KC Chiefs' Tragic Online Fumble
The Happy Cog-designed site for the Kansas City Chiefs is gone, replaced by a cesspool of table soup. In what might be one of the worst redesigns in history, VML ignores any concept of standards or accessibility in favor of a table-layout/Flash/RealPlayer trifecta of crap. Welcome to 1997.
I love the Chiefs — I love the players, the stadium, the new coach, the atmosphere and the BBQ tailgating. I do not, however, love their website.
A few years ago, their online presence was mired in table soup. It was a monument of gratuitous, inaccessible and slow-loading shit that was late 1990’s development. Along came Zeldman and the Happy Cog gang, and in September 2004, the site was designed with everything you’d expect: CSS, standards, an RSS feed. (At the time, I hoped the high-profile redesign would push other sports teams toward standards, but alas, the web remains littered with development relics.)
Now, it seems, the Chiefs’ mouth-breathing marketing department has decided to return their website to the swamp and devolve the HTML into a single-celled heap of nested tables. Gone is the Happy Cog legacy; returned has the dark side of the force.
So who is responsible for this piece of shit? Why, none other than local interactive design hacks VML, most known for polluting the web with “viral” “Flash” “marketing” for Sears, Burger King and other Adbusters targets. I have no idea how these people got awarded the contract, but I’m sure some of the more dubious dealings involved season tickets to certain agency partners.
Enough of the cheap shots. Let’s take a look at some of the new website’s highlights:
- There’s no DOCTYPE. The geniuses at VML must think their work is so awesome browsers should just know how to display it.
- Of what the W3C validator can parse, there are 13 errors and 109 warnings. Nice.
- There are 101 image tags. Four have semantic alt attributes.
- Tables are nested up to six deep. Bet that was fun to code.
- The homepage weighs in at a crushingly efficient 302 kb. The HTML by itself is 49 kb. (Happy Cog’s version was 114 kb; the HTML was 23 kb.) The dropdown menu alone is over 29 kb.
- All of the content is driven from Flash. There is not a single line of meaningful HTML in the entire document except a few links in the footer. I mean, that kind of code-to-content ratio should win some kind of award, right?
So not only is the site a throwback to development circa 1997, but they’ve made it completely inaccessible. It’s a good thing that only people with proper vision, fast connections, the correct plug-ins and good motor skills actually care about professional football. We wouldn’t want them there disabled types to read the site, now would we?
The new Chiefs website might be the single worst website I have seen in a long, long time. If it was possible to do everything wrong, VML accomplished it, and on top of their abysmal technical execution, the design sucks. (Nice red/black gradients. Seriously. Masterful use of Photoshop.) It’s a complete 180-degree reversal, a bad trip down prehistoric development lane, ten steps backward in web technology.
Standards-conscious developers, print this out, hang it on your dartboards, and use it as a case study for everything wrong with your lazy, ignorant and incompetent competition.
(Additional reporting, research and bitching by Shane.)