ABCe: Please sort out your terrible website
ABCe is the body that "works on behalf of the [media] industry to manage standards for electronic media measurement". That means it publishes industry figures for visitors to websites.
For a body in charge of standards, its own website is a disgrace. It's so bad, it's embarrassing. And hard to know where to start ... But here we go:
Stop using frames
Using frames is generally a bad idea. ABCe's use of frames causes the following problems:
It confuses search engines - 1. The use of frames and poor information architecture of the site has confused google. The ABCe site is sufficiently 'important' in google's eyes that it has been given sitelinks when you search for ABCe (the extra layer of navigation, providing one-click access to bits of the site). One of these is for something called 'Navigation frame'. Clicking on this takes you to the blue stripy image, above. Clicking on the links on the stripy page does nothing. Note to ABCe webmaster: you can fix this with a google webmaster account.
It confuses search engines - 2. If you look at the google cache of the ABCe homepage, it's empty. The use of frames and no content means that google sees an empty page. This screenshot illustrates what google sees - a completely empty space.
- It isn't very accessible to people who are using screen readers. You can make accessible frames, by following advice like this. ABCe fails to follow these guidelines. It uses confusing frame names (like lfsmenu), it doesn't declare an HTML document type, it doesn't use noframe tags for those can't see the frames etc. ABCe is sticking two fingers up at people with disabilities.
- Your URLs don't work. When you copy and paste a URL, it doesn't work. This make it impossible to bookmark pages or email them to a friend. This is really annoying. Stop using frames, it will fix it.
It looks terrible in Google
I've already covered the site links issue. On top of that, the site has the following problems, all of which can be easily fixed:
- Loads of pages have the same title. Search for something ABCe-related in Google, and you're likely to get back a page with the title 'ABCe'. It's easy to show meaningful titles in Google - you just use the HTML title tag. Doing so will help people and Google understand what your page is about.
- Its description is incomprehensible. What on earth does "ABCe is the industry owned, tri-partite, not-for-profit organisation that works with and for media owners, advertisers and media buyers to help them better ..." mean to anyone? Help them better what? You can set your own description in Google using 'meta description'. It's easy to do.
- Its URLs are gibberish. How is anyone supposed to understand what on earth "http://www.abce.org.uk/cgi-bin/gen5?runprog=abce/abce&type=page&p=britinfo-case-study.html&menuid=about_abce|case_studies|britinfo-case-study" is about? Try to use so-called search-engine-friendly URLs so that humans can understand them.
Spelling, grammar and readability are appalling
It's an industry body, so I guess we can forgive it a fair amount of jargon. But it's a publisher's industry body ...
FAQs either has an apostrophe or it doesn't. And it doesn't. Try not to use FAQs and FAQ's next to each other.
- Sentences need to be sentences. This doesn't actually make sense: "In addition, we offer marketing support, including publicity, stating that the subscriber and ABCe are working together, we also deliver newsletters, seminars and website subscriber listings."
- Try to write in a way that people understand. I ran the page (I can't link to it due to the URL problem, above) on the "Associate Subscriber Scheme" through a readabilty test. On the Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease scale, it scored 26.7. This make it harder to understand than the Harvard Law Review according to Wikipedia. So instead of this: "participate in the ABCe technical group (ITG) meetings which are designed to ensure all clients and their agents may participate in developing and evolving the industry agreed rules and methodologies" ... why not say "take part in the group meetings that agree the industry's standards"? 11 words rather than 29.
- Sentences end in full stops. That's it really. They just do.
- Try not to randomly capitalise stuff. 'List of Clients' and 'Help and Links', but 'Where are we' and 'Case studies'. Be consistent.
It's impossible to find anything
The whole site is just impossible to use.
Labelling is poor. The search box says 'Data Search by URL' on it. What on earth does that mean?
- The 'ABout ABCe' page doesn't tell you anything useful.
- There it too much navigation and not enough content. Want to find their offices? Click 'About', 'Where are we?' and then 'Directions'. Couldn't you have given this info a bit earlier, given most of those pages are virtually empty? The 'Where are we' page has just 3 words on it! Couldn't the directions have gone there ...?
- There is an invisible 'Ask us a question' link. It's a big floating question mark in the left hand menu, and it took me about 50 pages before I accidentally moused over it and realised it did something. Try to label things so people know what they are ...
- Keep the site up to date. It's March. Maybe show the 2009 fees, rather than the 2008 ones?
- You published some data on regional newspaper site usage. I can't find it. Anywhere. Where is it?
I don't understand the search form at all. What is a Class? What does Publisher mean in this context? What is the difference between 'Site/Company URL' and 'Site/Product name'. What is a product? Why company URL? Wouldn't the site's own URL be better? What does 'Site' mean at the front? How about some help text?