Nancy Pelosi Fails QA

Well, not Nancy Pelosi herself, but her Web site has gotten the wrong sort of attention on the blogs recently (here and here and so on). It’s a simple Macromedia Flash presentation embedded within a Web site, but it has a number of problems that a trained eye would have caught.

First and foremost, whomever created the presentation used stock imagery in the most sloppy manner; they chose, to represent a story on American military medical care, a stock image of someone with a uniform featuring an epaulet talking to a doctor. Unfortunately, that epaulet said “CANADA”:

The erroneous epaulet

Her political opponents (of which I am one, don’t get me left) were quick to seize upon this as something more than a failure (or lack) of quality assurance, but they’re just looking for something to make noise about anyway. Still, someone who reviewed this with any degree of exactitude would read all text and identify any extraneous logos within stock photography. And someone would have read “Canada” and said, “Uh, no…..”

This particular failure has been remedied, as the slide that offended the bloggers no longer appears. However, the site still fails QA in the following manners.

At the change of each slide, the text from the first slide (“Green the Capitol”) displays during the transition. Now, unless you’re actually trying subliminal advertising, perhaps you don’t want this to occur. Perhaps you want a smooth fade of the words and the fade in of the new slide. Still, unrelated text shouldn’t appear:

The phantom text

Next, the embedding of the Flash object is faulty. It gives the user too much control over the behavior of the object, including the ability to zoom so that the images appear pixellated or the text displays outsized. Since the Flash object has a certain set size, only a portion is visible, like this:

The outsizing

Finally, as you should know if you build Web sites for a living (or pretend to), Macromedia Flash Player is a plugin whose presence should not be taken for granted on the user’s Web browser. Any time you provide animation or other documents through plugins, you should provide a handy mechanism so that those users without the plugin can get them if needed. Does Nancy Pelosi? No:

The missing plugin

Instead of a static graphic or a link to Macromedia Flash Player, we get empty space. That Other America that I’m always hearing about, the one without Flash, gets left behind.

I am tempted to go into metaphors about legislators whose Web sites aren’t checked before they’re put up and the implications for legislation, but I’ll save that for another blog post and will point out that a couple of hours’ worth of time of a trained Quality Assurance professional would have ferreted these issues out before releasing it to the public, sparing embarrassment and also sparing someone the “emergency” of fixing it.

But, hey, if you don’t want to spend that money or budget on quality assurance, you roll the dice. Sometimes they don’t come up snake eyes, but when they do, you’ll pay for it.

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