Finnish quality criteria for public websites

The Finnish government has published their quality criteria for public websites in english. This makes it possible to compare your own national guidelines to thos of other countries. Quoting from the intro page:

The purpose of the quality criteria is:

  • to act as a tool for developing and assessing public web services
  • to improve the quality of public web services for both users and producers
  • to increase the benefits from public web services.

I have updated the Index of Government Guidelines page and search engine to include this version.

Swedish National Guidelines for Public Sector Websites

The Swedish National Guidelines for Public Sector Websites takes an integrated approach to usability, accessibility and standardization. The purpose of the Guidelines is to support the procurement, development, and maintenance of a website by a public administration so that it offers equal opportunity usage for all citizens. The 2006 version has now been translated to english.

Quoting from the announcement: “The Guidelines are divided into chapters which can be read separately depending on the reader’s role and responsibilities. The order of the chapters is intended to mirror the lifecycle of a website.

  • Chapter 1 covers the overall communications objectives of a website, which should be used as the basis for its development.
  • Chapter 2 presents the development process as steps towards a defined objective.
  • Chapter 3 shows methods for website design and web page coding, along with web standards.
  • Chapters 4 and 5 describe the basic content and services a website should provide, giving additional information on how to write for web-based media as well as methods for keeping the website up to date.
  • Chapters 6, 7 and 8 cover the development of web content for mobile devices, Content Management Systems (CMS) / authoring tools, and assistive technologies (AT).

A survey carried out in February 2007 showed that over 90% of those responsible for public administration websites in Sweden were aware of the Guidelines, with 80% or more actively using them.”

The Guidelines are published under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Sweden license.

Search Accessibility Guidelines for Web Sites

I have created a Google co-op custom search engine with which you can search web accessibility guidelines. I have categorized each included page by country (for government guidelines) and I am adding more guidelines and categories. This means you can easily search e.g. the New Zealand guidelines for PDF recommendations.

If you work with accessibility guidelines you may find this useful. Suggestions are of course always welcome.

New Version of Guidelines for Swedish Public Sector Web Sites

Verva, the Swedish Administrative Development Agency has released an updated version of the guidelines for Swedish public sector web sites. The document is used by public organizations when procuring new web sites as well as by developers as an aid in the development process.

No english translation is available yet, but I know there will be a summary in english in the beginning of 2007. In the meantime, here is an overview of the guidelines:

  1. Efficient service – use technology as a tool to optimize your organization processes. Use standards for information exchange.
  2. The development process – integrate usability in the development process and don’t detail requirements upfront.
  3. Web site standards – use technical standards as well as standards for structure, navigation and design. Code for a markup standard rather than targeting specific browsers.
  4. Web site content and services – minimum requirements for web site content. Provide basic information in sign language and minority languages.
  5. Keeping the web site alive and up to date – write in a clear and simple lanugage (for a summary see my previous article “Working with content…”), monitor traffic statistics and learn user behaviour.
  6. Considerations for mobile terminals – ensure the web site works resonably in a mobile terminal. Provide a stylesheet for handheld terminals. Use the W3C Mobile web best practices for more information.
  7. Content management systems – guidelines for choosing a CMS: should handle web standards, should not force the editor to use a specific web browser, technology independent URLs, should have integrated support for accessibility checks.
  8. Assistive technologies for web browsing – introduction to assistive devices and ways users may access the web site.

If you are interested in knowing more about a particular chapter, post a comment below and I will try to expand the translation in that particular area. I have contributed as a co-author to some of the guidelines in this version as well as the previous.

Government Web Standards Usage: People’s Republic of China

In August 2005 the EU-China information society project (中国-欧盟信息社会项目) was launched. The first initiative of this project is dedicated to improving access to and enhancing the participation of people in electronic government in the People’s Republic of China.

The digital divide in China is closing with computers per capita steadily increasing (for more details see The Digital Divide: Lessons from the People’s Republic of China (PDF) by Jonathan Harrington). China has undertaken massive investments in the ICT sector. It is therefore interesting to see what the Chinese government will do within the area of government policy for public web sites.


The EU-China information society project seeks in particular to assist Chinese government in copyright, telecommunications law and information security issues as well as in access to e-government. The four-year project is cooperatively financed by the European Union and the PRC. Five Chinese cities has been chosen as pilot areas for the project, including Chengdu in southwest China’s Sichuan Province, Yantai in east China’s Shandong and Baotou, the second largest city in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. The project is being implemented by a consortium of the Emerging Markets Group and the German consulting firm GOPA.

Access to government information on the web is relatively new in the PRC. However, a recent report (quoted in an article in People’s Daily Online) said in China, 96.1 percent of government departments at the state level and 81.3 percent of local governments had launched portal websites.

I have gathered links to 80 government web sites from the Chinese Central Government’s Official Web Portal. These have been checked with the W3C validator to see if headings were used and if they were using the W3C HTML recommendations.

Test disclaimer

Please note that the automated test has only tested the start page of the site. Also, usage of the W3C recommendations is only an indication of accessibility. A site that does not validate may still be more accessible than one that does. I have not tested every site manually and you may find that some of the valid ones have a valid splash page but fail miserably for the rest of the site.

The validation result

The validation result details shows that none of the tested sites use valid HTML. More worrying is that only one site is using headings. A common problem with the tested sites is that encoding has been used incorrectly.

Although tests of other countries have shown similar results (USA: 2.4%, New Zealand: 5.7%) having no valid sites indicates the absence of a central policy for government web communication.

It will be interesting to see if the EU-China information society project can help provide a foundation for the Chinese government to implement web guidelines that will help citizens to access information in a better way.