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Salt Lake City Olympics 2002 site inaccessible without javascript,
January 16, 2002 10:17 AM   Subscribe

Salt Lake City Olympics 2002 site inaccessible without javascript, which surprising, considering what happened a year and a half ago with the sydney 2000 olympics site. It's obviously based on the MSNBC.com design, but why force frames, DHTML, js, flash, and pdf on the world when they're just trying to find information (I won't bother mentioning all the pointless advertising)? [via the big z]
posted by mathowie (26 comments total)

 
I have a history on MeFi as being a bit of an apologist/defender of MSNBC, since I used to work there. However, in this case the best I can do is shrug. It was apparently built out based on some modular structures they've created over the years. The bit about forcing frames to be used and forcing some links to work only via javascript is a bit much. At least they're using ALT tags... ;)
posted by kokogiak at 10:49 AM on January 16, 2002


Another big flabby pointless website I'll be skipping (for another big pointless event I'll be skipping.)
posted by jfuller at 12:07 PM on January 16, 2002


I'm also biased because my brother (employed by MSNBC) has been working on this site for months. I also make my living doing front end web design.

How old are these technologies they are using? Pretty old in web time. Most people have a sufficient browser & correct plug-ins to view this content. When will we be able to use true multimedia content without people being pissed off. There's alot of people out there who want more than text, & not all of them are morons (I just called the flame demons upon myself).

If designers constantly have to design pages for the lowest common denominator, then everyone else will suffer for the few people who refuse to upgrade.

I think opera's great, but boot up IE or Netscape & enjoy the movin' pictures. :)
posted by password at 1:56 PM on January 16, 2002


password - I think the furor is more about basic accessibility than lowest common denominator. Many accessibility devices (like text-to-speech converters) don't know what to do with javascript, flash or frames. For something as wide-ranging in scope and interest as the Olympics to shut out a certain part of the population is just bad form, and may even be violating the law (as evidenced by the lawsuit mentioned).

You don't have to give up the bells & whistles (Lord knows I love 'em), just be sure that there's an alternative for those who can't or don't wish to see them.
posted by kokogiak at 2:02 PM on January 16, 2002


The infidels should be sent to http://www.webstandards.org/upgrade/.
posted by aaronshaf at 2:12 PM on January 16, 2002


Ok, turn on the tv. Hehe jk.

Once again, my point is that they really are making something that MOST people can access. I've never met anyone that uses text to speech other than for fun on the mac. I don't know what to say about visually impaired users, but I'd be curious to hear of any laws that require web sites to have "Handicap Acces."

I just think that the video & audio content can really enhance people's experience. Another point. I think one of the reasons they're doing stuff like this is because you can get video up quickly with the system they're using (my bro told me about it but I'm not sure of the details... how convenient). Otherwise, you gotta pay someone to write a summary of the event/story/whatever.

I know that everyone wants the freedom to view content in whatever way they choose, but it's not really practical to create multiple versions of every page. I know cause I've been doing this for my flash sites & it blows.

I haven't checked out the lawsuit. I'll do that right now.
posted by password at 2:16 PM on January 16, 2002


How old are these technologies they are using? Pretty old in web time. Most people have a sufficient browser & correct plug-ins to view this content. When will we be able to use true multimedia content without people being pissed off.

Aside from the accessibility issues, I'm more interested in "why" people feel the need to use technology for the sake of technology.

Frames don't serve much of a purpose. They eliminate the possibility of bookmarking, hide content behind spaces usually reserved for pointless branding and advertising, and shut out a lot of non-mainstream browsers (like PDAs, kiosks, text browsers, phones, etc). This is supposed to be a site dedicated to sharing information with the world, about a worldwide event. Does everyone in the world have IE 5 or higher on a fast windows machine? Would it have killed them to simple place the frame content above and below the page content in tables?

The navigation is another major issue. Why on earth did the design team choose to use DHTML widgets with tiny menu items, and then do it so it works in IE on windows only? (I see no drop-downs in IE 5.1 on MacOS X). There have been years of work done on developing clear and simple ways to organize information on large content sites such as this one. It's a pity the implementation on the 2002 site is so poor.
posted by mathowie at 2:20 PM on January 16, 2002


Once again, my point is that they really are making something that MOST people can access.

