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Golden Spiders Take #1

Posted in: CSS,JavaScript,Standards,Statistics,WebDev by Richard Hearne on November 5, 2006
Internet Marketing Ireland

It’s Awards time again. The Golden Spiders are fast approaching and it seems appropriate to pay respect to the the best of Ireland’s Internet industry. A think a quotation from the official Golden Spiders website sums up what this event is all about:

The eircom Golden Spiders are widely regarded as the oscars of the internet industry and were established exactly this day 10 years ago – to reward excellence in design, functionality, creativity and innovation in Ireland’s internet industry.

After receiving some feedback on this issue, I thought it might be appropriate to conduct a small study into one particular area of web design that is not alluded to directly, but is extremely important – ACCESSIBILITY.

But first a word on my methodology

It is generally accepted that objective measures of accessibility are defined relative to global standards as set out by the World Wide Web Consortium and other bodies.

The W3C has responsibility for the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) and also sits on the advisory commission for the revision of U.S. Section 508 standards. The WAI maintained Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and U.S. Section 508 are the accepted international standards for Web accessibility measurement.

Validation of Mark-Up and CSS

Alongside these accessibility standards it is a generally accepted wisdom that valid mark-up (the code that runs all web pages) is a best practice for ensuring standardised delivery across client platforms.

The Study

Using the URLs listed at www.goldenspiders.ie I set about constructing a testing mechanism to appraise the accessibility and coding practices of the short-listed websites.

Each site underwent the following tests:

  1. W3C CSS validation service (here);
  2. W3C Markup Validation Service v0.7.3 (here);
  3. HiSoftware Cynthia Says Section 508 Validation service (here);
  4. HiSoftware Cynthia Says WCAG 1.0 Priority 1 Validation service (here);
  5. HiSoftware Cynthia Says WCAG 1.0 Priorities 1&2 Validation service (here);
  6. HiSoftware Cynthia Says WCAG 1.0 Priorities 1&2&3 Validation service (here);
  7. Total Validator Professional desktop HTML & Accessibility validation tool (available here);
  8. WAVE WCAG 1.0 and Section 508 visual site overlay tool (here);
  9. Manual inspection of the mark-up to identify ‘cut-and-paste’ coding.

3 separate tools were used to assess the accessibility of each page short-listed for the Golden Spider Awards. This methodology conforms to the best practice as set out by the WAI. No other pages within those sites were tested for this study.

The Golden Spiders Accessibility Results, Categories 1-4

Golden Spiders categories 1-4
(NB Click on the image for a larger version.)


  • CSS = CSS validation;
  • HTML = HTML validation;
  • Section 508 = Section 508 validation;
  • WCAG 1.0 1 = WCAG 1.0 Priority 1 validation;
  • WCAG 1.0 1,2 = WCAG 1.0 Priorities 1 and 2 validation;
  • WCAG 1.0 1,2,3 = WCAG 1.0 Proriteis 1, 2 and 3 validation;
  • TV Core = Total Validation Core Errors;
  • TV HTML = Total Validation HTML Errors;
  • TV WCAG 1.0 Priority 1 = Total Validation WCAG Priority 1 Errors;
  • WAVE wcag 1.0, 508 = WAVE 3.0 site overlay WCAG 1.0 Priority 1 and Section 508 Validation;
  • DUAL-CASE = Analysis of page mark-up to identify the use of both upper-case and lower-case element tags. This can identify ‘cut-and-paste’ coding . It can also be the result of Content Management Systems or the use of third party code (e.g. Google Analytics scripts).

Of this initial sample of 32 websites one site comes close to fully conforming to the accessibility guidelines. In fact www.ssiaoptions.ie actually conformed to the highest level of WCAG 1.0 – Priorities 1, 2 and 3. Although the site’s CSS failed to validate it is an extremely accessible website.

Results Categories 1-4 Overview

Total Sample: 32 sites;
Valid CSS: 9 (28%);
Valid HTML: 2 (6%);
Valid Section 508: 4 (13%);
Valid WCAG 1.0 Priority 1: 3 (9%);
Valid WCAG 1.0 Priority 2: 2 (6%);
Valid WCAG 1.0 Priority 3: 2 (6%);
Valid TV Core: 10 (31%);
Valid TV HTML: 1 (3%);
Valid TV WCAG 1.0 Priority 1: 9 (28%);
Valid WAVE Overlay: 7 (22%);
Sites with consistent mark-up: 16 (50%);
CSS, HTML, Section 508 & WCAG 1.0 Priority 1 COMPLIANT: 0 (0%).

