Entries tagged with “Design”
Last week we looked at a case of domain squatting and lack of preparedness for one Liberal candidate, current Minister of Finance, Ralph Goodale.
Ralph finally gets a web site going, two weeks into the campaign
When we last looked for a Goodale campaign site, http://www.ralphgoodale.ca/ was showing a page indicating that no site was yet defined there, and other Goodale domain name combinations had obviously been hijacked.
Candidates: you knew an election was coming up ages ago – there’s no excuse for not securing domain names well in advance, particularly for long-time politicians. If you don’t make the effort, some teenager will.
On Thursday (eCampaign 101: Protect Your Domain) we looked briefly at
ralphgoodale.ca, wondering if someone had hijacked the domain or not. Further investigation shows that a number of domains one might reasonably visit in an effort to find our current Minister of Finance’s campaign web site are either silent or obviously hijacked.
ralphgoodale.ca and rgoodale.ca are both connected to Chris Thauberger, of Allstartech in Regina.
Admin-Name: Chris Thauberger
rgoodale.com is registered by Robert Peterson, who appears to have some connection with Allstartech as well.
Name: Robert Peterson
Regina, SK S4P 3J8
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
(I’ve x’d out the email account to save them from even more spam)
Whether Peterson and Thauberger are acting on behalf of Mr. Goodale or to thwart him is unknown.
More obvious is the intent displayed by some anonymous individual or group who have hijacked the domains ralphgoodale.com and ralphgoodale.net using an anonymous registration service offered by Domains by Proxy.
Created On:20-May-2005 17:36:33 UTC
Expiration Date:20-May-2006 17:36:33 UTC
Registrant Name:Registration Private
Registrant Organization:Domains by Proxy, Inc.
Both RalphGoodale dot NET and dot ORG were created this year by the hijackers, underscoring once again – if you are going to run for office, grab any obvious domain (yourname.ca, .NET, .ORG and .COM for starters) or someone else will take them from you and you might not appreciate the attention!
Perhaps the CBC might be interested in this site, since the hijacker has seen fit to copy the CBC page lock stock and barrel.
Remember Don Boudria…
Speaking of the CBC, I’m reminded of one recent and humorous case of domain hijacking, chronicled by Canadian comedian Rick Mercer on his weblog back in June.
Don is seriously pissed by the anti same-sex marriage crowd. It seems they have gone out and purchased one of Don’s domain names and they have been playing silly buggers with it. Take a look for yourself at http://www.donboudria.ca/
Conservative MP Jason Kenney got into the act on the floor of the House of Commons:
Mr. Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the only additional element that the hon. member has brought to the Chair’s attention relates to a matter which is in no way, shape or form within the purview of this House or your honour and it never has been, and hopefully never will be, that is to say, the registration of domain names on the World Wide Web.
I understand my hon. friend opposite is learned with respect to parliamentary procedure but I must infer from his remarks that he is stupefiedly ignorant about the commercial practices on the Internet.
Mercer’s version was funnier:
Anyway, long story short, Jason told Boudria it was his own fault for not registering his own domain name. I tend to agree with Jason on this; I mean, doesn’t the liberal Party have access to a teenager who can advise them on this kind of stuff? I bet a guy like Jason does.
Of course, Mercer did the only logical thing, for a comedian—he acted like a teenager and spent 2 minutes and 10$ and hijacked jasonkenney.org! Originally Mercer pointed the domain to the Marxist Leninists, but currently if you visit http://www.jasonkenney.org/ you’ll be redirected to to Egale.ca, an organization describing itself thusly:
Egale Canada advances equality and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-identified people, and their families, across Canada.
Kenney is reported to have laughed hard.
Created On:02-Jun-2005 19:18:23 UTC
Last Updated On:02-Aug-2005 03:54:34 UTC
Expiration Date:02-Jun-2006 19:18:23 UTC
Hey Rick, it’ll be time to renew soon!
