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The Standards Police will get you!

I got this in the Tech E-mail inbox today at work;

Question From: Timo(XXX@???.com)

Question:

Please Check these results, they are pretty bad:

[LINK EMBEDDED IN E-MAIL]

Another:

Hmm:

“The maximum number of errors was reached. Further errors in the document have not been reported.”

[LINK EMBEDDED IN E-MAIL]

I contacted you a few years ago with this type of information and never got a response. Sounds like you never learned! Sorry to be blunt but I love Canadian content but hate it when it’s not presented properly.

I hope someone reads this and says “Perhaps we should look at this”.

I think all disabled people in Canada and around the world would be appreciative!

Thanks for letting me vent,

Timo

Thanks Timo. I really appreciate your e-mail. I can’t tell you how much this helps me. I’ll just go ahead and tell everyone that we’ve gotta stop updating the damn “sports scores” and “sports news”, so that we can all get right on to the important business at hand…making TSN.ca standards compliant.

Listen, you won’t find a guy more willing to make a site standards compliant, but I’m realistic. The powers that be don’t care that the site is standards compliant, they care that it works in their browsers (it does), and that it has the latest news (it does). Standards compliance is a “nice to have” if I can get it done on my own time, in between other projects…you know, like making sure the system all works right.

To all of you who would like to send a similar letter to any organization, big or small, may I make one suggestion?

Don’t.

It doesn’t help anyone, we’re all aware of our deficiencies, and could probably point 100 more out on top of the 10 you point out. Not only that, but you have no idea what kind of conditions we’re working in, or what else we’re trying to do (or the fact that we’re building a whole new standards compliant, CSS based site behind the scenes, but Rome wasn’t built in a day…at least it wasn’t built properly in a day).

Your arrogance isn’t helping anyone, and if you were in my position, where you were one of a team of THREE PEOPLE who build and maintain TSN.ca right now, or the fact that a year ago my team got cut in half due to budget cutbacks, you’d see that we’re already fighting an uphill battle.

By Brian Garside

Brian is a digital experience expert, and part time internet superhero. He focuses on digital first design, digital strategies, content management, website usability, and user experience. He was part of the team behind BalanceDo, the co-founder of All New Comics, and the chief strategist at NorthIQ.

9 replies on “The Standards Police will get you!”

Oh man, I feel you. I get emails like this from time to time and I used to get them quite a bit. You just can’t please everyone!

On a similar note today we ran into a problem at work (I work for a hospital) where some of our pages were breaking a tad for folks who bumped the font up quite a bit. Of course, since it came in via someone who has a bit of pull within the organization us worker bees need to scramble to fix it and there are questions as to why this would happen.

Yeah, heaven forbid be actually allow the user to break the layout by letting them increase the font size — next time we’ll just hard set it with pixels and we can avoid this problem.

Sometimes trying to do the right thing can cause you so much grief it’s not worth it.

I feel your pain.

I have to disagree on a couple of points:

> The powers that be don’t care that the site is standards compliant, they care that it works in their browsers

No, they care if it works in their visitors’ browsers. The email you recieved is an example of one such failure, and most people won’t even bother to email you, so for every complaint you get, there are probably thirty or so people who keep quiet.

> Standards compliance is a “nice to have” if I can get it done on my own time, in between other projects…you know, like making sure the system all works right.

Isn’t this an example of the system *not* working right?

> It doesn’t help anyone, we’re all aware of our defficiencies

At my last job at a web dev firm, we got occasional queries from clients about emails they’d received from people complaining that their site didn’t work right in [x] browser or [y] OS. My boss, the owner of the firm, carefully explained to them that these were troublemakers that didn’t have anything better to do with their time. That firm was responsible for a few hundred large websites (online ordering, etc), and a couple of hundred small websites (mainly just publicity stuff).

As far as I can tell, this is the norm for the web development industry, as enlightened as your organisation might be, it doesn’t follow that everybody is. You’re living in a dream world if you think that everybody is aware of alternative browsers, alternative operating systems, or even the fact that some people need to surf with large fonts, etc.

> Not only that, but you have no idea what kind of conditions we’re working in

So you’d rather people kept quiet about problems they had accessing your site? If everybody did that, how would you ever find out about problems?

> Your arrogance isn’t helping anyone

I didn’t see it as arrogance. I saw it as somebody who had a problem with your site, notified you, continued to have problems and got frustrated and emailed you again.

On the other hand, he could have been a bit politer, but I think you may have chosen a particularly tame example from a worse bunch.

Just as a side note: can you please use the example.com or .invalid domain rather than making one up? If nobody owns hisisp.com now, they may do in the future, and you’re just increasing their spam by making up email addresses and publishing them on the web.

