Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Why bother?

I infrequently but regularly revisit the university and state job posting sites to see what's out there. Recently I noticed a shift in the way the sites were managed: they've gone to PeopleSoft applications. It is a real shame, because the new interface is crap.

NC University Jobs Search Interface
It looks good though, right?

Except that the layout components are fixed. To handle multiple devices, they just scale everything. Try to visit it on a smartphone and you get greeked type (too tiny to read).  Still, that is a minor ergonomic faux-pas, easily worked around with pinching and panning.

Except that it also has basic accessibility issues: missing labels for input fields, and missing alternative text for an image, no skip-to links to avoid the menu and results links, and result link texts that are contextually inadequate ("view").  These are technical infractions that may appear minor, but remember that this is a public space run by a public institution and as such must conform to ADA accessibility requirements.

Such technical issues in a template-driven site is a reasonable basis for asking whether any standards were followed at all. Given that a trivial check with the AIM Wave toolbar shows their pages to have demonstrable issues, it is also reasonable to question the soundness of their conformance checking procedures, or even if any such procedures exist.

As serious as the accessibility issues may be, what is even more telling is the omission of an important key detail: there is no way to filter results to those that are relevant to a job seeker.

I don't know of any job seeker who says "I wonder what kinds of jobs are available that are ARRA funded?"  But the lack of a professional job categorization is an unbelievably irresponsible omission.  Whether a PhD student looking for a research position or an technical professional looking for an IT position, making someone wade through 193 irrelevant posts for shipping clerks, educational specialists, and "Internal Only" postings, is unnecessary and thoughtless.

Omissions such as these are a not-so-subtle suggestion that an institution does not value the time of others, and will waste your time from the get-go.

Was any attempt at all was made to understand the needs of the process stakeholders? Was there any effort to assess the validity of the application and to schedule remedial corrective actions?  In the drive to introduce "enterprise" processes, the stakeholder's interests seem to have gotten misplaced along the route. 

When companies like PeopleSoft can be rewarded with contracts to deliver non-compliant software with less service-able interfaces, where is the motivation for an individual to be concerned about considerations such as Web standards, ADA compliance, or even stakeholder needs?  In other words, why bother?

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