Review of SOCITM Better Connected 2012 Web Page (25th February 2012)

I send the below feedback to SOCITM with regards to the Better Connected 2012 web page.

I was referred there by James Coltham, a Scottish public sector IT worker when he blogged about the report.

The specific feedback I have on the Better Connected page primarily affects main content of the page. This should be editable within your CMS.

<title> text is vague

It simply says “Socitm – Overview”.

I suggest:
“Better Connected 2012 – Socitm”.

Illogical Heading Structure from the Start

As created by HTML elements <h1> to <h6>, this divides the document in an illogical manner. The content has a main heading which says “Better connected 2012” but that is followed by a subheading “Overview”. This labels the entire document as being an overview of itself.

I suggest:
Move the word “Overview” into the main heading, or remove it entirely, or use further subheadings for subsequent sections of the content.

Many Subheadings are not using a Heading Element.

This is an accessibility failure, as the text will not appear in any “List of Headings” or “Skip to Heading” features in Assistive Technologies (ATs).

I suggest:
Using <h2> or <h3> instead of <p><strong>.
I suggest:
Update the stylesheet if body-sized bold text is the preferred house style for these subheadings.

Heading Levels are Absent When Required

The absence of certain section numbers and mixed with the use of section letters does confuse me. So the intended structure might well be different to what I have proposed here.

From what I can deduce from the context, here is how HTML heading levels should be used:

  1. 1: Better connected 2012 [Overview]
    1. [REMOVE] 2: Overview
    2. 2: Introduction
      1. 3: Important
    3. 2: This year’s report
      1. 3: Part A The Present – this year’s results
        1. [MISSING] 4: Section 1
        2. 4: Section 2 This year’s results – useful content
        3. 4: Section 3 This year’s results – usability
        4. 4: Section 4 This year’s results – usage
        5. 4: Section 5 The use of social media
      2. 3: Part B The future - issues to face
        1. [MISSING] 4: Section 6
        2. 4: Section 7 Management challenge for websites
        3. [EMPTY] 4: Section 8 Conclusions
    4. 2: Executive briefing
      1. 3: How did your council do?
    5. 2: Open data
I suggest:
Flattening the heading structure.
I suggest:
Removing the heading I have marked [REMOVE].
I suggest:
Filling in the area I have marked [MISSING].
I suggest:
Filling in the area I have marked [EMPTY].

Headings are Absent from Logical Sections

For example, the trio of download links are given a preceding paragraph of explanation but this highly relevant and logically separate unit of content is not labelled with a heading.

I suggest:
Adding a heading before the paragraph starting “The files below […]” to label the section.
I suggest:
Using the words “Free summaries available to download” for the new heading.

Improper Spelling

Specifically, the absence of uppercase letters.

I suggest:
“Better Connected 2012”
I suggest:
I suggest:
Title case for titles. The modern trend to use sentence case for headings simply reduces their distinctiveness. Distinctiveness is fundamental to the role of headings.

Odd Use of Bold Text

The word “report” is bold within one paragraph. This occurs after the heading “This year’s report.” The word acts neither as a link nor does it have any other special purpose in this paragraph. Other instances of the word are not bolded.

I suggest:
Remove the bold formatting from the word “report” in this paragraph.

Archaic Lettering and Numbering

These created complex, nested relationships which seem unhelpful to understanding the gist of the document. As it is a summary of the report and its results, there may simply be too many words divided up in too many different ways.

I suggest:
Radically flattening the use of headings to create simpler and more natural sections within the content.
I suggest:
Removing the word “Part” and “Section” from the start of headings. The formatting and lack of terminal punctuation strong conveys the fact each heading introduces a “part” or “section” in the content.
I suggest:
A complete re-write of the document, tailoring it to actual user needs and taking an ‘Occam’s Razor’ approach to remove the current repetition, conflict and general disarray.

Repetitive text

Primarily this is being used to indicate complex, nested relationships between headings. For example, the words “This year’s results” are repeated at the start of many headings to group them. This is rather clumsy, editorially. It also reduces usability by filling the F-Shaped Reading Pattern with repetitive information.

I suggest:
Simply remove “This year’s results”. The entire content is specifically about this year’s report, as introduced by the content’s main heading. So these words are entirely redundant in the first place!

Wrong Information Within the Content

The section entitled “Important” says “[…] files for download appear at the bottom of this page.” However, there are no files at the bottom of the page. The files it refers to are immediately above this paragraph!

(There are several other examples of misdirection about the downloads, who has permission, how this is sought, along with distinctions between individuals and organisations.)

I suggest:
Correcting the words to match the actual location of the downloadable files.
I suggest:
Move this paragraph to be immediately above the list of downloadable files.

Misleading Heading Text

Towards the end, a heading says “How did your council do?” but it at no point does it describe how any specific Council ‘did’. Instead it provides detailed information about the available downloads.

Some of which is wrong, as the word “Here” is used at a point where no such downloads are available – they are at the other end of the document, in fact!

I suggest:
Changing the heading text to say “Access to the full report and your council’s results”.

Incorrect Publication Date

Two paragraphs up from the final heading, “Open data”, a paragraph says “Better connected 2011”. However, the content article is actually about the 2012 report.

I suggest:
Changing the text so it says “Better Connected 2012”.

URLs used as Link Text

Web addresses (aka URLs) are unintuitive and unpronounceable computer codes. They should not be presented to users. They are also being provided with and without the protocol part, either http:// or https:// which lacks consistency.

I suggest:
Replace each URL with the title of the page it links to. (A good example where this has been done is the link which says “list of up-to-date Socitm Insight subscribers”, although “Insight” should be italic for consistency with the rest of the content.)

Further Feedback

There are other minor points and an overall editorial style which could be improved for web-friendly reading, as well as the technical accessibility.

Hopefully this review provides a useful reference point to aid that on-going process.

Ben Millard