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Golden Spider Awards – Are These Really Ireland’s Best Websites?

Posted in: CSS,JavaScript,Marketing,Standards,Statistics,WebDev by Richard Hearne on November 6, 2006
Internet Marketing Ireland

Here are the results of the validation tests:

Total Sample: 128 sites;
Valid CSS: 33 (26%);
Valid HTML: 12 (9%);
Valid Section 508: 28 (22%);
Valid WCAG 1.0 Priority 1: 26 (20%);
Valid WCAG 1.0 Priority 2: 4 (3%);
Valid WCAG 1.0 Priority 3: 3 (2%);
Valid TV Core: 37 (29%);
Valid TV HTML: 15 (12%);
Valid TV WCAG 1.0 Priority 1: 43 (34%);
Valid WAVE Overlay: 27 (21%);
Sites with consistent mark-up: 76 (59%);

CSS, HTML, Section 508 & WCAG 1.0 Priority 1 Compliant: 6 (5%)

Special mention should be made of both www.ssiaoptions.ie and www.ulsterbank.ie. Both sites validated to WCAG 1.0 Priority 3 standard and require only limited changes in order to become fully compliant with all tests conducted.

And just one final piece of analysis:

Golden Spiders validation testing

Update as per Ricardo’s suggestion

Golden Spiders Coding Analysis

This analysis was born from the comments left in this thread about W3C standards compliant coding.

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  1. Excellent research, Richard. It would certainly be nice for the wider media to take note. This time next year it would be wonderful if, as a result, clients knew what to look for when it comes to standards, accessibility, SEO, etc. and were more wary of those that they commission to design and develop their website(s).

    Comment by Mojo — November 6, 2006 @ 10:31 pm

  2. Richard. Fair play to you putting in all the research and effort that the panel SHOULD have done (In my opinion) in the first place.

    6 sites out of the entire lot. 6. That is a disgrace and is setting the Irish Internet sector back rather than helping it grow.

    I really enjoyed your final analysis piece. That encapsulates everything you were trying to show. It appears that the goldenspiders is clearly not about what they are making it out to be.

    Comment by Dave Davis — November 8, 2006 @ 5:24 pm

  3. [...] >>Golden Spiders Nominees Validation Results [...]

    Pingback by +Broadcast » Blog Archive » Golden Spiders - Tarnished? — November 8, 2006 @ 6:00 pm

  4. Well done and thanks for doing all this research – meeting standards is assumed in most industries, so why not ours? On a sidenote, for some reason most people when talking about standards seem to be using the example of plumbers in this debate – must be because the internet is basically a series of tubes ;)

    Comment by Stewart Curry — November 9, 2006 @ 3:25 pm

  5. [...] After testing the Golden Spiders nominees, I thought it might be helpful to detail the top coding problems that ‘broke’ so many of the websites considered to be Ireland’s best. [...]

    Pingback by Better Websites | Search Engine Optimisation Ireland .:. Red Cardinal — November 12, 2006 @ 10:36 am

  6. Interesting stats, but I’d like you to run w3.org through the same test though for a better comparison. It will fail many of those tests too.

    While standards are good this is a very brute force method of testing and doesn’t allow for considered analysis. Many sites that are valid may be poorly marked up and many sites that are invalid may be doing so in a perfectly sensible manner. That issue is even more important in accessibilitity issues, where context is important and automated tool cannot evaluate true accessibility.

    Many of the sites in the Golden Spider awards are pretty poor. Most industries have their various token awards that noone takes seriously. The Irish magazine industry has numerious awards ceremonies that are dubious at best.

    Personally, I think people shouldjust forget about the Golden Spiders and get on with producing good work.

    Comment by Kevin Cannon — November 27, 2006 @ 2:29 pm

  7. Kevin

    I agree with what you say, but when you have 128 pages to test it is not possible to use considered methods. My preference would be to test each site thoroughly in a text browser such as Lynx.

    I can tell you that a number of accessible websites (i.e. as per automated checks) are extremely poor in terms of contextual awareness of HTML elements (e.g. labels containing 2 inputs).

    I’m not too sure I understand your opening suggestion. What exactly do you think should be done?

    Comment by Richard Hearne — November 27, 2006 @ 2:57 pm

  8. Cheers for the reply. I understand full testing would be extremely time consuming. Just wanted to point out that the graph is a tad misleading since a perfectly accessible site could be indicated as red by that criteria. I still think it’s an interesting excercise.

