The Sitemorse Knowledge Base is the repository of knowledge of the Sitemorse system.

Every time a new feature is added, a question asked or anything our technical team believe might be appropriate is recorded here.

Customer Service and Billing Questions

Where can I get help?

To request specific assistance you can file a Support request by clicking on "Help and support" on any Sitemorse page.

The other areas of this Knowledge Base contain detailed information on each of our auditing features.

Why no anonymous email?

For both your security and ours, all users must have an email account that is traceable to the individual registrant - no Hotmail or Yahoo! email addresses are acceptable. Such addresses are vulnerable to fraud and misuse.

One of more pages is only accessible internally, why is Sitemorse reporting this page?

The answer must be that the URL is appearing somewhere in the HTML on your website. Sitemorse cannot simply have found the address by magic! Try visiting the page directly yourself and seeing what happens.

How can I share reports with other people?

Registered users may share access to all reports for a particular website. Shared sites are listed separately under a user login and can carry various permission settings, see below.

Alternatively, users may wish to grant access to an individual not registered with Sitemorse. To achieve this please use the ‘Email this report’ feature found on the report summary, and left hand side of each report page to email your contact with a hyperlink; they will not be required to login or register.

Various Shared Access Levels

Read Only Access

All reports for the site may be viewed by the user. They cannot alter the report or site, either by requesting a new test or altering the spell checker word lists.

Write Access

The designated user may edit the report, create a new word list, edit existing lists, assign a default dictionary, etc.

What are page credits?

Page credits are for ‘ad-hoc / as required’ testing – used for testing at your convenience, examples of usage include; areas of other sites / pre-launch work or work that has been implemented following correction.

How do I view my remaining Page Credits?

After logging in to the Sitemorse system, click on "Your account" to see the current number of page credits remaining, along with a "monthly bank statement"-type interface for viewing historical usage.

Can two users share an account?

Sitemorse does not allow multiple users to access a single account. When logging in for the second time you are promoted to log out the first session.

Adding an additional web address

Adding additional web addresses are very useful when analysing a specific subdirectory or auditing a site whilst still in development.

From your Dashboard, click "Your web addresses", then "Add new web address" at the base of the left hand column.

You will now be prompted to enter a URL to test, such as:


- - to audit a site whose server is running on a non-standard port

- - to audit a subdirectory and all of its content. Sitemorse will not test any content above this directory

It is important to note that entering "" is the same as "" as, in this respect, "/folder" is interpreted to be a file, and not a subdirectory.

How do I buy?

Payment is made in advance. You may purchase either a regular testing plan for a particular website or testing credits to be consumed whenever you wish to run a test on a website of your choice.

For corporate or public sector organisations we offer a range of tailored packages, please contact our sales team to learn more on

Updates and development within Sitemorse

Sitemorse continues to grow

As Sitemorse grows throughout the year you may have missed the introduction of one or more new features to our site, check below to see what we've been working on.

Fragment identifiers

Monday 19th April 2010: Sitemorse now checks ID attributes for duplicates and checks to see if any fragment identifier included in a link actually exists.

Duplicate fragments, for example declaring two or more tags with the attribute 'ID="dupid1"', are reported under Code quality page 1:

*file/html/badvalue* Fragment identifier 'dupid1' used more than once

Links containing a fragment identifier which doesn't exist on the target page are flagged under Code quality page 2.

For example, if a page includes the link '<a href="#unknownid1-1">unknown local id 1</a>' but the corresponding ID 'unknownid1-1' does not exist, we raise the following failure:

*file/html/unknownid* '#unknownid1-1' not found

Accessibility check: no auto-refreshing pages

Tuesday 14 February 2006: Sitemorse now checks that a site does not use a client side redirect, when a hidden timer expires and suddenly the page being accessed jumps, without warning, away from the current page: "wcag10.norefresh: Do not create periodically auto-refreshing pages".

It is never correct to use a page that refreshes automatically on a timer.

Download accessibility diagnostics

Tuesday 20 June 2006: In line with the ability to download a detailed report showing all problems found with the function or code quality checks, we have now added the ability to download the detail of all accessibility issues detected by Sitemorse.

The download is available from the accessibility tab of the Sitemorse report – the reports are broken down into individual downloads for A and AA, detailing the issues found when performing either the A or AA accessibility checks.

A new look brings you our knowledge base

Monday 19 June 2006: Do you have a question about one of the Sitemorse tests, wonder what we check for when checking email systems, or would like to know more about the accessibility tests we carry out?

