Do you glaze over every time you have to navigate through endless animations on architects’ websites? Well, you’re not alone, says website expert Martin Hornagold

A survey published two weeks ago (18 January, page 102) revealed that many contractors’ websites were difficult to operate, owing to poor coding and accessibility. The results are even more striking for architects. Of the 50 architects in Building’s top consultants survey, the websites of 25 were entirely Flash or Javascript-dependant and, therefore, inaccessible to those who don’t have those programs. This means the sites of companies such as Allies and Morrison, HOK, Sheppard Robson and Wilkinson Eyre were untestable.




Keppie Design's homepage
Keppie Design’s website came top of the league table
Of the 25 sites that were tested, only 40% passed coding standards, under half passed mandatory accessibility requirements and only 4% passed recommended accessibility requirements. It is evident that there are different perceptions as to what makes a good website.

There are two key elements to any site: content and presentation. A good one will be content-focused and allow users to change presentation to suit their needs and abilities. Designers need to account for the fact that not everyone will use their sites in the same way. Some people access them through handheld devices, and those with impaired visibility rely on screen readers.

The site also has to be accessible to the computer, not just the person using it. All this is only possible if designers use the latest version of HTML and stylesheets appropriately, and follow the web content accessibility guidelines set out by the World Wide Web Consortium.

Technologies such as Flash and Javascript are concerned purely with presentation. They have long appealed to designers for their graphic effects, but these should be used sparingly. They should offer enhancements but not be relied upon. A site delivered entirely in Flash format is completely inaccessible – and half of the top 50 architects have fallen into this trap.

Top 10 architects’ websites

Keppie Design Stride Treglown RTKL Scott Brownrigg Atkins Foster + Partners EPR Architects Aukett Fitzroy Robinson Holder Mathias Architects HTA Architects For full results see attached Word document

There are four main categories that are tested, which are weighted:

Function (36%) – Are there any invalid links or downloads, failed email functions etc

Performance (26%) – How long does the user have to wait for pages to load and respond to actions

Accessibility (20%) – Does the website conform to current recognised standards for accessibility

Code Quality (18%) – Does the HTML conform to current recognised standards
The scores are based on benchmarks derived from hundreds of thousands of website tests.

What is not tested?

The tests are based purely on the structural integrity of websites, this does not include issues such as how easy it is to get information, how many hits a site gets through search engines, or if the design is easy on the eye.