MySource Matrix CMS

Recently I had some discussion with a representative in Tasmania for Squiz, the company which developed and sells support for its flagship Content Management System called MySource Matrix. Squiz have offices in London, Sydney (Australia) and Canberra (Australia) and are looking to open offices in several other Australian capital cities in the near future. A ten minute look through their prestigious portfolio of Squiz sites revealed not only high profile sites like Burke’s Backyard and the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney but also a swathe of government websites like the Office of Children & Young People.

The discussion involved a brief mention of standards on my part and the reply surprised me somewhat in that obviously there was a lack of true understanding on the representative’s part about what web standards, accessibility and therefore usability entailed. This also reflected a misunderstanding that accessibility validators are definitive tools for gauging accessibility. In fact they’re only tools that point out some issues and it’s really up to the individuals to do a lot of the manual checking. Simply stating that the highest validation checking is done, whether it is or isn’t, is only a part of the accessibility side of building websites.

Following this meeting and out of curiosity about the web standards question I’d posed, as I mentioned earlier, I went to the Squiz site and checked out their design portfolio. There’s a section there that’s identified as W3C Compliancy for the Web. Considering the DOCTYPE is only HTML 4.01 Transitional not one site actually validates with the W3C Validator or their CSS Validator (with no errors or warnings). The worst was the New South Wales Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy which displayed a whopping 132 errors in the HTML validator and some six errors and multiple warnings in the CSS validator.

As a web standards guy I have to wonder with large government departments adopting such software whether they really do understand the implications of creating sites that aren’t future compatible and which aren’t standards compliant beyond having a very loose declaration like HTML 4.01 Transitional (which they still fail to validate). Surely, from the position of initially designing and developing a CMS it would be important to make it the best that they can and at least try to hit a higher bar if only for the sake of it not needing to be overhauled in the short term. Economically speaking it would have to be more profitable to make their CMS right the first time.

Putting a DOCTYPE on your page doesn’t mean it’s standards compliant - if it doesn’t validate you haven’t got a standards compliant site. It’s that simple. If it does validate then you start to look at other issues like what you can do to make your site more accessible and usable and other validators help. The big fix is simply getting someone who knows this stuff to work in-house on a contract to fix these coding anomolies properly.

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