test, and cultivating in-house talent is always more valuable.

And the worst thing you can do is spam a company who performs very thorough audits with auditing offers, especially when the spamming site indicates a capability on par with some low-level interns.

So I offer this poor soul up for sacrifice on the altar of evolt.org, and hope that my message can only help them see the error in their ways, and help others who neglect to test their own sites with some simple tips. Have I received a response from them you ask? Not yet. Will I? Probably not. I never do...

--------------------

K,

I reviewed your web site to take a look at the services you offer, in particular the web site testing and validation, and was surprised to see that your own site is brimming with errors.

You note that the average Fortune 100 company web site (what about the others?) contains 13 HTML coding errors, when your own site, according to the W3C HTML validator, contains 40 basic errors including improperly nested tags, unclosed tags, unquoted attributes, two body tags, and even the most basic - a missing document type declaration at the start of the document. As a result, I only checked it against the HTML 4.01 Transitional specification since there is no clue what version of HTML the page is supposed to be beyond the use of a number of deprecated and proprietary tags and attributes.

In addition to that, and not covered by a software validator, are many elements that are barriers to accessibility. Section 508 of the Workforce Investment Act, enacted on August 7, 1998, requires government sites and government funded or related sites to be accessible to all users. It is conceivable that future case law will make this apply to many public sites as well (consider the AOL class-action lawsuit by blind users). Given this, your site lacks the most basic features for disabled users such as 'alt' attributes in its images, and HTML 4.01 and Web Accessibility Initiative accessibility features in your form elements.

From a usability standpoint, the lack of clear page headers and consistent navigation are just starters on the interface problems with the site. It does not work very well on most of the 80+ browsers on which I perform testing, and its page sizes go beyond the oft-cited 8 second rule, by as much as 41 seconds on a 14.4kbps connection.

I would go on, but if you have the staff to audit sites with the skill level you claim, you might want to turn them loose on your own site. As it stands, your own site does not demonstrate that your organization has the capability to perform audits to the level that we require.

Thank you for your time.

Adrian Roselli Vice President, Interactive Algonquin Studios http://algonquinstudios.com 716.842.1439

> -----Original Message-----
> From: K Foo [kfoo@foo.com]
>  Sent: Monday, July 10, 2000 9:25 PM
> To:  info@
> Subject: Web Site Testing Services
>
> Algonquin Studios,
> With the emergence of e-commerce sites and  the growth of
> business performed over the web, it is critical  for
> companies to have their web sites tested extensively.
>  According to a study by ParaSoft, the average Web page
> operated by a  Fortune 100 company contains 13 HTML coding
> errors, and link errors  occur about once every four
> pages. Furthermore, Zona Research estimated  that U.S.
> companies lose approximately $58 million per month in  e-
> commerce sales due to Web page loading failures. Web
> sites  need to be tested to ensure that they function
> correctly, are compatible  over many different browser and
> operating system configurations and can  handle a large
> amount of concurrent users.
> Foo, Inc. is an  independent testing facility that
> specializes in web site testing and  load testing
> solutions. If you would like us to send you more
>  information about our web site testing and load testing
> services, please  e-mail us at info@foo.com to
> receive further information about our  testing services or
> visit our web site at http://www.foo.com.
>
> Thank you,
>
> K Foo
> Project Manager
> Foo,  Inc.
> E-mail: kfoo@foo.com
> http://www.foo.com

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