Most Wanted - criminal web design

Another major UK public sector site launch, another hideously bloated, nested-table monstrosity. This time it's the Crimestoppers 'Most Wanted'  (external link) site.

How's this for starters:

<!-- xinclude virtual="/includes/objPageCache.asp" -->
<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN">
<!-- Document coded using XHTML 1.0 rules | HTML 4.01 DTD used for backwards campatibility -->
<html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en">

That's a new one for me.

Crimestoppers may be a charity, but in 2003 it received total income of £3 million, including £1 million from the Home Office, so it wasn't a matter of resources. It can only be hoped that PAS 78 will help such organisations commission better sites in the future.

The Register  (external link) reported how the site was brought down this morning by heavier than aniticipated traffic. Looking at the markup used on the site a good dose of web standards would have at least halved the page weight, and consequently doubled the number of visitors the site could have coped with, potentially avoiding such an embarassing launch.


You have to love the work of genius that is alt="*" for the spacer gifs too ;-)

Posted by: Karl Dawson at November 21, 2005 12:53 PM

Dan: I'm particularly interested in this bit:

<!-- Document coded using XHTML 1.0 rules | HTML 4.01 DTD used for backwards campatibility -->

I had a client claim the exact same to me last month and I'm dying to see where the advice is coming from... any further thoughts?

Posted by: Derek Featherstone at December 29, 2005 9:29 PM

Derek, that's the detail that got me the most, and I've no idea where they got the idea that it's a good idea.

Unless I'm missing something this approach will not benefit anyone - the declaration of a namespace in a non-XML document makes no sense, and using XHTML syntax in an HTML document means it won't validate, and forces even the smartest browser into second guessing the document author. Apart from that there is no consistency within the document, with both XHTML and HTML style img, br, meta and other elements littered throughout.

From what I can see it looks like the site was produced by Reading Room, who are also responsible for the London Borough of Newham site, where the same HTML doctype and XHTML syntax technique is employed. I'll give them a shout to see if they can shed any light on where it originated.

Posted by: Dan at December 29, 2005 10:49 PM

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