The 50Million Rupee gov.mu Portal Analysis

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The following is an analysis of the defunt gov.mu (Website of the Government of Mauritius back then), by Nadim [Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ilearn.mu ] , that I am publishing with his expressed permission. – No political intent behind same :) Have a nice time reading.

Please note that this analysis was carried out in 2013 and was never published. I got my hands on same, some hours ago and asked for permission to publish it.

This is a simple report to point out some of the (many bugs)α on the recently launched gov.mu portal (22nd February 2013). Since government agencies (Ministry of Information and Communication Technology and National Computer Board) are talking about state of the art portal, latest technology, new and better servers, new infrastructure, e-government, e-services, new design, …, then we shall analyse accordingly.

Note that according to these agencies, the total cost of  the new gov.mu is 50 million rupees (MUR), money they got from financers (bailleurs de fonds) and to be paid using tax payers money.

First of all we shall see the aspects involved in a professional web application / portal.  For a portal which cost 50 million rupees I think these aspects should be involved. Has gov.mu gone through all these during the revamp / restructuring / redesign … of the portal ?

revamp

Note that not all aspects shall be analysed (1. mo pena asser le temps boss, sorry. 2. Mo pas ene expert dans tous sa banne domaines la). Also this is just a brief analysis – we shall not go in details (pena letemps boss, sorry). This is necessary because we can’t let tax payers money, our money, go waste. We must not remain in our slumber.  We can’t just toil hard while others enjoy luxury life. We can’t let incompetent people be leaders, deciders and decision makers. It’s time to wake up.

I’m not an expert in branding, neither in User Interface (UI) Design, nor in User Experience (UX) Design, nor in marketing, … (see chart in page 1). But with a budget of 50M rupees, you expect professionals in these domains to be involved so that we get a high quality end-product.

xHTML 1.0 v/s HTML5 and CSS3

We are in 2013. The day the new portal was launched, the same day it got out-dated ! XHTML is an old markup. Yes we still have websites using xHTML in 2013 but they were built some years ago – some even in the year 2000 (if i’m not mistaken). In 2013, or even in 2011, when you start a new project, you automatically choose HTML5 and CSS3, not xHTML which is more than 10 years old.

Another reason for choosing HTML5 and CSS3 is the arrival of smartphones and tablets. Comparing HTML5 with xHTML is the same as comparing table-based and tableless coding – experts in Front-End web development will understand this better. The number of tags and attributes used (in XHTML) when coding table-based pages is more than when coding for tableless pages. Working with HTML5 and CSS3, instead of xHTML (table-based or tableless), reduces the number of tags and attributes to be used, plus you can do much with CSS3 now instead of doing the “old school” way (eg using images for gradients, etc). Why I’m talking about all this ? Answer: bandwidth !

HTML Coding : Bandwidth

Since we were expecting a start of the art portal, especially with the latest technologies used, we would expect a mobile / tablet version of the portal. Pena ! For example, I’m in Port Louis and I need some address / phone number / location of some ministries. Since I know the new government portal contains the required information, in the streets of Port Louis, I would surf the gov.mu portal on my .. what ? Desktop PC ? Laptop ? Certainly, my smartphone. I’ll have a package either from Orange or Emtel – and I’ll pay for the amount of data transferred (upload or download). How much of data do I download is important for me. If I download more than the volume allowed in the monthly package, I’ll have to pay, a higher amount, for additional data.

The question here: Does the new portal care for this ? Am I downloading more data from gov.mu ? Will regular browsing of the portal drain my monthly mobile data package ?

The answer: YES ! If you verify the markup of gov.mu, you will find unnecessary tags and attributes hanging everywhere. This causes the page size to be bigger and thus me paying for  unnecessary tags and attributes – or more bluntly, paying for the incompetency of others.

html

Analysing only the markup used for the menu (forget about the whole page and double forget about the whole portal), we ask what these tags doing there (faire joli) ?

