Whoever wrote the Job Centre’s website should be fired

The Job Centre (officially branded “Jobcentre Plus”) is the UK government's unemployment service; one of the functions of their website is to provide details of available jobs and how to apply for them. Let's get straight on with describing what's wrong with it, shall we?

  • The table displaying the list of job vacancies has its width specified in pixels, so its size is fixed irrespective of how much text it contains. This also means that it doesn't scale when the user increases the size of text in their browser.
  • Furthermore, any content that overflows is instructed to be hidden—they're actively hiding information rather than just allowing it to spill out of the box that should really be containing it. Even decreasing the text size until it's unreadably small doesn't guarantee that it'll all fit.
  • Instead of marking up the table's header row as a table header, it's marked up as a data row, which is incorrect.
  • Searching for a job is a six-step process; these six steps are displayed throughout, but the completed steps aren't links to go back and change those details.
  • The results are paginated, twenty results per page. If there are any more than one hundred results, the total number of results is only given as “more than 100”; even though the “Next” and “Previous” parts of the page-switching widget continue to work, the page numbers part stops at 5.

The first and second errors meant I had to resort to using Firebug just to read the content. It was while doing this that I noticed the third error. Here, though, is the biggie, and what mainly prompted me to write:

Once I've gone through the six-step searching process, Firebug'd the results table to be wide enough to read all the text, clicked through the indeterminate number of results pages and found a vacancy I'm interested in, I decide to bookmark its details page, to refer to later.

  • Individual job vacancies' details pages cannot be bookmarked.

Of course, you can print them, but only if you have a printer—I don't; and if the details are updated or corrected, you have an out-of-date copy. Never worry—you read the page's address from the printout and type it into your browser. And then you get an error, because the vacancies' details pages don't have their own permanent address—you have to use the search “facility” every time.

Each vacancy does have its own reference number, which can simply be typed straight into the appropriate field on the search form, so why wasn't this used as the identifying token in a permanent address for each vacancy?

When I say whoever wrote this website should be fired, I'm not using hyperbole. If they think that these kinds of errors—errors that an untrained amateur can spot, without even looking for errors, in half an hour's use of the site—are acceptable on a government public-service website, then they don't have the first idea of how to do their job properly.

Sadly, it seems that this is par for the course when it comes to government- and council-run websites. If the government can't run a website properly, or recruit someone who can, why should we trust them with running anything more tangible?