Content Management Systems used by public sector websites found lacking
Verva (Verket för förvaltningsutveckling / Swedish Administrative Development Agency) recently published a survey of a number of CMSs (Content Management Systems) used by Swedish public sector websites.
The survey evaluates to which extent the content management tools adhere to the guidelines in Vägledningen 24-timmarswebben (in Swedish), the Swedish national guidelines for how public sector websites should be constructed. The following CMSs were evaluated:
- EPiServer 4.51
- SiteVision 2.2
- Sitecore 5.2
- Polopoly 9.3.5
- Plone 2.1.2
Few standards and accessibility aware web professionals will be surprised by the results of this survey. All of the evaluated CMSs were found lacking with respect to web standards and accessibility, some of them severely. The results of the survey and a full report are available in Brister i publiceringsverktyg leder till att information förloras (in Swedish).
This survey makes it all too clear that many CMS developers are still stuck in the old ages and have not updated their web development skills for years. At least not those related to web standards, accessibility, or usability.
The results of the survey also make the marketing used by certain CMS vendors seem quite offensive. Some vendors claim full adherence to accessibility guidelines and web standards, others say their product enforces the separation of content from presentation. Neither is true.
These CMS vendors are either ignorant enough to actually believe their own marketing, or they simply do not care about accessibility and use it only as a buzzword to sell their product. I suspect it is more often the latter than the former.
While modern web professionals have the skills necessary to see through these marketing practices, the people in charge of many public sector websites do not, and cannot be required to. This leads to taxpayers’ money being spent on substandard, inaccessible, and outdated products. Sure, it is possible to build accessible and standards compliant websites on top of most of the CMSs evaluated in this survey, but it requires a lot of patching and fixing and filtering that shouldn’t be necessary.
CMS vendors in general have a long way to go. A few suggestions:
- Hire client side web developers with a solid understanding of web standards and accessibility.
- Spend some time and money on upgrading the skills of your current developers.
- Make sure your default templates are fully accessible and web standards compliant. No matter what you say, many web developers will use the default templates as a starting point.
Knowledge of web standards, accessibility, and usability is a must for CMS developers in the 21st century.
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