To help answer these and many more questions, we have now introduced a fully-searchable knowledge base. It contains details of the tests we carry out, many answers to questions about web standards, the feedback from our last couple of years' customer surveys (all anonymised!!) – hopefully providing the answers to many of the questions we are frequently asked together with specific details of what are tests are looking for.

We are looking to continually add to the content of the knowledge base, including linking out to many useful web resources on site build, good practice and standards - if there is anything you would like added, please email

PDF accessibility scanning

Monday 15 May 2006: Sitemorse can now perform twenty eight (28) checks on Adobe PDF format documents to ensure users do not experience problems such as broken links, or failing email addresses – we are also the first to test whether or not PDFs are utilising the accessibility features provided by Adobe.

Sitemorse offers a number of tests while it ‘reads’ through the contents of PDF documents in order to discover embedded hyperlinks. Any links found are then followed and thoroughly examined in the standard manner for any other link found on a Sitemorse tested site. Sitemorse can detect many different kinds of problem, and additionally will contact mail servers to verify that addresses provided in ‘mailto:’ links are correct and functional.

Problems found in PDF documents, as well as appearing in the usual diagnostics list as appropriate for the particular error encountered, are also separately identified in the ‘Additional Findings’ section on the ‘Function’ tab of the Sitemorse report. Untagged PDF files are identified in the ‘Additional Findings’ section on the ‘Accessibility’ tab of the Sitemorse report.

Accessibility check: use of headings

Friday 5 May 2006: Sitemorse now checks that a site uses standard H1-H6 headings: "wcag10.useheadings: Use header elements to convey document structure and use them according to specification". By introducing heading sections within HTML users can navigate a page far easier.

Other markup may complement these elements to improve presentation (e.g., the HR element to create a horizontal dividing line), but visual presentation is not sufficient to identify document sections.

Since some users skim through a document by navigating its headings, it is important to use them appropriately to convey document structure. Users should order heading elements properly. For example, in HTML, H2 elements should follow H1 elements, H3 elements should follow H2 elements, etc. Content developers should not "skip" levels (e.g., H1 directly to H3).

Furthermore do not use headings to create font effects; use style sheets to change font styles.

Improved Site Inventory feature in Sitemorse

Wednesday 12 April 2006: The "Website File Types" feature on the "Inventory" tab of your Sitemorse reports has been improved.

It now includes all occurrences of downloadable files (rather than just the first ten, as previously) and also provides information about file sizes, showing individual, maximum and average file sizes for each type. This allows you to keep track of what types of document your site users need to be able to read, along with how large the files are that they are being expected to download

New look for our reports, thanks to Red Ant

Wednesday 15 March 2006: We have changed the look and feel of the report area of Sitemorse. The summary now focuses on specific key details and most of the report sections have been changed to provide a clearer structure for the detail they look to deliver. Along with the new layout, additional functionality is also being added.

The work is being carried out by the experts at Red Ant thanks for your sterling work, this is what they had to say;

"Many of Red Ant's customers use the Sitemorse product and the opportunity to bring together our own requirements as a website development firm and the needs of our customers to understand and interpret the report summary, allowed us to provide a unique "outsiders" perspective of what could be created."

"The new summary report is designed to make the results more digestible for non technical users, while still including the necessary detail to resolve any problems. We hope you are happy with the result of our customers and our input, we know we are."

Dan Mortimer - Managing Director

Thursday 16 February 2006: Sitemorse now checks that a site does not simply use 'click here' when a more meaningful description could be used: "wcag10.linktarget: Clearly identify the target of each link".

Good link text should not be overly general; don't use "click here." Not only is this phrase device-dependent (it implies a pointing device) it says nothing about what is to be found if the link if followed. Instead of "click here", link text should indicate the nature of the link target, as in "more information about sea lions".

Changes to Sitemorse rankings

Tuesday 8 November 2005: We have modified the overall ranking calculations to include both A and AA accessibility tests, we have also created a single performance mark.

The Download Speed and Response Time have been replaced by a single combined Performance Sitemorse Mark, which is comprised 50% from the download speed figures and 50% from the response time. The Performance Sitemorse Mark constitutes 26% of the Overall Sitemorse Mark.

We have also reviewed and changed the scoring for our download rankings.

Free reports for all

Wednesday 13 July 2006: Instead of the 250-page summary report for all registered users, Sitemorse now offers ongoing tests of the top 10 pages with full access being provided to the report when it has completed.

There will be no restrictions or time limits for the reports. The full test results will be immediately available on completion of the test.

