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Dear Disney Store UK,

I would write this to you directly via your site feedback page but it is throwing Access database errors. The email appears to be down as well. So instead, I’m going to write my letter here in a public forum in the hopes that someone from your team sees it and takes heed.

Your so-called redesign is a travesty, a tragedy, and an embarrassment. Your prior store was not only far more beautiful visually, but was a magnificent example of standards-based design. Perhaps more importantly, the site was also accessible under the UK’s Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).

You now have a site that regresses back to all the bad habits that have hurt the progress of Web development and design. Here’s what you can expect from what you’ve done to your site:

  • Performance will become slower. Due to the overblown markup and inclusion of massive JavaScripts within each individual document, your site will slow down considerably. Not only that, but because of the table-based layout method, each page loaded has to not only redraw each of those tables (which takes two passes of a browser rather than one) it’s carrying both the presentational and behavioral baggage from page to page. I feel really sorry for your potential customers at large, and even more so for those who are on dialup. I really do.
  • Your site will become significantly more difficult to manage. Want to change something in the visual presentation of the site? You now have to change it in every single document. So, instead of opening a style sheet, making a change in less than a minute, and having that change automatically distributed to all pages linked to that style sheet, you will have to search and replace. That adds a margin for critical errors, which can in turn make changes even more complicated. The same holds true of your scripts, which are embedded into each document. You’ve completely lost the ability to effectively manage your site, much less redesign it effectively when the time comes.
  • Your site will become more expensive to maintain. Because of the document management issue, money and time will be spent every time a change is required. Your bandwidth costs are going to skyrocket, particularly now as we approach the holiday season as your traffic is likely to increase significantly during this time.
  • The site may experience a drop in search rankings across all engines. Even if that doesn’t happen, apparently, according to Google, you are selling a product called spacer gif. What in the world are those? Oh yeah, wait! I remember! They’re an outdated, unnecessary method in today’s contemporary design and development approach. Spacer gifs, in case you don’t know what you’re pimping to the world, are a means of keeping table based layouts from collapsing in on themselves. And now, as Google so clearly tells us, they are part of your catalog. I’m not convinced you’ll get much sales on spacer gifs, but you never know.
  • The site is unusable for any blind person who might like to visit. But you know, blind people probably don’t want to buy Disney products for themselves, or their children and families anyway, right?

For taking a beautiful design developed with all of today’s modern approaches that gave you so many benefits, made us proud of you, and provided a shining example of effective use of markup, CSS and accessibility features and re-doing it using outdated and inaccessible methods, I say shame on you and I repeat, this is a travesty, a tragedy, an embarrassment.

Shame on you Disney.

Molly E. Holzschlag, Group Lead, Web Standards Project (WaSP)

[Cross-posted to take your comments, and by all means, someone from Disney please do in fact comment, we'd love to hear your response.]

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