On a whiz bang new mac, here in the new world of America, I can't see the drop down navigation. Since the world is invited to the site, do you think the average person in China, Kenya, or Sri Lanka can view the site? I doubt most of the world can access the site. The audio and video are fine, they enhance the experience for the people that view the site and have the bandwidth, the point is the basic viewing of the homepage is hindered by frames and javascript switchery.

I know that everyone wants the freedom to view content in whatever way they choose, but it's not really practical to create multiple versions of every page.

You're right, and instead of creating multiple versions of every site, there should be a single, baseline design that degrades for other browsers. With stylesheets someone could create a rich, graphical site that still works in any device. This isn't someone's porfolio site, it's the olympics, which the world will be watching.
posted by mathowie at 2:28 PM on January 16, 2002


There should at least be an alternative with just the basic information. Just text would do fine (for those using lynx) and simple tables could be constructed for like "Bobsled" with the listings below of who is ahead of who and their times. Their names could lead to a site with more information about them and the event. This would take probably less than a day for one guy to do and allow access for everyone who wants quick facts about the events that just took place.

It's rather simple propisition that would make old Jakob's wet himself with joy. While I enjoy fancy pictures, animations and diagrams there are times when I don't want to wade through an article or have the page filled with stuff that has no relevence to what I want to look at. Most headlines and "click through" links are just a throwback to catchy titles used by newspapers to sell.

Oh and it would help those people who feel they can't upgrade their browser.
posted by geoff. at 2:29 PM on January 16, 2002


This may be offtopic, but it has been bothering me. Who developed javascript, anyway? I assume it is either a Sun technology, or else it must be licensed by Sun. (Surely Sun would sue people who used the 'Java-' prefix for their product withoout licensing). What does it have in common with Java except syntactic similarities, and that it executes dynamically on the client? Does it even have classes? Do you need a JVM in the browser to use it?
posted by crunchburger at 2:38 PM on January 16, 2002


This is supposed to be a site dedicated to sharing information with the world, about a worldwide event.

Is it though? Its supposed to be little more than TV Guide's site. It has its ads and sponsers for the sake of making money, which is what the Olympics in any practical sense is all about. That's not a cynical statement, there's a big difference between a site that wants to sell you on something and a site produced by rabid fans.

I don't buy the assumption that this site is about the sharing of information. If its crappy its because MSNBC and the Olympic committee and the rest are crappy in themselves. Fans should feel free to make their own olympic pages or just read the thousands of media articles that will be coming out. Its not like its an ignored event in desperete need of web precense. Sometimes Official sources are the worst ones.
posted by skallas at 2:39 PM on January 16, 2002


crunch - javascript was developed by Netscape, formerly called LiveScript (I believe). It just shares some syntactic similarities to java, not much else - but it's lightweight, easy to learn, etc. I think they renamed it JavaScript mostly for a marketing ploy.

As far as the multi-frames on the olympics site (which seems to be having issues right now), the only reason I can think of to use them in this fashion is a commitment to constantly frame content in a sponsored window with sponsorship viewable. They chose to do so w/frames (tables can scroll offscreen). The DHTML menu widgets are at least enhancements - you can still navigate with JS turned off, it's just more laborious.
posted by kokogiak at 2:49 PM on January 16, 2002


"I'm more interested in "why" people feel the need to use technology for the sake of technology."

We use technology because we're fascinated by it, and want the latest-and-greatest thing. It's what drives our consumer society. Why have a Honda Accord with air conditioning and CD changer when a Model T will get you to the same place? Because it's newer and cooler. Why have a Javascripted site instead of plain HTML? Because it's newer and cooler. Our highways aren't built any more with the Model T in mind, why should our Web sites be built with IE 3.0 in mind?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:55 PM on January 16, 2002


Sometimes Official sources are the worst ones.

That's true, but it's also unfortunate. Since the official source knows the most about the subject, they're often the ones with best access to lots of data (realtime and historical). I'm reminded of the last few Tour De France race sites. I wanted to follow each day's events, since sites like ESPN seemed to lag behind, but it wasn't always easy to get to the english version, then I'd be forced to wade through advertisements for official Tour clothing and souvenirs.
posted by mathowie at 2:59 PM on January 16, 2002


crash, using technology for the sake of technology means that the same information could be presented in plain text, but since we've got flash, why not try fading, zooming text that flies onto the screen. It doesn't add to the information, just changes the presentation, and in so doing, locks out anyone not running a plugin (in this example).