The full range of Sitemorse tests (some 200+) will be carried out providing the exact detail functional problems, performance issues, faulty email addresses, HTML or accessibility failures.

Multiple Sites

Friday 8 July 2005: Users with more than 5 sites under their Sitemorse login will notice their site list page has changed. You can now categorise main sites as "primary" and "secondary" - these sites will always be displayed. You can view your other sites by selecting "Show all sites".

New User Interface for Reports

Thursday 19 May 2005: Over the last 7 months we have been redesigning the user interface for Sitemorse and it has gone live today.

As Sitemorse's testing capability has grown significantly over the last 3 years, with more and more tests being added, the old style single report page was becoming a bit long-winded to use. With the addition of our adaptive availability monitoring service late last year and the need to add additional testing services we had to look at a completely new user interface. As you will now see we have changed the operation, navigation and the design making the reports simpler to understand and faster to access for key information points.

A number of new features have also been added:

  • Priority Fix Report – looking at findings from the thorough Sitemorse tests and providing a guide to problems that should be addressed as a priority.
  • Forward Report - you can provide access to your reports directly to any chosen third party, allowing quick and easy access for other team members or your service providers, without them needing to register on the system.
  • Inventory Report – better classification of key information about your site, where things are, what files types are where, etc.
  • Performance – improved performance reporting and graphical display of first page data.
  • Function – direct access to the detailed breakdown of site problems.

To demonstrate our new interface, every one of our many thousands of registered users can have a free report. Simply login, and the report will be made available to you.

Nothing to email, no calls to make – we want everyone to benefit from the power and comprehensive testing capability of Sitemorse. The best way to experience what we do is see it.

Anchor Checking

Friday 26 November 2004: Internal document anchors are bookmarks within a page, which specify the exact positions within a page that can be linked to via URLs.

Sitemorse now creates a comprehensive database of these links while scanning a web site so

that internal document references can be verified as correct.

Sitemorse reports will now include the following error;

ID Missing – Error if a name is linked to but not defined

There will also be 2 new warnings;


If a tag such as <a name="..." id="..."> is specified inconsistently


If a name is specified more than once within a page

Accessibility check: avoid deprecated features

Friday 12 November 2004: Sitemorse now checks that a site does not make use of outdated features: 'wcag10.nodeprecated: Avoid deprecated features of W3C technologies'.

Use of old tags can lead to unexpected results, for example use of an applet rather than an object:

<applet code=""></applet>

New 'AA' Accessibility testing at Sitemorse

Monday 26 July 2004: With the continued awareness of the need to meet the requirements of website accessibility (WAI) we believe Sitemorse now leads the world on providing automated testing.

labelforms --

12.4 - Associate labels explicitly with their controls

logicalevents --

9.3 - For scripts, specify logical event handlers rather than device-dependent event handlers

noblinking --

7.2 - Avoid causing content to blink

nodeprecated --

11.2 - Avoid deprecated features of W3C technologies

nopopups --

10.1 - Do not cause pop-ups or other windows to appear

norefresh --

7.4 - Do not create periodically auto-refreshing pages

useheadings --

3.5 - Use header elements to convey document structure and use them according to specification

usestyle --

3.3 - Use style sheets to control layout and presentation

validate --

3.2 - Create documents that validate to published formal grammars

Domain Monitoring

Sunday 16 May 2004: Losing a domain can have a serious consequence for a website manager, but they can be very easily overlooked – Sitemorse will help to ensure this doesn’t happen to you. We have recently added a new service for all Sitemorse registrants (customers and users of the FREE summary), offering automated monitoring of domain names and their expiry.

Sitemorse will now check every domain of every site on the system, and email the registered user both 1 month and 2 weeks prior to the expiry of the domain, allowing sufficient time for you to renew the domain. We do not offer domain renewal or related services, only advice of expiry.

Capacity increase to meet customer growth

Thursday 4 Mar 2004: To meet increasing demand, we will be upgrading our system over the next two weeks - doubling our server capacity, and implementing compression software and query caching to enhance speed.

Users should notice considerable improvements in speed and we will be able to test over 3,000 sites per week.

Enhanced summary

Tuesday 10 June 2003:


We have improved the performance testing from Sitemorse so that it now reports the front page download speeds of your website against standards for home / modem user, Broadband User and corporate user. Individually reporting either a pass or fail for each category.

Server Operating System Report

Sitemorse now reports the web server operating system delivering your website. Information could be used, for instance, to ensure appropriate upgrades are carried out or ensure compatibility with future developments.