Ralph Goodale may be looking for another job: this blank looking web site (as of 3:31pm ET 2005–12-08) is either evidence of this, or, some domain squatter beat ol’ Ralph to the punch and stole the domain out from under his feet:
Either way – definitely not cool. Lets see if anyone is squatting on the domain:
Admin-Name: Chris Thauberger
Aha. Allstartech is a company that does some work for a mutual fund company I happen to know – if we jump to conclusions it might appear that Goodale is embroiled in a domain-squatting issue, perhaps backed by the mutual fund industry. I don’t buy that though – the domain appears to have been registered for some time; the CIRA name dispute resolution policy would have resolved the issue to Goodale’s benefit by now.
Instead, maybe the blank page, in the middle of an election while Goodale is embroiled in controversy, is a new tactic designed by cagey Liberal strategists?
Either way, candidates: reserve domain names well in advance of an election; keep control of the names; secure the .CA and ideally .COM, .ORG domains as well.
And don’t let your campaign web site go down in the middle of a campaign!
NDP horning in on Conservative ground?
Noted over on the site of Toronto Star blogger Antonia Zerbisias, an uncanny resemblance between the Conservative Party of Canada web site and the US Republican National Committee web site.
Judge for yourself:
Republican National Committee
Conservative Party of Canada
Non-technical observations: Even if not a single line of code is similar between the two (and on the surface this does appear to be the case), the look and feel of the sites certainly is shared.
To the media folks at CPC campaign HQ – the opposition is looking for any reason to tie the Conservative Party (and its leaders and influencers) to the generally disliked in Canada conservative party down south. If you are going to borrow ideas and graphic design from anyone, its probably not a sane idea to steal those ideas from the party of George W. Bush.
Its too bad the Conservative Party site designers didn’t follow the GOP site lead in one direction – the GOP site uses Flash but in a restricted fashion; those without flash can still use and benefit from the site, where its Canadian cousin is completely unusable unless you are able to use Macromedia Flash.
Update on the security kafuffle – ”ferret” over at Conservative Life issued an apology to me, which I sincerely accept.
Today lets have a gander at campaign site security at a high level—I’ve set up sample transactions to the point where I would have to commit sensitive data on all the party web sites, but I’ve no intention of sending actual financial transactions to any party over the web. What I’ve found is that all campaign sites purport to offer secure financial transactions over the web, however, one completely failed to live up to their promise…
All sites offer secure communications via encrypted https secure socket layer; unfortunately the implementation of some of the campaign web sites makes it possible for a user to intentionally or unintentionally enter sensitive information on an insecure page.
The Winners: All parties except for the Conservative Party provide links to secure pages off their primary web pages. Both the Liberal and the Green Party websites go a step further and smartly redirect the user to a secure https URL, even if the user is somehow delivered to an insecure http URL. Good work on their part; the rest should do this – implementation cost? Less than 10 minutes of developer and testing time.
Half marks go to the NDP website – if a user gets sent to a secure page but with the http scheme, an error page will come up rather than a redirection (preferable) to the correct URL scheme. Half marks also go to the Bloc site, as only personal information but no financial information is gathered on an insecure page, before being redirected to a Desjardins Securities hosted payment site. That site will only allow a secure connection over https.
The Loser: The Conservative Web site not only will allow sensitive data to be collected over an insecure http connection, the front and main pages of the site currently direct the user to the insecure page!
Conservative Party – Misplaced Security
In what appears to be a trend, the CPC website ranks dead last in the Internet security category, following yesterday’s dead last finish in the accessibility category.
The CPC site can deliver a secure transaction, but, so far as of day 4 of the campaign, if you go to the donate or membership page off the action center links on the “home page” of the site, you’ll be taken to a completely insecure page.
As well, the donation primary page has links which lead to insecure pages where credit card information is taken.
This state of affairs is totally unacceptable, and its likely not to get fixed until an observant user or the press get wind of this.
Fortunately, the fix is easy. A few links need to be changed from http://... to https://...
But this type of error should never sneak through these days. Come on folks, its not that hard to test what scheme your site visitor is coming to you on. Check the request URI for https at the start of the string, and if its a regular http connection, redirect them with a URI using the proper, secure, scheme. In doing so you’ll not only prevent linking errors on your own site but also avoid potential security problems caused by external links back to your site.
Other problems noted:
- In testing I set up a potential new member, electing the single year 10$ membership fee and nothing else; despite this, the site insisted that I was going to donate $100.00. Eventually, after I did some browser gymnastics, this unintentional donation amount was cleared; most people would just give up.