  • Every tag seems to have its own CSS class – No CSS reuse ? Each tags seems to have an ID. Why IDs for (almost) every tag ?
  • What is the use of <a name=’startNavigation’></a>, <h2 class=’ms-hidden’> Top Link Bar </h2> and the associated CSS classes (which have background images too !) ? (brule nous bandwidth ?)
  • With <h2 class=’ms-hidden’> Top Link Bar </h2> (being there unnecessarily), is the website involving itself in Black Hat SEO ? (Check it’s CSS, it contains top:-2000px)
  • Why using tags to get corners (re CSS classes LeftMenuCorner and RightMenuCorner) ? Plus the CSS definition involved for these tags ! Zot pas conn servi padding lors container sa menu la ? Zot ti pou save un peu kb …

I say it again: this is only the main menu… Forget about the whole page and double forget the whole portal ! Bon nous guette ene lot l’exemple. AJAX !

There are 4 menus on top-right of the portal website – rouge, bleu, jaune, vert. When you hover the mouse, the contents of the popup is fetched from an AJAX source and displayed. Questions:

  • What is the use of fetching static contents ?
  • When you fetch contents for an element in the DOM, you fetch precise piece of info. Why is the AJAX source sending a whole page as response ? (from <html….> to </html>). Brule nous bandwidth même zot!
  • The contents are static information – hence will remain the same everytime. Why fething it EVERYTIME you hover your mouse on them ?
  • These elements have been bind’ed on mouseover and mouseout So those using touch screen can never get these menus ? (when I try to tap the menus with my fingers on an Android tablet, menus do not appear)

Desktop v/s Responsive version

Only a bloated desktop version is available. No responsive version for mobiles and tablets. 50M inn depenser ! En plus mo penser inn developer seulement pou sa banne celui ki ena ene l’ecran 1280px de largeur (slideshow lors homepage la indique nous sa). They didn’t realise that there are screens larger than that ?

When viewing the portal on a screen 1920px wide, you find a hanging submenu. What is the submenu doing there ?

screensize

Catalogue website v/s Portal providing online services

For me gov.mu is a catalogue website. That is it only provides information – it fetches data from a database and displays it.

Concerning the online forms on the website, they are simple form-to-db pages (you enter your details on the form, and the data is stored in the database, unless they are only mailed to some email addresses without storing in the DB; or the both: store in DB, plus email). These are VERY simple and cannot be tagged as “offering online services”

Hurray! We paid 50 million rupees for the development, hosting, infractructure, etc of a catalogue website.

Open source v/s M$ Products

Ayoooo ! Everyone knows the benefits of Linux v/s M$ products. Using open source software costs NOTHING. You can use this money, which are “gifted” to Micro$soft, for development instead. Microsoft Sharepoint is like a modern website builder – the same website builders we have online (Wix, Weebly et al) that amateurs use to sell Rs6000 websites! Except that Sharepoint provides other features that dunno who gonna use (collaboration, etc) – Don’t we have free products for collaboration, etc ? So why Sharepoint ? To add extra markup and hence have a heavy traffic / bandwidth usage ? Quand verifier code la fini conner pas finn faire “coding à la main” comment banne professionels faire, mais finn servi Sharepoint comme ene website builder – you see this in the names of CSS classes and IDs of the tags!

Ayo mo pas pou cozz lors la moi ! Monn plein !

Network Infrastructure

We are told that the 50M rupees spent are not only for developing (or rather they are using the term designing) the portal – they can’t differentiate that website design and website development are ! They consists of buying new hardware, etc. But are these new servers tuned to provide the best performance ? I mean are they fast ? If yes, then why so much processing going on to send (responses for) simple pages (of a catalogue website) ?

speed1 speed2

When you request the homepage of the portal, after 3.623 seconds you receive a response. Wow! Sa même dernier technology avec nouveau serveurs sa ? Where is the problem ? Network latency or the web server cooking something  ? for (x=0; $x < 1000000; $x++) { sleep(); }

Either too much processing at server level or problem in the network. Mo pas ene expert dans server administration, nor an expert in networking. Can someone enlighten us, please.

The browser after starting to receive the page (HTML, CSS, JS, images), it starts rendering the page at 8.732 seconds. What has Sharepoint (or the developers) done ? This is most probably because of Javascripts. Don’t they know in what order should resources be loaded on a page ? Don’t they know about deferred Javascripts ?