Multimedia, free online tests and improved benchmarking

Wednesday 4 Dec 2002: Sitemorse has been busy developing in the last few weeks, recent additions include:

  • Macromedia Flash files are now opened and examined
  • New Free overview
  • We now offer online demo
  • Improved site benchmarking (MorseMarks) - at no charge
  • Listing of the reported errors - separating internal/external problems

Speed Test now identifies "ten worst pages"

Friday 6 Sep 2002: Sitemorse now provides users with details of the slowest 10 site pages on the website, identified by both server response time and actual download speed. Thus allowing site managers to review and better manage site performance by remedying the worst problems first.

Wednesday 9 August 2006: There is a new feature on the "Inventory" tab of your reports. The new section is titled "Email and off-site links" and shows you how many email ("mailto") and off-site links (links to sites other

than the one being tested) were found during the Sitemorse test.

Clicking on either the email or off-site links will produce a detailed list of all the links found. Next to each link is either a red or a green dot - green indicates that no problems were found with the link, and red indicates that one or more problems were found. Clicking on a

red dot will show the exact problem(s) identified.

Changes to the Government surveys and rankings reports

Friday 1 September 2006: Since we changed the frequency of the rankings for local and central government, we have noticed a fall in the quality of the websites in this sector, on the whole UK Local Government fairs best, but the overall standard of the sites seems to be slipping.

Taking this on board and many client requests we have received, from September we will be returning to running of the surveys on a monthly basis – there will also be a new summary available providing details of the overall levels of function, compliance (HTML, Accessibility, eGMS) and performance, we intend to increase the distribution of the report, with printed copies being mailed out to all organisations.

eGMS.Subject.Category, and the new eGMS version 3.1

Friday 15th December 2006: Version 3.0 of the eGMS required that web pages specify one or more categories from the GCL using the 'eGMS.Subject.Category' metadata field. The more recent version 3.1 of the eGMS now requires one or more categories from IPSV instead, using the 'DC.Subject' field.

So, for example, where you might previously have used:

<meta name="eGMS.Subject.Category" scheme="GCL" content="Advertising">

you must now use:

<meta name="DC.Subject" scheme="eGMS.IPSV" content="Advertising">

Note that the 'scheme' attribute is now mandatory.

For an interim period, Sitemorse will be checking for both 'eGMS.Subject.Category' and 'DC.Subject', and both GCL and IPSV - sites using either eGMS 3.0 or eGMS 3.1 will be able to achieve full marks on the eGMS Sitemorse Mark.

Please note however that at some future date (to be announced), we will discontinue support for eGMS 3.0 and sites not using 'DC.Subject' with IPSV will be marked down.

In general, converting from the previous standard to the new version should be reasonably straightforward - mostly a case of renaming the metadata field and 'scheme' attribute. There are two important caveats. Firstly, where you previously had more than one category in one meta tag, and some of them were non-GCL, e.g.:

<meta name="eGMS.Subject.Category" content="Advertising; OtherScheme">

these must now be added as two separate tags:

<meta name="DC.Subject" scheme="eGMS.IPSV" content="Advertising">

<meta name="DC.Subject" scheme="something-else" content="OtherScheme">

Secondly, although in theory the IPSV is a superset of the GCL and so in general the categories do not need amending, the following 56 terms appear in the GCL but not in the IPSV, and must be recategorised:

Adult education and skills

Agriculture, environment and natural resources

Alternative medicine

Arts, recreation and travel



Care for children

Care for the disabled

Care for the elderly

Carers and health professionals

Colleges and universities

Crime, law, justice and rights

Death and funerals



Drugs and alcohol

Education, careers and employment

Electoral system

Families and children

Fire service



Government spending

Health, nutrition and care

Heart disease and stroke

ICT in learning

Immigration and asylum

Inland waterways


International conflict


Libraries and archives

Literature and writing

Living standards, incomes and wages

Marriage and divorce

Medical treatment

Monopolies and mergers


Occupational health and safety

Occupations and employees

Organic foods

People, communities and living

Personnel management

Pest and weed control

Plants and animals

Ports and maritime transport

Post Office

Public private partnership

Recreation facilities


Roads and road transport

School types and choosing a school

Standards, weights and measures


War crime

Working hours, terms and conditions

Systems Upgrade - Sitemorse servers upgraded

Tuesday 27th February 2007: As a part of our ongoing technology replacement and upgrade plan Sitemorse completed its migration to our new servers over the previous weekend. This will restore and enhance the high level of performance our clients have come to expect.