- Once you get onto the secure site, the home link doesn’t take you “home” – it keeps you on the secure donation page, leading to a frustrating experience for your most loyal of site visitors. Treat them better!
These errors and mistakes sneaking through to a production site speak to a complete lack of testing on the part of Conservative Party site designers and programmers. There are no excuses for this lack of care.
A quick check of the primary party campaign sites gives no reason to change the rankings assigned yesterday. A couple of observations:
Conservative Party of Canada
Does the Conservative Party site really need two big, identical, images of Stephen Harper? If they need to fill this space, put some content in there!
This site continues to hold on to a last place finish among the major parties as:
- Macromedia Flash based content continues to dominate the site, leading to accessibility issues (more on this to subject to follow)
- responsiveness / performance remains poor – even in testing I found it painful to move from page to page
- Site failures not only continue to happen but the application code allows the public to see these failures in all their brutal uglyness:
Liberal Party of Canada
24 hours into the campaign and this Fact Check link on the front page of the Liberal site still points to an page with no content!
NDP – error retrieving a page
The Conservative Party site is not the only one exposing application infrastructure problems and errors. The public should never see a page like this.
Why Not Flash
Why use Flash? Many browsers support it, and, properly designed, the use of Macromedia Flash can add a certain dynamism to a web site. Why not use it? Because only many browsers support it, not all.
Macromedia says that roughly 98% of all browsers have Flash installed; real world monitoring of server logs shows that penetration is much less than this. Does any political party really want to shut out even 5% of the people visiting the site? 10%? We hope not, but that’s exactly what the Conservative Party site designers have elected to do.
Consider the front page of the Conservative site at http://www.conservative.ca/ – in 800×600 resolution, Flash objects cover almost 100% of the page:
Conservative site – 800×600 resolution, on a browser with Flash unavailable
That, dear designers, is what 5, 10, or 15% of the browsers are seeing when they visit the Conservative Party of Canada official campaign web site.
Yesterday we took a look at party web sites before the formal start of the election campaign; today we’ll look at one site which has been revised as of the official launch of the campaign this morning.
Liberal Party of Canada – Campaign Site
Liberal 800×600 graphics mode
- viewable with screens set to 800×600
- no use of Flash (an improvement over their standard site)
- attractive design which is generally simpler but still grabs attention
- uses fixed font sizes which do not scale using the browsers scaling mechanism in Internet Explorer
- Doesn’t validate against HTML 4.0 Transitional; uses many attributes which do not exist for that doctype
Liberal – text mode
Here we see the Liberal site designers making the same mistakes. There is no “skip to content” link to allow text-mode browsers to quickly get to the meat of the matter; images galore without alt attributes (and titles, where needed) take up much of the screen while imparting no information – this is an easy thing to fix without changing the design for GUI users one whit. Cost? Less than 2 minutes of time editing the template.
The postal code lookup form is unusable in text mode, unless one is willing (and astute enough) to discover why it doesn’t work and erase the text in the field.
Overall the Liberal campaign site is a slight improvement in general effectiveness over the standard Liberal party site in that the pop up menus have been removed; the design punched up; and content continues to dominate on most pages; navigation is consistent page to page. Users of graphical browsers will generally be well served by this site.
A few simple changes, at minimal cost, would make this site work much better for all. The Liberal site remains one of the leaders in terms of delivering the message to the broadest group of people.
Update on Other Sites
No changes to the NDP, Conservative or Bloc sites have been observed.
Liberal home page size: 93k; NDP: for some time this morning the NDP site was down/connection refused. Back up now, it clocks in at 86K; Bloc: a whopping 1 megabyte!
I looked briefly at the Green Party http://www.greenparty.ca/ website, thinking perhaps they might be a little more with it when it comes to accessibility and standards, but was disappointed. Its a decently executed site – somewhat busy – in graphics mode, which suffers in text mode from many of the same ills as the other party sites.
Updated Ranking of All Sites
With the Liberal campaign site changes in mind, page loading times, site availability and, as always, my subjective appraisal, here’s the new ranking from best to worst:
Message to election site designers: focus on content and make sure content is accessible to everyone.
Here we stand on the eve of the next Canadian election kickoff, as the opposition parties are just now sitting down to vote no-confidence in the government and bring it down.