I am also building standards compliant sites part time, trying to break into the web design business while skilling up via university and TAFE college. Busy life. And I get these same messages quite often, as well.

I guess there are two sorts of people who do this, one -irratating people just hunting to dig you in the ribs; but the other and hopefully more common – is the “free user testing base” out there. So I try to take it on board that the site breaks and put it on my to do list.

I also agree with the one day at a time theory. I can’t work 16 hours every day. Of course, nobody is paying me a fortune for my skills yet either so hehe.

Basically all I am saying is look at the positives, complaints save you having to go find broken stuff by yourself. Cool. But it can sometimes be draining to find your hard work is unappreciated, too. Such is a career in any software related field I expect.

Steven Clark
http://www.nortypig.com
http://www.blog.nortypig.com

I saw it as somebody who had a problem with your site, notified you, continued to have problems and got frustrated and emailed you again.Uh, the writer didn’t say anything about having a problem. He doesn’t mention ANY specific, tangible problems. Is he himself disabled and require special consideration? Is critical content being obscured? What browser is he using anyway?

He doesn’t say. He could have actual sent something useful like, say, a screenshot. But he doesn’t. He just sends links to the validators and a bit of unhelpful nagging. This is not the way to promote Web standards.

> Uh, the writer didn’t say anything about having a problem.

From the email:

“Sorry to be blunt but I love Canadian content but hate it when it’s not presented properly.

[…]

I think all disabled people in Canada and around the world would be appreciative!”

I read that as him being disabled and having some sort of problem with the presentation.

> He could have actual sent something useful like, say, a screenshot. But he doesn’t. He just sends links to the validators and a bit of unhelpful nagging.

I agree that he could have been more helpful, but isn’t that what the ‘reply’ button is for in email clients? Maybe he assumed that providing a list of errors was enough, and that fixing them would solve his problem?

“The powers that be don’t care that the site is standards compliant, they care that it works in their browsers”

Have to agree there – in the past where I work, I’ve even been told to specifically *not* support non-IE browsers (which I ignored, by virtue of making standards-compliant, CSS sites). The things I need to check to get work past senior management are 1) Does it work in IE, 2) Does the entire website fit on screen, in a maximised IE window at a screen resolution of 1024*768, with no vertical scrolling. Step one is no problem. Step two can be tricky 🙁


paul
http://joeblade.com/

I don’t accept that this was email was submitted from anyone else but a *nagger* or *compliance Nazi* or *zealot*. Go out on the street and ask the average Jane or Joe a.) do you ever surf the web, and (if yes) b.) do you know how to run a web page through a validator and verify that it is standards compliant.

The point is… I think (opinion) that your average disabled person is going to find the site broken and move off to another site without saying anything. I’m not saying that’s a good thing, but a lot of people take the path of least resistance… particularly if it’s no a life or death situation.

If that person *did* decide to act, they would most likely just send an email describing a specific situation or problem with the site. If you’re extremely lucky, they’ll send you a screenshot.

I really don’t see the problem here, even if someone complained and I didn’t give a hoot I’d just ignore it. But basically if I can get feedback even 1 week earlier by someone telling me there is some problem in mac browsers then at least I can consider looking at it. Aren’t I there for that?

Is standards compliancy to be about improving, or ignoring?

Maybe I missed the point of this thread and it is just about the person who complains (in which case yes the line between nutter and free beta tester is pretty fine). At the end of the day we can’t please everyone though, true. Ask ourselves this – if you don’t at least give the same courteous service and professional face to complainants as any other business then will they be recommending you in the future as a designer, will they say you have good service – or will you have a nutter running around saying you are a bad designer and very rude and not to hire you? Sorry for the long post.

Oh I did read an odd one a few days ago…. Some guy complained a blog done in css and xhtml 1.0 strict was crap in his browser. Said he surfs on 600 by something. Now that is funny. He just needed to bump up his res a bit to fix the problem and still complained.

There is a certain amount of responsibility on the surfer for their experience here? Ever had someone complain they can’t see your slideshow and its because THEY have javascript turned off? Or they use some obscure browser or (nooo) Netscape 4.7?

Upgrade, move forward, buy a new computer – anything. It seems to come from Linux geeks a lot too. You can’t expect the full multimedia experience without bringing the right gear online. We shouldn’t not use technology just because some out there choose to keep the old. I am sure eventually if they get crap internet they will get a decent browser. Oh and stones should be thrown at the browser companies for making compliancy an ambiguous adventure in versioning still. Ok you got me started, back to work. Ciao.

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