Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Australian Government Digital Business Website

Senator Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, launched digitalbusiness.gov.au on 8 December 2010. This is intended to provide practical advice for small businesses and community organisations on establishing an online presence. The Minister described this as a ‘beta’ site still in development and invited input, so here is some:

Test results:
  1. W3C Markup Validation Service: passed the home page as HTML5. This is the first website from government I have seen using the new version of HTML. The government is to be congratulated for trying it out.
  2. W3C mobileOK Checker: Unfortunately the home page only scored 35% for mobile compatibility. One of the primary reasons for using HTML5 is so a web site will work with mobile devices. I suggest the government aim for 85% for this site. One of the points to be made to business is that the use of mobile web is increasing rapidly. A point to make to small business, is that you do not have to spend money on having a special mobile phone web site or iPhone/iPad "app". You can simply have your web site made mobile compatible.
  3. Accessibility: Unfortunately the home page did not score well on a TAW automated web accessibility test (WCAG 2). 33 Problems were detected: Perceivable 27, Operable 5 and Robust 1. None of these is a particularly serious or difficult to fix.
  4. Page Design: The home page has a good design, with useful text well placed and restrained us of graphics. There is a main menu with some icons used, but the icons appear to be purely decorative, not communicating useful information. The designer might want to consider using some standard pictogram which have established meanings.
  5. Purpose of the site: The web site provides a good high level introduction to what an Internet presence is, why a business should have one and how to go about getting one. But it is not clear why the Australian Government needs to provide this information for private businesses. The web site goes to the point of recommending three software products for web site development. Two of the products are from for-profit US based companies and one a free non-profit tool. There appears no good justification for the Australian Government to recommend that Australian companies buy imported products, thus worsening the $22B ICT trade deficit. Also in providing advice on selecting a website designer, the Australian Government does not appear to recommend choosing trained and qualified ICT personnel (such as ACS Certified Professionals). What might be more useful would be for the government to simply refer businesses to the advice AGIMO provides for government agencies on use of the Internet, which is broadly applicable. There is no real need for the Australian Government Digital Business Website.

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