[I updated the above overview at 12:30pm Nov 5 to correct an error in the 'No. of sites with consistent mark-up' and also to include the figure for 'Zero visible WAVE Errors'. Second update at 10:45pm Nov 5 to correct some figures and typos in the overview.]

I would be very interested to hear any views you might have on the above. Further results will be posted later today.

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  1. [...] Originally Posted by blacknight Maybe it’s time that we in the industry organised our own awards? My blood is boiling. I have just been reading Richard’s blog. Something has to be done. One wee suggestion: How about we set up a site that tells it as it is? With our combined expertise, particularly in SEO, we should be able to get it up there with the other site. Let the public, and particularly Irish industry know what lies behind the farce that calls itself the "Oscars of the Internet Industry", and how they have been conned by an elitist clique [who frankly wouldn't know a good website if it jumped up and bit them]. And I am all behind a new standard of award. I know I won’t win any, but its time something serious was done. __________________ curratech.ie | enniskerry.ie | Blog [...]

    Pingback by Golden Spider Awards? - Irish SEO, Marketing & Webmaster Discussion — November 5, 2006 @ 11:07 am

  2. So our “Oscars” are rewarding sites that fail to adhere to basic standards.

    This is equivalent to awarding architecture awards to buildings that have rotten foundations and shoddy workmanship – they may look good from a distance, but they are bad buildings.

    Frankly this is scary. The public, and businesses in particular are being duped by a clique into thinking that the Golden Spiders indicate a “a high standard of excellence”.

    High standards in low places or low standards in high places?

    Comment by Richardo — November 5, 2006 @ 11:12 am

  3. [...] I wont go into the methodology used, full details of which are included in my first report (Golden Spiders Take #1). [...]

    Pingback by Golden Spiders Take #2 | Search Engine Optimisation Ireland .:. Red Cardinal — November 5, 2006 @ 12:33 pm

  4. How do we make patrons of web design sit up and take notice that they’re being ripped off by cowboys? We need to take this to the media.

    Comment by Mojo — November 5, 2006 @ 12:50 pm

  5. This pretty much is the media.

    If you’re going to approach a website which sprouts on about wining a Golden Spider Award but you don’t have a clue what the Golden Spiders are then you should google it. Hopefully then you will see articles like Richards which illustrate the farce of the awards.

    Comment by Cormac — November 5, 2006 @ 1:52 pm

  6. Well done Richard for illuminating how does such poor web design and development content continually get to win awards in Ireland against all common sense and set industry standards – maybe now this exposure will start to filter through to the media and the general public.

    There’s also the other side to the awards which are equally farcical – where sponsors and judges can also be nominees and put forward their own sites for awards…

    …a comedy of errors!

    Comment by bod — November 6, 2006 @ 10:43 am

  7. Great work.
    I am amazed by the Golden Spiders.
    Even the Golden Spiders awards website isn’t great – they use image links and it all looks stale.
    And of course it doesn’t validate.
    Golden Spiders – keeping the standards where they are!

    Comment by David Doran — November 6, 2006 @ 7:28 pm

  8. Hi,

    Very interesting posts about the Golden Spiders. I understand where you are coming from on the issue of standards. I’ve actually got one of the sites that I have done, up for nomination (it won’t take you long to find out which one) and after viewing this, I doubled checked the site and fixed up some bits and pieces to make it fully compliant (well, the home page anyway… need a little bit more work on the inside cms pages I think). When the site was originally launched, it was tested for all but the WAVE test above and all seemed fine. Even my IE hacks in the CSS validated a couple of months ago but now have been fixed to compliant standards. Anywho… that’s a side point…

    You’re making some good valid points on the whole compliant issue but at the same time, I’m very proud to have a site up for the awards this year. Whether the site wins or not, it will still help boost my business IMO. So, are people saying that winning a Golden Spider is pointless or doesn’t mean anything because the general standard is low? I don’t think all the sites up for nomination are bad… some are suspect alright and yes, I agree the compliance issue needs to be addressed. I may be biased but I actually think the site that I have up for nomination is quite a good site and has gotten some good reviews from users and web pros alike.

    To conclude, good work (and I’d say a good bit of time went into it) on the analysis of compliancy of nominations. You’ve actually given me and idea along with some other posts from Michele and a couple of others, which I’ll discuss on another site, which is a little off topic here but I’ll post a link when I’ve done it. Rgds,


    Comment by David Behan — November 7, 2006 @ 1:14 pm

  9. Hi Dave

    The exercise was simply to show that many, if not most, of the sites nominated have very poor coding standards.

