Recovery.gov Needs Some Stimulus Too

This is the post that guarantees Silver Beacon has a thorough IRS audit every year.
The online marketing community justifiably went gaga over WhiteHouse.gov, the official site, because modern web design seemed to have invaded the federal government.  (One agency still charges other agencies to teach their employees “Macromedia Dreamweaver” and didn’t seem to care when I pointed out that Macromedia sold Dreamweaver and itself to Adobe in August 2005)
But honestly, dear government designers, you must do better than the monstrosity that is Recovery.gov. For starters, there is no information to convey.  That’s fine.  We’ve all done site placeholders.
I won’t complain about the simple text on the page that instructs visitors to “check back after passage” because some unnamed folks will update the site with information on the hundreds of billions of dollars being spent.  Some will hopefully be spent on a communications professional or two.

Silver Beacon’s 21 Lines (of code) Review of Recovery.gov

  • 3 of the 21 lines are used to draw pretty (and non-validating hyphens in a box to identify developers “Doug Jackson and Laura Clark GSA”
  • The entire page is an image.  That’s right.  The important text isn’t going to be processed by most search engine spiders or anyone surfing with graphics off.   Even more scary? The graphic is called “recovery18”, and we are praying that there are not 17 earlier iterations.
  • The good ole’ center tag is used for positioning as is everyone’s favorite of 1999:  the p and br tags.  Yes, of course I’ve used them too.  I’m not writing the official communication for one of the world’s largest economies.
  • My favorite part are the big links in the image.  They open with an H3 and close with an H5.  No, they’re browser-dependent.   No style sheet here, which meant our friends blew a line of code coloring the background.  That color is “ececec” for th0se of you scoring at home, which disappoints the farmers who undoubtedly wanted eieio.
  • There is nothing visible on page monitoring the site.  Sure, look at the server logs and parse them to your heart’s content, but the White House is using WebTrends.  Couldn’t the GSA at least sign up for a free Google Analytics or StatCounter account?  If you’ve got folks writing this page in this way, I’m guessing server log analysis isn’t high on the list.

Sigh. If nothing else, use the canonical address for the government.

Last I checked, the WH had declared that www.whitehouse.gov was the proper address to use. Sure, I’m nitpicking, but it’s for a reason.  We have billions of dollars at stake, and we can’t communicate beyond what looks like a GeoCities page done by a junior high school student a decade ago.

I have the numbers for 50 developers in my contact list who will make you a real page for free — no billions necessary. Or the picture above is President Obama with Google CEO Eric Schmidt.  I understand Mr. Schmidt’s company also has some developers who do web design.  They won’t even qu0te the usability studies dealing with reading ease of justified text.

 

10 comments

  • Steven

    Steven

    Reply

    I agree, when I saw this ad from the TV, I went to it. I saw that the website included 'Doug Jackson and Laura Clark GSA ' so I googled and found your blog. I was surprised they used pre-2k0 technology when Obama's website was Web 2.0 +

  • Steven

    Steven

    Reply

    I agree, when I saw this ad from the TV, I went to it. I saw that the website included 'Doug Jackson and Laura Clark GSA ' so I googled and found your blog. I was surprised they used pre-2k0 technology when Obama's website was Web 2.0 +

  • George Bounacos

    George Bounacos

    Reply

    Wow, Steven. I didn't realize they were running TV spots too. Ouch! Thanks for the word.

  • georgebounacos

    georgebounacos

    Reply

    Wow, Steven. I didn't realize they were running TV spots too. Ouch! Thanks for the word.

  • Paul

    Paul

    Reply

    This is unbelievable…

    I am a webmaster for a small e-commerce site, and I would get chewed out if I submitted something like this, even as a rough draft.

    If you'll notice, even the blue border around the graphic does not match up. Some of the lines are longer than others.

  • Paul

    Paul

    Reply

    This is unbelievable…

    I am a webmaster for a small e-commerce site, and I would get chewed out if I submitted something like this, even as a rough draft.

    If you'll notice, even the blue border around the graphic does not match up. Some of the lines are longer than others.

  • George Bounacos

    George Bounacos

    Reply

    I hear you, Paul. It scares me that the site remains up. I can only hope that after the federal holiday, someone goes to work and says, "Holy Cow, what did we do?" Interesting observation offline today. The file is a jpg, but saved with the extension in caps (JPG). What program does that? Yep, Paint.

    Please, please tell me that our duo didn't actually use MS Paint to create a graphic.

    Well, actually, it would fit…

  • George

    George

    Reply

    I hear you, Paul. It scares me that the site remains up. I can only hope that after the federal holiday, someone goes to work and says, "Holy Cow, what did we do?" Interesting observation offline today. The file is a jpg, but saved with the extension in caps (JPG). What program does that? Yep, Paint.

    Please, please tell me that our duo didn't actually use MS Paint to create a graphic.

    Well, actually, it would fit…

  • Anthony

    Anthony

    Reply

    It took two "web developers" to create that site?

  • Anthony

    Anthony

    Reply

    It took two "web developers" to create that site?

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