Funka get a lot of questions regarding the W3C website. If the W3C is to be considered a role model is an interesting question in itself. We believe that it is a misconception when developers choose the W3C website instead of their guidelines as their point of reference.
Who is the W3C website’s for? The shape, structure and the way the content is written indicates that their target audience is a very narrow and knowledgeable one. The way it is oriented also indicates that it is aimed at highly qualified experts. Also, a vast prior knowledge is mandatory in order to use the website. The ability to read and pick out relevant material also has to be very good. Even people with English as their native language probably feel that the material isn’t particularly easy to understand.
If you are not included in the very small group of experts the website is close to useless, even to get a first grasp of the area. The threshold to enter this club of experts is, to put it mildly, very high. And being what it is it should not stand as role model for Governments and municipalities.
By experts for experts
To create something other than a website for experts was probably never the purpose. In order to create international guidelines the information itself need to be detailed, so detailed that only “geeks and neerds” would manage to go through the material. A fact that leave room for a “W3C for dummies” or perhaps consultants making it their business to fill the gap between the complex material and the ever growing group of people depending on them.
So the W3C website is not a good example in regards to applying the rules and guidelines presented for accessible websites. The W3C focus is to find and create the best guidelines. Not to use them.
You might consider it to be a pedagogical mistake. We all want prophets and gurus to live as they learn, and simply put, they do not. Their website just does not constitute a good example. It is cognitively very difficult. Its content is hard to grasp and understand and a vast prior knowledge is a must. The material itself is dyer and the structure and basic concept of the website is extremely difficult to understand. Some improvements were made when the W3C rebuilt their website but at the same time other problems did occur.
In order to lead as a good example the W3C would have to create another website, or rather a thinner layer of information. Then the material could be presented in a manner that makes it possible for more to grasp and at least try to understand the material. Few standardization organs choose to do so. People who try to read ISO-standards will soon discover that they too are equally complicated.
Nothing about us without us
When the W3C introduces guidelines with the sole purpose of aiding people with cognitive difficulties in a manner that prevents the same group of people from both finding and understanding them it constitutes a problem democratically. Not even the people or organizations that are supposed to represent these individuals can handle the complexity of the guidelines that is supposed to support, comfort and guide them.
It also constitutes a practical problem. Out of everyone who on different levels are involved in the process of building and managing a website very few are able to use and understand the W3C website. The complexity is too high even for them. We at Funka have also noticed that even deeply competent technical developers have problem interpreting the guidelines, especially in regards to accessibility.
When addressing this with the W3C, ISO, SIS or other standardization organs we always get the same response: They don’t feel they have the necessary recourses to improve and adjust the material to breach the very competent and specialized target audience.
This is the sole reason for Funka’s existence. When this company was started some twelve years ago the business idea was exactly the same as it is today: To constitute an explanatory and pedagogical link between complex guidelines, people affected by lack of accessibility and anyone responsible for developing and maintaining websites. In part due to the complexity of standards and guidelines and in part because it was clear to us at a very early stage that practical tests, the rebuilding of knowledge and that a rather pragmatic stance was needed in order for something to work in a rather dull day to day web society.