    I agree that some of the sites are good (I haven’t had time to take as detailed a look as I would like), but I do intend doing some subjective analysis of one or two of the websites covered.

    I am very interested in any follow-on thoughts you have. Do please post a link or email me when you you have some further input on this.

    Thanks for your comment.



    Comment by Richard Hearne — November 7, 2006 @ 2:42 pm

  10. Dave, there’s no real need to defend yourself to be honest. The Raymond Potterton site is nicely designed and the fact that you’re using XHTML/CSS, unlike many of the shortlisted entrants, speaks volumes.

    As you said, it’s nice to be shortlisted and it’s good for business. Aside from the low standards of many of those shortlisted and its overall effect on this industry, this was my secondary argument. Yes I paid 100 Euro to enter and no I didn’t get shortlisted, with linkage to my small new business – beaten by far inferior sites. Hardly fair I think (especially considering 3 of the judges are my direct competition)

    Comment by Mojo — November 7, 2006 @ 5:23 pm

  11. Hi
    firstly i like what you have done and agree standards are important. I agree with David, and also have a site shortlisted…and and I know some of the code isn’t validating.. and trying to rectify to be honest. Some funny things happening where the validator is picking up html within my javascript and failing it even though its valid code.

    I’d be interested to see of those that failed some sort of scale of how critical or badly they failed.

    I know I have a few alt tags missing on images which maybe make a rounded corner on a box, and should possibly just have a empty alt tag instead of none.. but it can be easy to fail a vaidator over something really simple and non-critical. Not trying to excuse sloppy or lazy coding.

    I’d say its more important to ensure that it displays well cross browser, degrades gracefully in older browsers. Accessability is important also. But I think if it does what its meant to do, and meets your objectives that maybe this is where the goldenspiders are coming from and anyway.

    anyway, its good for business, good pr and its nice to get recognition externally..


    Comment by Dara Walsh — November 8, 2006 @ 10:02 am

  12. Hi Dara

    You can get a feel for the number of problems from the Total Validator (‘TV’) figures. ‘TV core’ relate to parsing errors, ‘TV HTML’ are HTML errors and ‘TV WCAG’ are accessibility errors. The numbers in each column give you the number of errors returned by this test.

    I will be posting some info on the most common errors I found during the testing when I get a chance.

    Rgds and thanks for your comment (which touches on a lot of important issues for any site).


    Comment by Richard Hearne — November 8, 2006 @ 10:19 am

  13. [...] Not only was Ken’s site passed for the shortlist, but those that did make it can only be described as amongst some of the most amateur and poorly executed sites on the web today. They display a complete lack of competence in the firms that created them. To think that these sites are the Fruit of the Web in the year 2006 is heart-breaking; but to know they come from Ireland is as surprising as the verdict in the trial of Saddam Hussein. I’d like to review a handful of the sites from the category Ken entered to dispel the myth that they exhibit “excellence in design, functionality, creativity and innovation”. Richard Hearne has already reviewed the sites from the point of view of standards compliance, so I won’t repeat that here. His in-depth reports make for interesting, but depressing, reading. [...]

    Pingback by Naive by Design | The Golden Spiders are a Farce — November 8, 2006 @ 11:39 am

  14. I must say I do like huntforproperty.ie, i think its a lovely design and does exactly what it says on the tin, but I don’t think it does anything new.. ( unless I’ve missed something.) and maybe thats why it was overlooked.
    Maybe it was just seen as just another property site.

    Having said that daft and myhome haven’t really changed and they’re still nominated, but at same time they are very very sucessful sites. and are well known brands now.
    would take a lot to kick these two off the top spot..

    Comment by Dara Walsh — November 8, 2006 @ 12:12 pm

  15. Isn’t it just a money making awards racket anyway – charge €150 per category to nominate yourself.
    And then sell you a table of over-priced dinner tickets for the awards night…
    it isn’t a scam but it is a money making venture – first and foremost.
    Patting the backs of big players in the Irish financial and media market helps their profile as well.

    Comment by Siasy — November 19, 2007 @ 11:17 am

  16. [...] I wont go into the methodology used, full details of which are included in my first report (Golden Spiders Take #1). [...]

    Pingback by Golden Spiders Take #2 - Red Cardinal [.] ie — July 13, 2009 @ 5:22 pm

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