Without any partisan bias (in this post only, probably), I took a look at the current party web sites (we may see some new sites spring on to the scene once the government is officially dissolved tomorrow) to see how they stack up on a superficial visual basis. In addition, I was curious to see if any of the parties is taking the time to ensure their party or campaign web sites are accessible to those who have mobility or visual impairments.
Here are my quick observations, in alphabetical order, followed by summary conclusions and a ranking:
Bloc – 800×600 graphics mode
The Bloc site is a little busy but at least fits neatly into 800×600 screens, unlike the Conservative web site. Some menus may present a challenge for visually impaired (not just blind but colour blind) users.
Since I’m a committed Federalist whose Canada includes Quebec, and both my sons are learning French, I won’t start commenting on what I feel about the Bloc as a party, except to say that I’d be happy if they were reduced to just a couple of seats in an election one day.
Back to analysis… in text mode the Bloc site suffers from sins we’ll see repeated in most other party sites.
Bloc – text mode
Why care about text mode? Political parties in every election I’ve checked since the web came about continue to ignore disabled Internet users as real consumers of information. Blind users often employ screen readers operate off the html text on a page; its not rocket science to make even a visually complex site much more accessible to this community, and in the process of thinking about these issues, site designers are likely to correct other accessibility problems.
In an election where the marketing campaign is very short and its critical that you reach as many as possible, often for the least cost possible, spending some money on good, accessible, site design will pay off.
The Conservative Party of Canada
CPC web site – text mode
Accessing the CPC web site through a text-mode browser was an exercise in total frustration. Not only is there no actual content on the first page visible to the user, but a large percentage of the links are not followable in most text-mode browsers. Conservative Party web designers – you’ve just cut out most of the blind community from following your message!
CPC web site – 1024×768 graphics mode
At first blush the party’s web site appears attractive enough, to users of higher resolution monitors. If however, like a sizable proportion of web-users, you run your display at 800*600 resolution, you’ll completely miss the menu along the right hand side of the page (under stay connected). Whether seeing more navigation (note 4 obvious menus spread all over the page) is better is left to the user to decide.
CPC web site – use of Flash dominates the home page
Users of some browsers and operating systems that don’t have, by choice or other limitation, Macromedia Flash installed, will be unable to view much of the content on the first page. In my view, the use of Flash is really quite unacceptable for election sites.
There’s just so much not to like about the CPC site, we could pick it apart for some time, so instead, lets move on.
Liberal Party of Canada
Liberal site – text mode
The Liberal site, in text mode, completely fails any quick sniff test of accessibility for two main reasons:
I doubt the Liberals, or the Conservatives, intended to shut out persons with visual or handicaps from reading their sites. Surely there are Canadian citizens with handicaps that want to join the Liberal or Conservative parties, donate funds, volunteer, or just vote for them. Unfortunately, many persons with handicaps will be able to access the Liberal or Conservative web sites. Hopefully the parties will get a clue and fix these issues, promptly.
Liberal – 800×600 graphics mode
The site is relatively crisp and employs a drop down menu to good effect, however Liberal site designers commit a big faux pas, employing a silly Flash animation:
Liberal – this flash area will take up space with the ugly message “Click to load plugin” – no thanks!
Other than the Flash faux pas, the Liberal site implementation leads all the others in terms of imparting information. More pages give you real content as opposed to menu upon menu or big graphic blobs.
New Democratic Party of Canada
NDP web site – 800×600 resolution
NDP web site – text mode
In text mode, the NDP web site has the same failings as all the others – no ability to quickly skip the navigation links and most directly to the primary content of the page – but, by virtue of a less complicated page with less linked content, at least getting to the content can be done relatively quickly. Half marks awarded to the NDP – the only party to receive any marks for text-mode browsing.
I’ve ranked the sites in order of accessibility, based on my own subjective yet somewhat analytical approach. From best to worst, in text mode:
From best to worst, using a graphical browser (most of the population):
From best to worst, using a graphical browser but giving a little more weight to layout and a little less weight to accessibility:
If web pages were votes, Conservatives would turn in a last place finish. Clearly they can do better; lets hope they (and all the parties) spend a little money and clean up their web act and let Canadians with disabilities into the picture too.