This raises many questions:

  • Combined & minified, or separate CSS files ?
  • Combined & minified, or separate JS files ?
  • Landing pages are not cacheable. For example, homepage is redirected to some other pages.
  • Have images been optimised ? I’ve seen large images being resized in HTML markup !
  • Are they using cache servers ? Par exemple, guette Varnish lors Linux, li gratis.
  • Are they using a CDN for static contents ?

 

I carried out a test before the portal went offline (12/11/2014); Here are the results:

Performance Test Oct 2014 for gov.mu

Performance Test Nov 2014 for gov.mu

Detailed results can be found here: http://www.webpagetest.org/result/141112_VY_MW9/

Irshaad A.

 

Back-End Development

We have several domains; e.g. pmo.gov.mu, mof.gov.mu. Once you sign-in on any of the sub-domains or the main portal and navigate from one ministry to another (hence another domain), you lose your authentication status. You are viewed as an unauthenticated user and have to authenticate again ! Come on ! There are several solutions. For the 50M rupees spent, they could come up with at least a solution. Haven’t they ever heard single sign-on for example ?

We don’t know about the back-end coding. It seems that there is only form-to-db simple operations. No web services, no queues, …

How the back-end part has been coded ? It is easily scalable ? Can we add new functionalities easily ? Can we have themes on the front-end ? I’m asking this to know whether (business) logic layer and  presentation layer are separate or mixed ? What if we want a new design of the portal in the future ? Should we recode the “engine” behind (backend) ? …

I’ll stop here. Monn fatigué moi. There are other aspects of this portal that should be analysed. Branding for example. This website do not have its own identity / logo. Pé servi l’embleme Ile Maurice ! UI/UX design, typography, contents, … see the chart in page 1.

redirectloop

Si ti ena pou faire ene vrai audit lors sa portail la, depuis so front-end development, back-end development, network infractructure, server configuration, security, etc… capave ecrire ene gros livre plusieurs milliers pages sa.

 

Off-topic. A polite request to everyone: Please save water

 

save-water

Nadim B

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ilearn.mu

:)

About irshaad

Irshaad is from Mauritius and a student in Information Systems Engineering in Turkey. Social, geeky, tech-lover and everything that's linked to technology; he's in it. Not exactly 'Jack of all trades' but he likes to try and test each and everything he comes across. His personal page: irshaad.me

  • kyushiro

    “Si ti ena pou faire ene vrai audit lors sa portail la […] ene gros livre plusieurs milliers pages sa.”
    Indeed. i’ve had non tech people choke at the amount paid, but it’s that much more painful when you see the actual work provided for the price.

    Primo: we ourselves could have done much better, we have the skills for that. Secundo: you’d be hard pressed to find a local web agency that would ask for that much for what basically amounts to “ene site vitrine” + some db crud. Hell, my uni dissert was probably more complex to build than this thing >_<… tertio? the early 2000s called, they want their fixed width website layouts back…

    Thinking about it, it seems that most aspects of this project were either rushed or basically ignored, which kind of is a shame. and speaking of branding/marketing for example, the new domain name kind of (1) look unprofessional, (2) fraks up SEO… i wonder if they'll "try to" handle broken links by having mt/orange use some dns-fu ^^,

  • alCosecant Maths

    -This is very interesting. A notice e.g. ‘take the time to read it it is really stunning’ would be nice. I came across this but did not read it. Read it only on request.

    -‘Please note that this analysis was carried out in 2013 and was never published. I got my hands on same, some hours ago and asked for permission to publish it.’ This should have occupied a more prominent place.

    -Some terms like ‘padding’ are simple to explain. These help non-initiated readers to enjoy the article . . .

  • alCosecant Maths
    • Nadim

      SM :-)

      • alCosecant Maths

        I think the material of this article came from you no? if so, great analysis!

        • Yes the material came from @bmnadim:disqus

          • alCosecant Maths

            Only realised now that it was the same person mentionned in the article :)