Changes include processor upgrades for every machine, RAID 10 disks with significantly more space, real time disaster recovery, dual power supplies and additional remote monitoring. At the same time we have updated our software to the latest versions available. Sitemorse itself requires minor modifications in order to fully optimise against the latest software.

Therefore you may experience some system down time while we get everything back to how you expect it.

Immediate reports on multiple pages at once

Tuesday 1st May 2007: As part of a general review Sitemorse has increased the functionality of our popular Immediate Reports facility,

Users who regularly retest the same page during the course of their development may now simplify this by clicking the "retest" button. Running a fresh report on the same URL and number of pages.

Additionally users may run an immediate batch test - a regular Sitemorse report on the first page of up to ten different URLs. To begin click the "Request an immediate test on multiple URLs" link and enter the URLs in the box provided. The first line will be used to identify the report later, and should not be left blank.

Spell checker goes international

Wednesday 1st October 2008: Sitemorse has today relaunched the spell checker module to greatly increase the number of languages we evaluate.

This initial release includes support for:

- British English ("en-GB")

- American English ("en-US")

- International English ("en")

- Irish ("ga")

- Welsh (both "cy" and "cy-GB")

- French (both "fr" and "fr-FR")

- German (both "de" and "de-DE")

- Spanish (both "es" and "es-ES")

- Dutch ("nl")

To ensure content is evaluated under the correct language Sitemorse fully supports the "lang" attribute of any HTML tag. When the language codes above are encountered the appropriate dictionary is consulted.

Sitemorse fully supports ISO-5589-1 and the appropriate HTML entities for displaying words in the above languages.

Spelling: Improved case matching

Friday 31st July 2009: Handling the different capitalisations of words by the Sitemorse Spelling

service has been greatly enhanced.

Custom dictionaries now support a "match case" flag. When set, the Spelling Service only permits words which match the case precisely.

We've also overhauled the "rules" applied when analysing the content of your site, especially regarding capitalisation:

- Any dictionary word with unusual capitalisation (for instance: "friDAY"), or any word in your custom dictionary marked as "match case" must match exactly.

- Lower-case dictionary words may appear as title-case (with an initial capital letter) - for example as a word at the beginning of a sentence.

- Any lower-case or title-case dictionary word may appear in upper-case, for example as a title.

- Hyphenated words not exactly matching any dictionary words are broken apart into separate words and checked using the above rules.

New controls let you nominate who receives our "new audit" emails

Thursday 19th November 2009: We have added the capability for account holders to "opt-in" to receive an email when audits complete and for the "master" user to add email recipients on their behalf.

As part of this change we have also given control to the "master user" to grant access to any web address to any Sitemorse account holder in their organisation.

To grant access to audits to a new user, first click on the URL of the site on the Web addresses page to get to the "View audits for a Web address" page.

In the left hand column of this new page are lists of those people that have access to the audits and those people that receive emails about completed audits for this Web address.

Looking inside CSS and PDF files

Tuesday October 6th 2009: We are now identifying and validating links inside Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) files and analysing more PDF files than before.

Identifying these genuine errors for you as part of the enhancements being introduced results in a more in-depth analysis being performed as we spider through the site.

Although this may, in the short term, have a detrimental effect on your scores it is nevertheless a positive move forward in that we will be ensuring that your users' experience on your website will be improved.

Tweet your Sitemorse scores

Monday 8th March 2010: If you have a Twitter account and want to let your followers know about your latest score we've added a link to help you out.

On the report summary page click the link "Tweet about this report". You'll be taken to, if you're not logged in their system will prompt you to do so. Next you'll see a basic tweet from us ready to go. Make any changes and you're done.

Tweeting Sitemorse scores can be a great way of letting colleagues and customers know of your hard work.


April 2010: We've been making some improvements to the way Sitemorse handles the differences between HTML and XHTML.

New diagnostic messages:

'/' in middle of attribute list

For example, <foo a=1 / b=2>

Close-tag X has extra '/'

For example, </div />

Missing </X>

We no longer allow implicit closes in XHTML i.e. <link ...> instead of <link ... /> or <p> with no </p>

Tag X should be closed using the minimized form

We are more specific about Appendix C violations. e.g. <hr></hr> doesn't say "Tag X does not need a close-tag", instead in XHTML mode it displays this new message instead:

Tag X should not be closed using the minimized form

For example, <p /> - another Appendix C violation

Minimized self-closing tags (e.g. <tag/>) are not allowed in HTML

For example, if you try to use <link ... /> in HTML mode

Attribute Y to tag X must take a value of Z

In XHTML mode we are more specific about boolean attributes, e.g. <input checked /> or <input checked="yes" /> or indeed anything except <input checked="checked" /> will give this message. In HTML it still says "Attribute Y to tag X does not take a value"

Allowing underscores at the start of IDs in XHTML

Thursday 11th November 2010: We have released an update to the Sitemorse engine to permit underscores at the start of IDs in XHTML.

