money + design = ?

I’m astounded at what money can buy these days. I’m astounded at the wonderful design these days. You’d think that if you had money, you could buy some wonderful design. In this iPod design age, if you had lots of money, you could buy lots of wonderful design.

Seems simple enough.

What if you’d insisted on other people spending money to buy good design? What about if it was a law? That you had to buy good design. By law.

The formula would now be money + design + it’s a law = ?

What about if you could make the law?

Money + design + it’s the law + and I made it =?

The answer is, of course, you’d have good design coming out your ears and you would model good behaviour because, well, you made the law right?

Well, yes, in other places, but not in New Zealand.

Astoundingly, the New Zealand Parliament has a new domain name. In a politician and geek wet dream, they’ve become www.parliament.nz – and that’s about where the joy ends. In a stroke of ultimate one-upgeekship – the designers – imagine the cachet of having your designer logo on the utmost web site in the country – the title for the home page is P1: PARLIAMENT HOME PAGE. Gee, the search engines bots will love that. Using Firefox the home page records 48 warnings. 48!

When I ran the page through WebXact at Watchfire it didn’t pass level one usabilty compliance. This, bearing in mind, from the same fun people who have declared that every government web site will be 100% compliant by January 1, 2006. Which will be quite soon, eight months ago. My MComm research was into how accessible are New Zealand government web sites.

Parliament’s new web site is a disgrace. It’s the flagship web site for the seat of the New Zealand government, a fortune’s been spent on the development – for nothing very special at all. Worse, it runs contrary to the government’s own policy. A couple of informed teenagers could’ve whipped it up in a couple of weeks – and I bet it’d be not only 100% compliant or near imitation, it could’ve cost a fraction of the price. Probably could get it hosted over at CityLink for not a vast amount of money; they’d probably throw in one of their new studly servers out of sheer patriotism.

By way of comparison, permit me to offer the Official Web Site of the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea. First of all the title of the home page says: “Official Web Site of the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea”. Elegant. Even the searchbots are loving it. Firefox found 43 warnings.

image of Sir Michael Somare from www.pm.gov.pgSir Michael Somare’s page starts out most engagingly.

Hello, I’m Michael Somare, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea. Welcome to my web site.

This web site provides up-to-date information about our Government, Ministers of the Cabinet, our major policies, and the Government’s vision for its people.

This page and those of my Cabinet Ministers are updated regularly.

If you are just visiting, or a potential traveller, or a student seeking information on a school project on our Government, country or people, I encourage you to visit these pages.

Please make sure that you visit our country – you won’t be disappointed. With more than 600 islands, over 850 languages, and a largely untouched natural beauty, Papua New Guinea is truly ‘Paradise Live’.

I believe the New Zealand government should approach Papua New Guinea government for web site aid, technological assistance, and Michael’s chatty writing style. I think he’s made a real breakthrough in web marketing and design.

He probably hired teenagers to make the web site for him.

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