New Zealand Educated

Size: 36 template pages

Government status: Crown Entity

My professional status: employee at Shift

Website client: Education New Zealand

Dates: May - September 2007

Categories: Showcase sites, Front-end developer, Govt web standards tester, Writing for the web, CSS-based layout, e-govt/WCAG compliance, ExpressionEngine, Government websites, Large sites

Brief: to build a set of template pages for the New Zealand Educated website, which encourages overseas students to study in New Zealand by providing a comprehensive overview of institutions and courses available, together with interactive Flash elements that allow an exploration of the New Zealand environment in which these institutions are located. Education New Zealand is a Crown Entity funded by the New Zealand Government.

My responsibilities included:

  • Development of the site in CSS and HTML 4.01 Transitional, which would then be integrated into the ExpressionEngine CMS
  • Hand-coding in HTML 4.01 Transitional to a very high level of accessibility, and following NZ e-government Guidelines
  • Inclusion of all possible accessibility elements, including skip links, access keys, alt tags, titles, summaries, captions and full accessibility coding for forms, with e-govt testing of all pages (level 1 mandatory, level 2 as many as possible, level 3 wherever practical)
  • Extensive testing of the site at all stages of the development process, ensuring complete consistency across the following browsers and platforms:
    • PC: Internet Explorer 5.01, IE5.5, IE6, IE7; Firefox, Netscape, Opera
    • Mac: Firefox, Netscape, Opera, Safari
  • Ensuring that every page and stylesheet had been validated using the W3C Markup Validation Service and that it conformed to HTML 4.01 Transitional requirements
  • Development of print stylesheets sitewide.

The timeframe for this large number of templates was very tight, so the build process needed to be as efficient as possible. After sorting the templates into layout types, I endeavoured to create and re-use page elements wherever possible, in order to speed up the process. The high level of accessibility and e-govt compliance added to the complexity of the build, as did the implementation of various interactive Flash elements. The site was multilingual and included blogs, videos and student stories, all of which had to be included in the template build. At the time, this set of templates was by far the most complex I had ever built, and I loved every minute of it.