For example the following code is now permitted on a page declared as XHTML:

<input type="hidden" name="__VIEWSTATE" id="__VIEWSTATE" value="..." />

Pages with code similar to the above and declared as HTML will see the following Code quality diagnostic failure:

'file/html/badvalue - "__VIEWSTATE" is not a valid value for attribute "id" to tag "input".'


April 2010: We have recently made some improvements to the Sitemorse engine to handle XHTML+RDFa. These changes are now live and will be included in any audits run for you (including immediate tests and SMARTview).

Further reading:

Please note that according to the above specification the 'lang' attribute has been removed. We have reflected this in our tested of pages declared as XHTML+RDFa. The attribute 'xml:lang' should be used instead to state the language code. The Sitemorse Spelling module treats the 'lang' and 'xml:lang' attributes as equal, although should the values differ 'xml:lang' will be used for the language of the tag and child elements.

Monday 9th May 2011: In response to feedback we have expanded and simplified the way we display broken links in the Function area of a Sitemorse report.

The new page layout is designed to be clearer to first time users which page is broken and which page(s) needs attention. As well as telling you the HTML tag and link content we now also include the line number. In the case of a PDF file we will now tell you which page on the PDF that the link was found on.

Many of you have been using SMARTview for some time to locate and fix broken links. So we've made this even easier by giving you direct access to the SMARTview - both Page and Source view - next to each broken link. Just click the blue icon to locate the problem link on your own, familiar, page.

One change our advanced users will notice is that previously if a broken link was found on the same page more than once we reported it just once (both errors were counted in calculating your Sitemorse score). This caused a little confusion when thinking you'd corrected the error when only one had been fixed. To resolve this we now list each individual broken link, together with the line number, tag name and content and SMARTview views.

SMARTview stored for all tested pages

September 2010: We have enabled SMARTview for all Sitemorse audits. Our SMARTview service stores the exact HTML and files returned by your web server. When viewing your report you can call up a 'Page' or 'Source' view. Page view redraws the page exactly as it appeared when Sitemorse scanned your site. Along the top of the page our control panel allows you to enable one or more diagnostic categories, boxes are then drawn around each failure, simply mouse over the failing item to see the details.

Meanwhile Source view displays the HTML with syntax highlighting and line numbers. Developers can see the exact problem line of code, and as with Page view, enabled highlighting of failing code segments.

You can access the two SMARTview views right now via the "Page diagnostics" page, reached via any diagnostic.

AA tests now incorporated in rankings, including pop-up checks

July 2005: Since the introduction of Accessibility tests, we have received a number of questions about the testing methodology and the rationale behind reporting a test as either 'check' or 'Fail'.

As with a number of guidelines for accessibility the WAI definition is rather ambiguous, it is for this reason AA tests to date have not formed part of the rankings calculations.

Until a more clearly defined requirement concerning use of pop-ups can be provided, Sitemorse will now advise of pop-up windows as a check.

The debate will continue on as to whether they should orshould not be included and to what degree (warning the user, not filling the screen etc).

We respect to both sides of the argument (for and against pop-up windows) but as we are now going to include Accessibility AA testing as part of the only currently available website benchmarking it is vital that the tests we use to rank sites have no ambiguities.

eGMS compliance checking

Tuesday 16 August 2005: Sitemorse offers many tests to ensure that each page contains information in every required area, and where appropriate we also check that the data meets specific requirements,

For example the tests for the 'eGMS.Subject.Category' are as follows;

(a) is the correct scheme in use

(b) does the ‘content’ field contain information

(c) is the information in the ‘content’ field from the approved government category list

An example that would pass

<meta name="eGMS.subject.category" scheme="GCL" content="e-Government"

An example that would fail - Missing mandatory field

<meta name="eGMS.subject.category" scheme="GCL" content=""

An example that would fail - Bad data supplied

<meta name="eGMS.subject.category" scheme="GCL" content="incorrect chosen term here"

We are currently reviewing the tests and including checking for the IPSV classification, we will be also implementing testing for the repeated use of the same ‘category’ content, although this doesn't fail against the published standards it is seen as poor practice.