I'm not arguing for a IE 3.0 friendly site, I'm asking why this site requires things like javascript for DHTML menus and frames for displaying advertising when much of the world can't see it and could be blocked from the site entirely due to it.

"Design" is simply solving problems. You factor in the intended audience, purpose of the site, then devise a design and means of delivering the design to users. For k10k.net, the audience is cutting-edge web designers that have the latest equipment, arent' afraid to upgrade any plugin necessary and expect a full graphical treatment. For a website designed for a worldwide audience, I would expect it to be more accomodating, and frankly, sites like CNN or NYTimes.com are more accessible than the olympics site.

I was disappointed in this site after seeing it. I suppose I'll stick to ESPN or another sports site for this event.
posted by mathowie at 3:06 PM on January 16, 2002


I'd be curious to hear of any laws that require web sites to have "Handicap Acces."

Policies Relating to Web Accessibility

some of these are policies and some are laws, some only apply to gov't web sites. it's also entirely likely that the Americans with Disabilities Act can/will apply to Web sites as well.

and as has been mentioned a few times above, creating those alternatives really isn't that big a deal.

* noframes content.
* noscript content. (tho I've found that Opera consistently mucks it up.)
* there are a number of methods for detecting whether a user has Flash installed - you can even drop in alternate content if they don't!
posted by epersonae at 3:53 PM on January 16, 2002


Javascript was actually developed at [blanking on name of company], which was bought by Netscape. Brendan Eich, the original developer, is still at Netscape, one of the main developers on the Mozilla project. As kokogiak says, it was originally named LiveScript and renamed Javascript by Netscape to capitalize on the vogue for Java--but it's really a lightweight version of C++, not Java, with a library of browser objects, JS:C++::VBScript:Visual Basic.
posted by rodii at 4:18 PM on January 16, 2002


Matt, I don't disagree with you. I'm just trying to offer up an explanation.

The site I manage for my company intranet is as simple as I can make it, because I never know who might be accessing it with a 486-based laptop over a 9600 wireless connection from one of our remote sites. I definitely understand simplicity and sticking to standards.

On the other hand, I can also understand why people use the "latest and greatest" stuff. Especially in this business, where a lot of the time the money you make depends on how many different things an HR interviewer can see on your resume. "Yes, I've used Flash, DreamWeaver, ColdFusion, VBScript, JavaScript, XML, DHTML, yadda yadda yadda..."
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:19 PM on January 16, 2002


"Pointing the infidels" to the WaSP browser upgrade page doesn't apply in this case, since there's something else standing in the way of accessibility besides the browser, and that thing in the way would be the developer behind the site.

You're confusing a site that doesn't look flashy and pretty with straight up inaccessability. When a website is designed and coded correctly and someone with an insufficient browser loads it up, the site degrades gracefully. The information is still there, it's just not as pretty. It's accessible. It doesn't say "hah! Your browser stinks, no soup for you." On the other hand, if you don't have Flash, JavaScript and Adobe Acrobat, you are significantly cut off from information on the Olympics site. Big difference. All of this means that you can design for the lowest common denominator without stifling innovation.

When you are designing for a specific audience, it doesn't matter how flashy, how cutting edge, how spectacular your site and your tools are. If your audience doesn't like, can't access or is inable to decipher your site, then your design is a failure. After all, you're designing for the user, not yourself. Your goal is communication.

If your target audience is Flash developers, you can pull out all the stops from macromedia. If you are designing for JavaScript coders, you don't need to worry about browsers having JS turned off. But the target audience of the Olympics website is too broad to make rash assumptions about browser plugins and settings.

I've never met anyone that uses text to speech other than for fun on the mac. I don't know what to say about visually impaired users, but I'd be curious to hear of any laws that require web sites to have "Handicap Acces. [sic]"

You did say you're a web designer, right? ...
posted by tomorama at 5:16 PM on January 16, 2002


How hard would it be to hire a couple of kids who know perl really well to write up some scripts, parse the current pages, grab all the content, and make simple, lean pages that anyone can read, even with lynx?
Most sites offer up a "print page" that's lean and mean, Why can't the olympic's site? On second thought, all the data that's going in there can't possibly be all flat files, so it's probably going to be residing in some database somewhere, so why not make lean pages out of that?
Just wondering...
posted by panopticon at 10:07 PM on January 16, 2002


My mantra about design always involves the old chestnut:
“Design is not about how something looks, it’s about how it works.”

