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IN DEFENCE OF WEBSITE DATA STANDARDS

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In response to criticism* of technical aspects of its website, the Local Government Association's head of informati...
In response to criticism* of technical aspects of its website, the Local Government Association's head of information management Jim Duvall said:

'The LGA welcomes feedback that contributes to the ongoing development and improvement of our website (www.lga.gov.uk). In this instance, it is important to point out that the LGA website is not a 'central government' website and benchmarking the site against those of central government departments, with access to higher levels of resource than the LGA, may not be entirely appropriate.

'The findings of Sitemorse are very interesting and the LGA is committed to improving the accessibility of our site against government standards. The website's data standards will obviously be reviewed as part of an ongoing improvement plan for the website.'

* The LGA's website came bottom in rankings of central government's websites analysed with SiteMorsetesting technology. The Child Support Agency website emerged top. Only one site 'nearly' meets mandatory government requirements.

By simulating a user visiting a website, SiteMorse is able to provide a thorough test of the site, and by replicating every possible page and combination of pages or actions a visitor could choose, SiteMorse is able to test for problems that prevent the site from operating correctly across the many browsers, user hardware types, corporate access tools (firewalls/proxy servers/networks) along with the many internet service provider and hosting possibilities - both hardware and software (including operating systems, etc).

SiteMorse checks for over 100 different problems, including missing images, broken links, violations of W3C/IETF standards, faulty email addresses, DNS errors, etc.

'Internal/manual testing of the site, often with just a modem and stand-alone PC, could never practically emulate the many possible user access permutations,' the software's authors believe, 'even for the home user, let alone a corporate user.'

The software's tests and ratings include: overall, function (errors found, warnings found), performance (response time, download speed), accessibility (Java and/or Flash), server-side checks, downloads.

eGMS

In testing for compliance with the mandatory standards for meta data; eGMS (electronic government metadata standard) only four sites had any of the mandatory requirements; 'Pension Service' having over 95% of pages correct, the next best was Department for Work and Pensions / Foreign and Commonwealth Office, with just 1.2%. One site scored 0.63% page compliance, and all other sites failed on every page.

Example errors in report:

www.drc-gb.org.uk - internal link not working.

www.lga.gov.uk - accessibility help not working.

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