    I was suggesting that you test the W3C’s site http://www.w3.org too, to see how it fared. I don’t think it would pass many of those tests, despite being considered, presumably, very well executed from a code POV. It would be useful to see the results of it, at any rate.

    Comment by Kevin Cannon — November 27, 2006 @ 3:05 pm

  9. Surely a perfectly accessible site would require valid code, otherwise it fails point 3.2 of the W3C guidleines – Create documents that validate to published formal grammars.

    Comment by Stewart Curry — November 27, 2006 @ 3:09 pm

  10. Stewart – I guess that depends on what you consider accessibility. I consider it to be real world usage of a site and how easy a disabled user can access the information on that site. If we’re honest with ourselves, we know that a few validation errors will have no impact on it, whereas some of the CSS standards-compliant methods of image replacement can.

    Now, I’m not suggesting ignoring standards by any means, I’m a strong advocate of them, but accessibility and standards don’t go need to go hand in hand and it’s very important to take a pragmatic sensible look at accessibility.

    Accessibility meauring tools are useful but only when armed with information and real world knowledge.

    Comment by Kevin Cannon — November 27, 2006 @ 3:50 pm

  11. Good point Stuart, but section 3.2 is a priority 2 guideline in WCAG 1.0.

    You could fail 3.2 but still be WCAG 1.0 Priority 1 compliant.

    Comment by Richard Hearne — November 27, 2006 @ 3:51 pm

  12. Kevin I agree with you whole-heartedly. A site can only be judged to be accessible when it has been put to the test.

    To that end the WAI advocate real-life testing as part of the development process and any subsequent accessibility testing procedures.

    Comment by Richard Hearne — November 27, 2006 @ 4:04 pm

  13. how anal are you?! and all your yes men. its hilarious. sure, we need standards, there is absolutely no doubt, and i always validate my work. but whats with the big hullabaloo? you must never get any sleep worring about this stuff. the reaction is so over the top, its amazing!

    Comment by Colm — December 15, 2006 @ 7:16 pm

  14. Hello Colm. It appears you are the one that is more concerned. This post is from over a month ago. You seem to be the only one loosing sleep over it now.

    You say you code to standards and that we need them. That was not the point. The point was that the cream of the Irish crop were not.

    Comment by Dave Davis — December 15, 2006 @ 7:46 pm

  15. hello dave – just game across this post today.

    why are you all worked up about the spiders anyways – their competition, their rules right? regardless of claims.

    Comment by colm — December 16, 2006 @ 1:06 am

  16. Colm, with regard to your assetion that it’s “their competition, their rules”; I think you’ll find that they actually have criteria set out for each category and these are being largely ignored. When they ask each entrant to pay €100 then the least they can do is ensure that the judges are 1) competent/qualified enough to judge and 2) unbiased and do not have vested interests in the awards.

    You’re saying that the reaction is over the top and that you always ‘validate’ your sites. Perhaps you should ask yourself why you bother.

    Comment by Mojo — December 17, 2006 @ 11:57 am

  17. Mojo – I don’t get your point about “why I bother to validate my work” – I can tell you that I don’t it to please judges in competitions, or so I can kick off if other designers fail to validate their work. I prefer to encourage rather than heckle designers to adhere to standards.

    Someone above mentioned that meeting standards is assumed in most industries – I wonder if it’s pushed in the same hostile manner?

    Comment by Colm — December 18, 2006 @ 12:23 pm

  18. “Someone above mentioned that meeting standards is assumed in most industries – I wonder if it’s pushed in the same hostile manner?”

    Not, I’m sure, if those who receive the accolades are actually deserving of them. Which I think is the whole point being made.

    You’re clutching at straws here Colm. It’s been a generally accepted fact for years by the most talented and experienced commercial Web designers and developers in Ireland that the Golden Spiders do not represent the best of Irish websites. And those of us who are trying to make a living from this industry, which is littered with clueless cowboys, are quite passionate about its integrity. Sorry if you disagree.

    Comment by Mojo — December 18, 2006 @ 5:06 pm

  19. Sorry Mojo, I’m not defending the spiders at all. To be honest, I never bother to check who’s nominated, who’s won, or what c list celebrity presents it.

