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All the Perl that's Practical to Extract and Report

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  • This week, I have run across several U.S. government websites that claim they are optimized for Internet Explorer and that I "may lose some functionality" with other browsers.
    Don't forget that the US Government is an interminably large place. Although there are regulations on the subject (c.f. Section 508), there are no standards in place on what to do (and what not to do) when performing some task, like, say, building a website. Doubly so when you look at the government as a set of independant departments and agencies each ostensibly reporting to the Office of the President of the United States (but act like independant corporations for much of their day-to-day affairs).

    If you were to look long enough, you would probably see every pattern an antipattern in web design on a public facing government website: pages edited by hand, "this site optimized for IE 3.0", database-driven content management, well-formed XHTML, malformed HTML 2.0, CSS floating layout, clunky table-driven layout, and everything else you can possibly imagine.

    The government usually lets these low level implementation details be decided by a small staff of 5-10 people in some office somewhere (or a team of 20-30 consultants somewhere else), so it's pretty much luck-of-the-draw whether any random website is developed by cluebies or people who know what they're doing. Just like the private sector. ;-)

    As far as section 508 goes, the letter of the law applies to new procurement. Some [] government websites are adhering to the letter of the law, even when it's an old site or not procured. But technically speaking, government websites in general do not need to adhere to accessability regulations (although the copiers and fax machines delivered from Office Depot do).

    • It's a Cath-22. While Section 508 is enforced through the Federal Acquisitions Regulations, the law still requires that electronic information be accessible. Most agencies I've dealt with on this disregard the FAR when it comes to web sites, and adhere to 508 wether the site is procured or not.