Access Keys

Thursday 12 August 2004: Our summary report now displays how many different keys were used by the site.

The access keys summary page shows the different keys used, how many different destination each key has, and the most common destinations for that key.

The access key detail page breaks down information about one key only. For that key, the "top five" destinations (i.e. the destinations that are most commonly associated with that key) and the "bottom five" destinations (i.e. the destinations that are least commonly associated) are shown. For each destination, the first ten pages which defined that key to go to that destination are listed.

From this you are able to obtain the following information:

  • a list of every access key used on your site
  • for each key, how many different destinations it goes to

(i.e. is it used consistently or not)

  • if it isn't used consistently, you can use the detail page to identify what section(s) of the site use the key in what ways, and if there are any lone pages or small sections using the key in a way inconsistent with the rest of your site you can identify those sections easily.

We will also be adding further errors and warnings. For example, defining the same key twice on one page, defining keys that simply don't exist (such as accesskey="hello"), and defining keys that most browsers won't let you use.

Automated monthly testing and priority correction reporting

Wednesday 6 Aug 2003: Sitemorse automatically tests your site either every week or every month.

There are 2 types of testing, regular and full – both providing an unmatched level of website function and performance review and reporting.

Reporting now prioritises corrective action, focusing on the problems that are likely to have the greatest effect on the site and ones that are most likely to be seen by visitors.


This will test the most commonly-visited areas of the site. The tests will be of the top levels of the site which the majority of visitors will see (around the first 250 pages - equivalent to approximately four hours' browsing) and where the majority of technical/build problems will be uncovered. Concentrating on the front-end of the site also helps you to prioritize corrective efforts efficiently. This level of testing will also usually uncover any problems in page templates, allowing corrective action to take place that benefits the whole site.


Based on the choice of annual service contract, we also include a number of full tests for your site. These are run when you want them to be, perhaps after an updated site is implemented or following significant change in the site content, e.g. for retail e-commence sites after the uploading of the new season's collections.

Following the completion of 4 tests, Sitemorse will also provide a range of graphing tools to enable user to review website progress and performance more effectively. These can also be used together with access statistics to provide very powerful site assessment.

Metadata improvements

Thursday 10 August 2006: We have extended and updated our metadata "scheme" checks. These relate to <meta> tags where the scheme of the metadata is explicitly identified using the "scheme" attribute - for example:

<meta name="eGMS.Subject.Category" scheme="GCL" content="Advertising">

If your site uses this type of meta tagging, and the scheme is one of the ones that Sitemorse knows about, then on the "Metadata" tab of your reports you will from now on see a new section, "Meta-data scheme checks". This section lists the number of pages using each scheme, and the number of problems found. You can see a detailed list of problems found, if any by clicking on the number.

The schemes currently supported include GCL, IPSV and W3CDTF, and we will be adding more in the future.

eGMS changes: eGMS.Subject.Category and IPSV

Although the eGMS currently requires a GCL category for the eGMS.Subject.Category metadata tag, the GCL itself is now well and truly deprecated. In addition, the release of the new version of the eGMS, which will require IPSV instead, is imminent. Therefore with immediate effect we have updated Sitemorse to allow IPSV categories, as well as GCL categories, in the 'eGMS.Subject.Category metadata'.

Changes to reports

Thursday 31 August 2006: Over the next 10 days, we are changing the format of the current free report. The new 'free' summary aims to provide a focused management overview of your website - checking far deeper than the current 10 pages, the review will now be of the top 125 page's of the site - the free report will be no longer include benchmarking for the tested site (Sitemorse Marks), the findings reported will be;

- % pages that fail accessibility A & AA

- % pages that have failing website code

- % checks that had functional problems

- Site performance rankings, for the front page and the average for the site during the test

- Domain status

- Metadata % pages that fail

This new summary will also be available to all clients, as an addition to the current details provided.

Update to Sitemorse benchmarks and other things

Thursday 15th January 2009: It's been some considerable time since we last updated the way that scores are calculated. As this affects your ability to compare your site over time and how you stand in any of our surveys that your site might be part of, it is not something we would consider doing on a regular basis.