    I just can’t understand how some fanatical standards (or recommendations, which ever you prefer) supporters get so wound up about these awards. If there is truth in what you say that… “It’s been a generally accepted fact for years by the most talented and experienced commercial Web designers and developers in Ireland that the Golden Spiders do not represent the best of Irish websites” then why all the heckling? who CARES about the damn awards!!

    Comment by Colm — December 19, 2006 @ 11:06 am

  20. Colm

    I have basically abstained from responding to you. But you really seem to be missing the woods for the tress. I haven’t been heckling any entity other than the Golden Spiders. Why? because this awards ceremony is picked up in the mainstream media and the public are being duped into believing that the winners are the best websites in Ireland. If you agree with this then I am quite happy to be ‘anal’.

    By all means post any better suggestions for educating the public to what a quality website is.

    BTW any reason you don’t give your URL?



    Comment by Richard Hearne — December 19, 2006 @ 11:20 am

  21. Richard, the bad grammar, lack of url, referral to “yes men” and overall tone leads me to believe you have a troll living in your comments.

    Comment by Stewart Curry — December 19, 2006 @ 11:27 am

  22. Stuart

    Everyone is free and welcome to comment. But I do choose who to respond (or link ) to :mrgreen:



    Comment by Richard Hearne — December 19, 2006 @ 11:38 am

  23. A URL would be good, Colm. Unless you can prove that you have any design and/or development experience and can show that you know what you’re talking about, then you’ll just be written off as a troll.

    Comment by Mojo — December 19, 2006 @ 7:37 pm

  24. [...] I swore that I wouldn’t mention those awards again (see, I kept my word ), but this post has led to a rather large amount of traffic. [...]

    Pingback by Who Said META Tag Optimization Was Dead? | Search Engine Optimisation Ireland .:. Red Cardinal — January 18, 2007 @ 3:31 pm

  25. [...] Best Blog Post – There have been some good ones, but I think Dave’s explanation of how to get listed in DMOZ would get my vote. That’s not fair on Red Cardinal’s amazing work on the Golden Spiders, however, so you could vote for that instead. [...]

    Pingback by Irish Blog Awards - Who Should I Vote for??? — January 23, 2007 @ 9:40 pm

  26. hi Richard, this may interest you… in 2002 a study of web accessibility was completed by the DCU. I decided to revisit this study and completed an audit of all those original sites


    In addition, I completed 2 further surveys which included:
    * An audit of 48 Irish non-profit organisation websites, of which many are focused on supporting the needs of disabled people
    * An audit of 87 Irish web design firms and freelance web designers

    Comment by Steve — February 6, 2007 @ 12:32 am

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    Pingback by Blog Awards Voting opens! - Jason Roe Web Design Business. Jason Roe - Web design, Development, SEO Advice — February 10, 2007 @ 12:43 am

  28. [...] Red Cardinal – Golden Spiders – Are These Really Ireland’s Best Websites? [...]

    Pingback by The Cream Starts To Rise, Let the Voting Begin | Search Engine Optimisation Ireland .:. Red Cardinal — February 10, 2007 @ 9:45 am

  29. [...] [...]

    Pingback by An Important Announcement - Free Consulting for ALL IBA Nominees | Search Engine Optimisation Ireland .:. Red Cardinal — February 11, 2007 @ 12:44 pm

  30. [...] Old Bitter Balls – Keeling Time Political Quote – Bertie Ahern does a ‘Nixon’ over money scandal Red Cardinal – Golden Spiders – Are These Really Ireland’s Best Websites? Redfly Marketting – DMOZ Submission Guide Ricks Breakfast Blog – A Religious Experience… Ricks Breakfast Blog – Most Extraordinary Day of my Life Skin Flicks – The JC Skinner guide to drinking Stig Online – The most painful 12 miles of my life (and the other 14 were hardly easy) [...]

    Pingback by Linking at The Story — February 14, 2007 @ 9:35 pm

  31. Good study. I remember sitting in a meeting a couple of years ago brainstorming free publicity for a certain venture. Person A: “Enter it in the Golder Spiders! You wouldn’t believe how easy it is to actually win in certain categories.”

    Specifically he was talking about public sector categories I think which is so true. I heard lots of ads recently for revenue.ie so I went through the laborious steps of registering. Eventually after receiving two separate codes in the post I managed to log in. I tried to cancel a tax credit I am no longer eligible for. Yeah you guessed it I have to put that in writing and send it to them.

