A tough decision on accessibility & standards

I made a tough decision yesterday by taking the current Headscape website offline and replacing it with a holding page. Obviously, a web design company without its own website is bad news. However, I believe that leaving the site up would have been even more detrimental.

As you may already know if you read this blog regularly, we have been working on a new Headscape website for sometime. The current site is over three years old and was built in the days before many of us were aware of things like web standards and accessibility. Although, at the time, the site did conform to best practices in web design and accessibility, it now appears horribly out of date.

At Headscape, we work with extremely switched-on clients who specifically ask for sites to be built with standards and accessibility in mind. We were beginning to notice a definite impact on the quality of leads from our site. Although the numbers were still high we were finding that, the values of projects were lower as large clients were put off by our legacy site.

The final nail in the coffin was an interview Andy Clarke gave to Accessify.com in which he said:

"Those people still delivering nested table layout, spacer gifs or ignoring accessibility can no longer call themselves web professionals."

I passionately agree with Andy on this one and Headscape has been working with standards for over two years now. The problem is that our site does not reflect this and I was concerned about how others would perceive us based on our site only. In the end I became convinced that a single page that validated, conformed to the highest standards in accessibility and was built using web standards reflected better on our brand than a whole site of invalid, inaccessible code.

Was it the right decision?

What do you think? Do you think it was the right decision? Which is more damaging; a web standards built holding page or a complete site using out of date development techniques? What would you have done faced with the same dilemma.

  • http://www.rokkmedia.co.uk Adam Stone

    Being in the same position as you Paul with a site that is three years old and full of the oldest tricks in the book AND desperately trying to find the time to build the spanking new standards compliant version, I can totally sympathise. However, I am not sure that you made the right decision in replacing it with an apology. As far as I am concerned the message should always come first followed closely by the messenger. What next – convincing all your clients to take there original sites down as they don’t fit the mark anymore? Perhaps another route would have been to put up a temporary replacement home page with a link through to the original site after explaining the reason for the hold-up. That way you would have got your message across but not run the risk of turning an equal amount of new business away who have only been given a glimpse of your potential.

  • http://www.boagworld.com Paul Boag

    Hi Adam,
    I did consider the possibility to linking through to the old site however I am not sure that would have helped much as it wasnt just the build which was out of date, it was considerable amounts of content too. Also considering the new site is only a month or so behind I thought the risk was manageable.
    As for your comment about clients taking down their sites… No I am not suggestion that for one moment. We are a web design company. Our site is supposed to be an example of the quality of our work. This is not true of our clients. Think of our site as an example of our product. If a client had a faulty or obsolete product I would confidently recommend that they updated it or removed it from the marketplace. That is exactly what we have done here.
    To be honest I am not sure if it was the right decision or not but what I do know it dumping the old site has put us under considerable pressure internally to get off our ass and get the new site live!

  • Ed

    I know what it is like having sites that I want to work on (that have stayed the same for many years), and not having the time to change them.
    At least the new holding page shows off the new things that the old site couldn’t. Even just one page like that (plus the example sites you link to) could help potential clients to choose you, I guess.

  • Carl Grint

    I think for yourselves, you have made the right decision, if it feels right for you.
    Although, and this is only personal, not too sure about the gentleman and young lady image at the top right corner ;o)

  • http://webaxe.blogspot.com/ Dennis Lembree

    Yes, I agree with your decision Paul. You must practice what you preach!

  • http://www.boagworld.com Paul Boag

    Hi Dennis,
    yes that was an interesting one. Its one of a random set that loads and I had my doubts myself. However, I get feed up with sites using the same kind of boring stock imagery and so couldnt resist shaking things up a bit when I stumbled across that one :)

  • http://www.splintered.co.uk Patrick H. Lauke

    i’d say that it was the right decision. even if it’s only a holding page, at least it shows an understanding of, and commitment to, current best practices. certainly a decision that wasn’t taken lightly, and for that i take my hat off to you. nice one.

  • Ed

    Maybe all you need now is to add an amazing promotional video of yourself and colleagues. With Marcus on the case, I’m sure you’ll come up with something to rival that in no time.
    :)

  • http://overallpack.com Nemanja

    hard but smart call. I think that this one page do you more good then old bad site you have.
    It will be interesting for us to show us some data after few mounts. :)

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