Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Reichert's spokeswoman falsely boasts that her boss' website meets W3C standards

Today the Reichert campaign, through spokeswoman Kimberly Cadena, sent out a press release to local media outlets (which we obtained a copy of) proudly boasting that the Dave Reichert campaign website met the World Wide Web consortium's design and accessibility standards - and then further claiming that Darcy Burner's does not:
A survey of political sites by CNET found that Congressman Dave Reichert's campaign website is one of only four belonging to Congressional incumbents' that meets the most stringent design and accessibility standards established by the World Wide Web Consortium.

The standards can aid those with visual disabilities and those using mobile devices. Washington State's Eighth Congressional District is one of the nation's most educated and tech savvy, and Congressman Reichert's campaign site aims to meet their high expectations.

Congressman Reichert's opponent, Darcy Burner, is a former Microsoft employee and software developer. Ironically, Darcy's site does not pass the 35 validation tests
It's not normally an issue that is significant in campaigns, but since Cadena and Reichert are making a big deal about it, we're going to have a little fun at their expense.

First, web accessibility and good design are important, but not meeting the W3C standards doesn't mean a website is awful. Whether or not Darcy Burner's site meet the standards is not as important as whether it appears correctly for most users in their browsers. Darcy's site, in our opinion, does meet that test - with flying colors.

Secondly, though Reichert's website does indeed past the HTML test (we ran it through the validator ourselves) it failed the CSS test. CSS, which stands for Cascading Style Sheets, is a language which describe the presentation of a document written in a markup language like HTML.

Basically, for those of you who aren't familiar with web design (Cadena would appear to fall into this category) a CSS document consists of rules that can be applied to a web page to determine everything from font size to background color.

Here's what the validator told us was wrong with Reichert's CSS:
URI : (Reichert website URI) site.css

* Line: 117 Context : IMG

Parse Error - opacity=100)
* Line: 117 Context : IMG

Property moz-opacity doesn't exist : 1.0
* Line: 117 Context : IMG

Property opacity doesn't exist : 1.0
* Line: 120 Context : IMG

Parse Error - opacity=40)
* Line: 120 Context : IMG

Property moz-opacity doesn't exist : 0.4
* Line: 120 Context : IMG

Property opacity doesn't exist : 0.4
Oops. Had they been a little wiser, Kimberly & Co. might have run validation tests themselves. Instead, they relied on what CNET reported (CNET did test for valid HTML on congressional websites across the country).

So they sent out a press release boasting their site met W3C standards without actually checking to see that it met all the standards. If having valid HTML is so important, then having valid CSS must also be of great importance.

Look around the web and you'll notice most sites which display a "Valid HTML" button also display a "Valid CSS" button alongside. So for those who care about having valid code, having valid CSS is very important.

Then again, Reichert and his staff probably don't even know what Cascading Style Sheets even is - just as Reichert obviously doesn't know what Net Neutrality is. Their web developer must, of course, but whoever he or she is, they didn't write valid CSS for the site.

As long as we're having fun at Cadena and Reichert's expense, let's move on to web metrics. According to Alexa, Darcy Burner's website is more popular than Dave Reichert's (the lower the ranking, the better - i.e. Yahoo is Number One). The two sites are ranked thusly:
Dave Reichert for Congress - 2,827,765
Darcy Burner - 485,255
Alexa has been ridiculed by some for being inaccurate, but the huge gap here suggests that Darcy's website is at least more popular than Reichert's.

Also, Reichert's site isn't that original. There's the standard volunteer and contribute forms, the obligatory issue section, news and endorsements...but not much else. No podcast. No video clips. No blog. We couldn't find a listing of events, either.

The Republicans' Senate candidate, Mike McGavick, (to his credit) has a solid campaign website but unfortunately his candidacy is anything but solid. (I might add that Sen. Maria Cantwell has an even better, top-notch campaign site).

We can guess that when Cadena saw that CNET article, she immediately thought what a great press release it would make. Then she proceeded to glowingly heap praise on her boss' website without even bothering to run validation tests.

(If you pass an HTML validation test, by the way, you'll see a prompt from the W3C just below reminding you to run a validation test on your CSS).

So a memo to Reichert's communications staff: you'd better stick to the issues that matter instead of making grand but false boasts about your campaign website.

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