MySchool: so wrong

Background: The Australian federal government has finally pushed out a web site publishing performance metrics for all schools throughout Australia. There has been much brouhaha regarding this. For some reason, the go-live wasn’t a quiet one, but a very loud, flick-on-the-switch big-bang go live.

Naturally, the website asploded.

Any website that’s going to be hit by 1% of the Australian population the moment it goes live is going to blow up unless there are some cluey, experienced people behind it. Clever, inexperienced people, or experienced idiots with a large budget might stand a chance if things got progressively worse over time, but turn it on and hammer it on day one? MySchool.edu.au does not have cluey, experienced people behind it. There are various signs.

For a start, what is it with the TLD? .edu.au seems fine, but what’s wrong with a redirect from .gov.au given they were the folks running around promoting it? It’s not like myschool is an education institution.

Then you get there. Guess what? It won’t work without JavaScript. At all. Because typing in a string and hitting enter demands the availability of JavaScript. Using <form> is so 2000s. Get with the new decade! It’s so vital to the site that users must not be allowed in if they don’t have JavaScript. Screw the blind! They’ve only got one school to go to anyway.

And the site is slow, amazing slow. But I guess if you’ve got to download all that JavaScript to enter that string, of course it’s going to be slow. Switching to a different set of data? Couldn’t download that and just do a hide/show, no you’ve got to do some kinda AJAX-y postback crap for a massive round-trip delay; if you were dealing with rapidly changing data, that might almost make sense; every year this website will get data updates, so no: this makes no sense. I clicked on it, and a long time later, something happened to the web page. In the meantime, I went off to get a drink. Alternatively, you could just show a table for each year, and skip the damn JavaScript altogether. Why there’s even a backend is beyond me, this whole thing could be served perfectly well – and mind-numbingly quickly – from static pages.

And for the purpose it’s intended for: parents picking a school for their kids. Can you compare schools? No. Open them up in different browser tabs, if you have a tabbed browser (remember: the blind can go take a flying leap). Good thing the site is chocked full of JavaScript. And the JavaScript is used for handy things like map-based locating of schools, and – oh, hang on, no it’s not. There’s no Google-maps mash-up. Good thing the site is chocked full of JavaScript.

Clearly, the entire site has been an exercise in some programmer somewhere bolstering their resume rather than giving the client something appropriate. Either that, or a manager was in charge of the feature spec, and demanded all the latest buzzwords that they had heard but didn’t understand. I’m betting it took more than a year to build. Feel free to speculate.

I’m also willing to bet the price on this site was more than the $50,000 it should have cost (one person, three months). I’m imagining about two or three orders of magnitude more. I’m figuring the servers required for this aren’t running in some guy’s bedroom, even though that would be about all that’s required for such a simple dataset that’s presented in such a straightforward way.

Must try harder.

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4 thoughts on “MySchool: so wrong

  1. Adam

    I used it once, to look up results from my old schools. I almost couldn’t figure it out, and I’m not dumb. The search by suburb, town or postcode box for instance, it won’t let you just search just by postcode, it wants you to choose a selection from the list and then search.

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