Metservice NZ web accessibility review

In a city where you can and frequently do have all four seasons in eight hours the weather web site is regular viewing for those of us who can’t drive and therefore walk to work (and most other places.) We need to make critical decisions like: head to toe raincoat with hood or windproof jacket and woolly hat and scarf,  shoes, sandals or weather proof boots, sunnies or not. And that’s just the outerwear.

Then there’s the issue if whether or not you need your merino vest and long johns.

I am not talking about mid winter either. A few days ago I sat next to a young woman on the bus who was wearing woolly gloves! I was envious of her comfort.

The Terrace, where I live and work in Wellington is a wind tunnel, and since it is almost always a southerly or northerly here the decision on wearing dangling or stud earrings may have health and safety consequences.

That’s why I was interested to try the beta version, now live, of the Metservice web site, where I am a regular visitor. The old site left a great deal to be desired in terms of accessibility. Sadly, although there are some improvements, so does the new.

I gave feedback as invited. I even phoned them. The person I spoke to had obviously never heard of web standards or accessibility, and admitted they were not included in the design brief.

Accessibility issues are not being addressed according to the feedback blog post, except they took down or renamed the page called About Accessibility which had information about different browsers but did not mention accessibility or have any content relevant to accessibility.

A few quick observations:

  • The new site is still quite busy and cluttered. You need good hand eye coordination to read the ten day forecast on the city page.
  • I suspect it won’t work well without broadband.
  • Some features seem to rely on mouse hovering only.
  • While the site enlarges reasonably I lose information on the right hand side of the page at a certain point. On further investigation I discovered that the information is the weather warnings!
  • There is no accessibility statement.
  • And the text is grey, which means I have to enlarge it more to make it readable. Grey text is pretty but unreadable, especially on the blog.
  • Colour Contrast on the maps is also not good.

Why is it that sites which provide important and most useful public information are sometimes the least willing to do it properly? If people are finding the site difficult to use I suggest they ring Metservice and ask them to read the information they want from the site to them, or email them and ask for a plain test version of the information they need. It might be the only way to get the message across.


Filed under Disability Rights, Information Accessibility, Web Accessibility

6 Responses to Metservice NZ web accessibility review

  1. Thank you for your comments and observations on the new look These are appreciated as MetService are currently still tweaking aspects of the site in response to feedback.

    We have reduced the page size of the majority of pages to make this faster to load and easier for people on dial-up modems. There are a lot of farmers (on dial-up modems) who visit, so this was a priority from the beginning of the project.

    Last week, shortly after the release of the website we adjusted the font colour on some pages where a lighter grey was used to a darker grey shade. Please advise us if this is still difficult to read.

    The old MetService website relied on mouse hovering for the five day forecast text. We have displayed this on the new website without the hover feature – although admit the text is quite small to fit the required space.

    Tomorrow we are looking to add a horizontal scroll bar so you will be able to access the warnings on the right hand side of the page when the page is zoomed in.

    We will also be releasing amendments to the map colours on the rural section in the coming weeks.

    Due to your comments we will also look at the page layout when increasing the font size.

    Any further feedback is invited at

  2. Thanks Nicola for a positive response. I haven’t really noticed much change in the text shading. The blog is still too faint.
    Glad you are doing something about the download as it makes my poor old desk top rev up like a jet taking off into the teeth of a stiff northerly! And I’m on city broadband.
    Can you do anything about the slider for the ten day forecast?
    If you want a fuller review www, could do one for you.

  3. Phil

    Ensuring that a scroll-bar is available for over-flow is critical, of course. That said, I can’t help also pointing out that if you are trying to increase the font size and your browser is ‘zooming’ the entire page rather than just the text, then you need to either change browsers or find an option to prevent that from happening. Firefox 3 has a View -> Zoom -> Zoom Text Only option (that this option is off by default is most unfortunate). Google Chrome is horribly deficient, and has no such option. I recommend either not using Chrome, or ensuring that you have a friendlier browser at hand in which to view problematic pages. Firefox 3 remembers the font size I last viewed a site at, which gets it additional bonus points from me.

  4. Phil

    Unfortunately the weather pages are completely useless without javascript, which is another serious mark against the new design. This is most likely more than just a tweak to resolve (it’s much easier to build sites with “unobtrusive javascript” if that is your intention from the start), but if it’s not going to happen this time, then hopefully the met service will at least keep this in mind the next time they overhaul the site.

  5. Rico

    The horizontal scrollbar has been implemented—now I can scroll to the right to reveal a large grey box obscuring the Weather Warnings.

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