According to this criteria, the Olympic site is bad design. On my Mac I don't see the dropdowns, and when I tried to see the route map for the Olympic torch, I ended up with an endlessly reloading, content-free page.

Just terrible...
posted by jpburns at 5:19 AM on January 17, 2002


[password] I've never met anyone that uses text to speech other than for fun on the mac. I don't know what to say about visually impaired users[...]

[tomorama] You did say you're a web designer, right?

Password does have a point, though - how many web designers have met someone with a visual impairment? Because watching a blind person using Jaws is a whole different deal to having some sort of theoretical understanding that there are these things called 'accessibility' issues. I've been lucky enough to spend a morning with a blind colleague to watch how he uses the web, and it showed me that I (like most of the received wisdom) didn't know the half of it.

For example, how many of us use title tags to drop extra information or commentary into a link? Now, how many are aware that when Jaws encounters a link with a title tag, it reads out the title content instead of the link content, often making the sentence meaningless in the process?

How many of us have actually experienced the daily frustration of encountering frames-based sites in Jaws? To all practical intents and purposes, navigating such sites is impossible, and so blind web-users find themselves locked out of a medium that offers them enormous possibilities: the ability to read material that would be inaccessible to them in print form, and the freedom to shop from home, to name two.

I saw sites that looked like they were doing the right thing, offering text versions, that failed in practice because the code was laid out in such a way that the link to the text version didn't get read out first, and so got lost in a jumble of nav-bar titles being read aloud.

I'm not saying it's easy to address all these issues when you have no hands-on experience of them, which is hard to get. But surely, as Matt and others suggest, the official site for the biggest global sporting event should be expected to out-perform your average run-of-the-mill site when it comes to this.

And if the site is just about 'selling something', it seems mad to exclude a chunk of their potential market before they can even get to the virtual checkout.
posted by rory at 5:26 AM on January 17, 2002


The web is still young. One thing that comes with the age and maturity of a technology is standards of operation that makes it simple and accessible to operate, use and manipulate. The web has yet to but eventually will mature.
posted by tomorama at 10:10 AM on January 17, 2002


password: How old are these technologies they are using? Pretty old in web time. Most people have a sufficient browser & correct plug-ins to view this content. When will we be able to use true multimedia content without people being pissed off. There's alot of people out there who want more than text, & not all of them are morons (I just called the flame demons upon myself).

If designers constantly have to design pages for the lowest common denominator, then everyone else will suffer for the few people who refuse to upgrade.


Bull.

The reality is that you can design accessible pages which do massively cool stuff, but are still accessible to people on older browsers, slower machines. It's not brain surgery. All one needs do is fire up lynx or Netscape 2 or 3, turn off javascript and start browsing. Make it work well in HTML 3.2 and you're much of the way there to making a site accessible.

After all, HTML 3.2 and HTML 4 are old and standard technologies as well, and when used properly, they serve accessibility quite well.

Accessibility is not a sexy part of web develpment, but is is a necessary one.
posted by artlung at 4:54 PM on January 17, 2002


accessibility aside (I'll stay out of this as it's been a good long time since I've had to design for any kind of lowest common denominator audience), the thing that bugs me the most about the site is that there's absolutely no need to have the frames at all.

I'm on a mac and know I'm missing out on some dHTML but I'd think it's still similar in design, and right now, the top frame is just a header, and the bottom frame is just a bunch of ads. The actual navigation is in the main frame with the rest of the content, and scrolls up and out of view just like everything else.

I used to be a big frames fan, back in like 97 when I was still thinking of creative flashy ways to use them, but I haven't used them in at least 3 years, and tend to dislike them now. But I can still occasionally find a good use of them, and 99% of the time, it's good because it makes navigation easier. These frames do nothing for navigation. Nothing. That's what I find the most ridiculous of all.
posted by Bernreuther at 5:48 PM on January 17, 2002


HTML 3.2? Why make Mildly Cool Stuff with old, worn out, insufficient technology when you can make Really Cool Stuff with new, effective, efficient web standards that promote accessibility accross all the platforms you mentioned and more.
posted by tomorama at 6:25 PM on January 17, 2002


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