New Zealand government websites and web standards

Peter Krantz has posted Government Web Standards Usage: New Zealand. In the article, Peter talks about a mass validation of government websites in New Zealand that he has performed.

The result? 280 sites were tested, and 16 of those were using valid HTML. The result is not good – 5.7% valid sites – but still more than twice as good as for government websites in the United States, which Peter tested in Government web standards usage: USA.

It’s worth noting that the New Zealand Government Web Guidelines require that government websites use HTML 4.01 Transitional or earlier. Not XHTML:

From New Zealand Government Web Guidelines v2.1, 6 Delivering content:

Agencies wishing to adopt XHTML in favour of HTML must seek an exemption from this requirement from the E-government Unit.

I wasn’t aware of that requirement, and it is an interesting choice that some web developers may find a little odd. I personally don’t have a problem with the guidelines requiring HTML instead of XHTML.

The only objection I have is that it would be better to require documents to validate to the HTML 4.01 Strict specification instead of opening the door to presentational markup by allowing the use of HTML 4.01 Transitional.

A Transitional DOCTYPE, be it HTML or XHTML, allows lots of sloppy old-school coding habits to sneak through validation instead of forcing the developers to get better at separating content and structure from presentation.

Posted on October 29, 2005 in Quicklinks, Web Standards


  1. Impressive. Interesting too. Thanks for the pointer.

  2. RJ wrote: “The only objection I have is not requiring documents to validate to the HTML 4.01 Strict specification instead of opening the door to presentational markup by allowing the use of HTML 4.01 Transitional.”

    I’d really like to find a plan english explaination as to what this means. Is there a chart that clearly shows the difference between the two? I tend to get lost reading the W3C specs.

  3. As a NZ designer and standards evangalist, this is a great place to start knocking on the right doors…

    I agree about the lack of foresight in regards to XHTML over HTML, but for Govt agencies these things require baby steps I guess.

  4. Regarding XHTML over HTML, I think that probably has to do with the speed at which governments move. The first draft of these was released in August 2001 and it’s only now that they’re looking at mandating complicance. Chances are, there’s a lot of “2001 thinking” embedded in the guidelines, a time at which XHTML would have been too experimental to provide support to older browsers.

    However, a lot of RFPs for new NZ government sites are coming out specifying XHTML compliance as a requirement. So it seems as though the exemption is readily granted ;-)

  5. October 30, 2005 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    Anne: I suspected that you’d find that interesting ;-).

    seriocomic: Well, I’m not so sure requiring HTML instead of XHTML is a sign of lack of foresight. ;-)

    Allowing a Transitional DOCTYPE, however, is a bit too slack in my opinion. Requiring sites to validate against a Strict DOCTYPE is more important than whether they use HTML or backwards compatible XHTML.

  6. Perhaps they are trying to make requirements that are possible to achive at a low-cost level. By avoiding the usage of a strict doctype they can ensure that the time and money used on creating a valid page stays low.

  7. Maybe the HTML 4.01 Transitional is a high goal to achieve for them and they don’t want to make the process any more difficult than it needs to be. Not that I agree with HTML 4.01 Transitional.

  8. I never understood how someone could make a religion out of using HTML or XHTML or strict or transitional. I prefer using XHTML just because it is straighter to the point. But day-to-day I am working for my client with HTML 4. And be it with or without X, I would never use the strict flavour. If I do my code myself I am totally aware that I can code strict even with a transitional DTD. But what if a client is using a CMS? You cannot foresee what strange ideas a CMS like RedDot has or what possiblilities your client has to make the code dirty.

    It is btw the same with my blogsystem: pMachine is not really perfect. Far from that. For me it is more interesting if someone uses tables for layoutpurposes, not if there are three or ten faults marked by the validator.

  9. The problem with using transitional is that it does not trigger the optimal layout model. Validation is not really what DOCTYPEs are about.

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