    Comment by eam0 — February 19, 2007 @ 4:43 pm

  32. Richard you cannot help all of the people all of the time but you can help some of the people some of the time. I got a lot out of this and well done for putting this up.

    Comment by TerryG — March 27, 2007 @ 1:43 pm

  33. [...] Golden Spiders – Are These Really Ireland’s Best Websites? – My alternative review of the Golden Spiders. If you want to know how this all started out check [...]

    Pingback by Happy Birthday Red Cardinal | Search Engine Optimisation & Online Marketing Ireland .:. Red Cardinal — July 18, 2007 @ 8:00 am

  34. I am more than a little late coming to this article but I must say… well done! The quality of sites in Ireland is generally way behind its image as a technology leader. I figure the only thing that will help is if more people hire me… or read this blog!


    Comment by robin — July 24, 2007 @ 7:03 pm

  35. Robin – you’re just in time for next years serving :grin: Thanks for commenting.


    Comment by Richard Hearne — July 25, 2007 @ 9:48 am

  36. [...] poor coding and appalling adherence to web standards/accessibility guidelines. Fortunately for us, Red Cardinal have already done a lot of research into the winners for the 2006 Golden Spiders awards. We’ve compressed some of the most [...]

    Pingback by Improving the Irish Web Design Awards system — August 17, 2007 @ 7:14 pm

  37. Christ, shocking stuff. The respective Irish designers should be ashamed.

    Excellent research lads!

    Comment by Enzo — August 23, 2007 @ 3:32 pm

  38. [...] refresh your minds, I direct you to my original post and also this fantastic analysis of the sites in [...]

    Pingback by Did I Say That » Golden spider awards - the next generation — September 3, 2007 @ 2:54 pm

  39. Richard,

    Excellant work there… I was nominated for one of those in 1997 or 98… I was a novice then and to be honest wondered what all the fuss was about… the answer of course was to make up the numbers so that badges could be stuck on the sites who were gonna win anyway…

    Of course nominated for TOP COMMERCIAL in the days of altavista when you could ‘doorway’ your way to bucket loads of visits was pretty simple stuff… and oddly the client site earned more that year through their site than they did through any of their outlets on the high street…

    Anyway excellant stuff… keep up the good work, and since I’m finished with my current client site (almost 2 years working on that) I’ll be out there mooching customers in a week or so… no doubt at loggerheads with your good self ;) lol


    Comment by Mick Wright — October 25, 2007 @ 2:00 am

  40. The Golden Spiders is the biggest joke around! And this year just proved it!

    Comment by Dave Rooney — November 3, 2007 @ 6:08 pm

  41. So you going to do a 2007 version?

    Comment by Peter K — November 7, 2007 @ 12:55 pm

  42. Peter,
    Eoghan McCabe already did over here:

    Comment by Dave Davis — November 8, 2007 @ 9:46 am

  43. Came across the website purely by accident….that’s the power of search for you !!! But I am intrigued by the debate. While everyone knows that the Golden Spiders are a joke and that they are a money making exercise for some publisher (they sell entries, tables etc etc)..why doesn’t the industry come up with a better alternative?? It is long overdue and I know of tons of good, well crafted Irish-designed websites that are worthy of gongs.

    Comment by jacko — February 12, 2008 @ 4:21 pm

  44. Jacko

    don’t tell me you’re gonna be off selling expensive seats now? ;)

    Problem is this is Ireland… Duplicitous… A country where politicians had money ‘resting in their account’ and crying over the evil developers making wealth whilst swigging beer with them at the galway races…

    Culture I’m afraid….its not in our nature to pin a badge on someone based on thier work and skill….

    We don’t do style or chique….but we sure know how to charge for it! Submit the sites to a real award site online… for the gong…it’d be worth the travel to london or new york.

    Comment by Mick — February 12, 2008 @ 8:54 pm

  45. [...] to be a fresh take on the until-recently stale awards scene. And given that my friends over at the Golden Spiders are a bunch of spammers*, I’m doubly delighted that Damien is taking on the big-boys with [...]

    Pingback by Irish Web Awards (and hello Maryrose!) | Search Engine Optimisation & Online Marketing - Red Cardinal — September 24, 2008 @ 1:04 pm

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