The new All-of-Government Digital Service Standard is in draft and we are currently undertaking a consultation. So we thought it would be great to stress test the standard in a real-world setting to see how it held up in practice.
Stephen Hilson bravely took on this responsibility when developing a website, on a topic dear to his own heart, with a focus on the usability and accessibility. It’s great to see such passion for a topic implemented into a platform through the lens and direction of standards.
This case study illustrates how standards are not a tick box exercise but an opportunity to do what you care about, in a way that is more easily accessed by the community that cares about the content.
The digital service standard
The digital service standard has an all-of-government scope, is principles-based, and is intended to help government design, build and operate services that are more effective and user-focused. Its purpose is to support agencies with consistent guidance on the design, development and implementation of digital services. The standard builds on work undertaken by other D7 nations, but is now being reshaped to meet the New Zealand context.
Case study: Applying the standard’s principles to the New Zealand Disability Karate Association website
Back in May 2016 I was watching an online video clip of a child performing kumite (controlled combat) with his instructor. The child was using a walking frame and had a great deal of difficulty standing and yet he was performing karate moves.
I found out that a UK-based 5th Dan instructor called Ray Sweeney was the person responsible for the video clip. I phoned Ray in Oxford and we talked about his journey to create his club and the struggles he had had along the way. After the phone call I went in search of any New Zealand karate clubs that would provide a similar service. I was unable to find any clubs that fully met the disabled community’s needs. So I decided to set up my own club and the New Zealand Disability Karate Association was born.
First attempt at creating a website
From the very beginning I wanted to provide an easy way to keep students informed and enable them to have access to their training records — so I decided to create a website. In my previous life I was a developer, back in the days of mainframes, and I still occasionally write the odd line of objective C code for iPhones.
So creating a website was going to be a piece of cake…or so I thought! The coding side of it was not a problem — my Perl and MySQL skills were a tad rusty, but I released my inner geek and the code started to appear. Unfortunately it had security holes you could drive a tractor through, and accessibility and plain English had not been considered. The resulting site was not the most robust or usable so I had to take a deep breath and have another go.
Website take 2
Thankfully I had started a new role at the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) about a month into creating the website. I was now working with people who had developed some great sites that had won awards in areas such as accessibility and plain English. I showed them my little site and they were very nice to me, but suggested I make some improvements and read the web standards.
Making the site accessible was not difficult as I had my own Perl library of building blocks, and once I had fixed an issue it was fixed for the whole site. Plain English was a completely different issue, trying to communicate karate concepts in a non-specialist fashion. However, the biggest problem was something called PASSIVE VOICE. Passive voice and I are not friends. I would run a page through a tool such as Readable.io and bang! Up popped warnings over my beautiful pieces of prose. And the one thing that almost got my laptop a flying lesson was the passive voice warnings.
After many weeks of coding, testing and recoding, the site finally was fit for purpose and I was very proud of the outcome.
I wish I had read the web standards before I started coding. I would have saved a lot of time and heartache. As a result of using the web standards my web code is better and safer. The content on the site is easier to understand and it is accessible to more of my students.
The key thing to remember about this site is that it is there to support our primary goal of giving disabled people an opportunity to experience the joy and benefits of karate. I think it does that really well.
Oh yes, the latest test result from Mozilla Observatory gives us 100/100 (A+). The whole website was recently checked for readability. All pages have scored an A. Although I am extremely happy with this score the club will continue to monitor and check the site as part of its continuous improvement policy.
To see the standards in action check out the website: www.karatedojo.nz