Reclassification of failures

These items have been changed to the severity of a "Functional" problem (i.e. the system has a low tolerance for these types of problem and they will affect your score)

- "Compromised" (red) email server problems

- Broken "mailto" links

- Pages with no title

- file/html/noframes

- url/fetch/badcookie***

*** url/fetch/badcookie now always counts as a Function problem, but it is not checked on external links, so the issues we encountered with Nedstats, Doubleclick, etc, should be removed

These items have been changed to a lower severity, similar to a "Code Quality" problem (i.e. the system has a higher tolerance for these types of problem and they will have a limited effect on your score)

- "Impaired" (amber) email server problems***

- Pages with no meta "description"

- Other meta-data problems (e.g. longtitle, badmeta, etc)

- "bad character in URL" type problems (e.g. file/url/badpath)

*** the issues we encountered with some email security services such as MessageLabs previously caused scores to be impacted negatively due to the email server configuration on their backup servers being non-standard. The new email service assesses these types of problems as "impaired" rather than "compromised" so the impact on scores will now be negligible.


We have introduced a new calculation to better represent the actual download speed from a website. The new data shows higher download speeds for most sites.

To take account of this we have increased the speed thresholds in the benchmarks used to calculate the Performance score. Most sites will not see dramatic changes in their Performance scores but when looking at the detail there may be a significant increase in the download speed figure.

Email testing

The new features of the service look at the email server infrastructure behind your email addresses to make sure that they are configured correctly and that the servers will receive emails.

We have come across numerous email server infrastructures that have either been incorrectly defined to DNS or are mis-configured and won't actually receive emails. Email servers can have different roles, e.g. they may be primary servers, secondary servers, load balance servers or fail-over servers. Each would be defined and configured differently.

This adds another layer of sophistication to our audits and ensures that you are confident that your email infrastructure is defined correctly and configured correctly. We'll also report any availability issues or intermittent type problems if they occur during one of your audits.

Site enhancements

The Directory map feature of the Inventory section is now "clickable". By default, it loads as a collapsed list of directories, each sub directory can be expanded to display its contents. By making this change we have resolved a problem where sites with a deep directory structure extended off the page.

Based on customer feedback, we have made the font colour on our web site darker, in order to improve readability through greater contrast.

Addition of Surveys tab within your account

Tuesday 8th January 2008: We have recently added a new "Surveys" tab to the Sitemorse secure site. This is intended to provide quick and convenient access to the Sitemorse surveys that we produce on a regular basis.

The Surveys page displays the complete list of public survey categories that we produce (for example, "Central Government" or "FTSE 100"). By each category is shown the most recent survey report, and a list of any sites shown on your "Site List" page which are included in that survey category.

To view the summary report for a survey, click its entry under the "Latest report" column. Summary reports are always available; if you have a current testing contract relating to a site which is included in a survey category, then you will see the full survey detail instead.

Removal of the free summary reports facility

We have for several years now produced free reports for people that registered on our site but have not subscribed to the Sitemorse Services.

As from the 1st August 2007 we stopped running the free Reports and deleted all the old unpurchased reports stored on our servers.

These reports, on a limited number of pages, gave people an overview of their sites but no access to the detail of any issues. This facility was intended to show people what the Sitemorse Service had to offer.

The number of "free" ran to several thousand reports every month for people that never intend to buy access to the detail.

We will shortly introduce a paid for service where people can pay for an assessment of a Website (covering a greater number of pages than the previous "free" summary). Having reviewed the summary, they can then choose whether to purchase access to the full report.

This is NOT a realistic alternative to a subscription for organisations committed and serious about their Web presence.

If you'd like to discuss our subscription options, please feel free to contact us.

Update to Sitemorse Accessibility Scoring

Monday 3rd April 2017 - The industry recognised standard Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, published by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), is now accepted as the required level of conformance. Industry and territory based legislation has even made AA compliance of this standard mandatory for some organisations.

Sitemorse is constantly reviewing the needs of our clients, partners and users. Our software and procedures are then adapted in accordance with their requirements. As a result of a recent review, we have updated our code for accessibility assessments. From April 2017, accessibility scores, and therefore overall scores, for all regular and INDEX assessments will be using WCAG 2.0 results.

Our accessibility results have included WCAG 2.0 checkpoints since early 2014, however we felt due to the significant change from WCAG 1.0 to 2.0 that users needed time to familiarise themselves with the way WCAG 2.0 is assessed and presented when compared to 1.0.

Wednesday 26th July 2017: We have updated the way problems with cookies are categorised. Technical breaches of standards compliance are now classed as "Code Quality" (and therefore have a minimal impact on the Sitemorse Score). An example of such a technical breach is the use of an expiry date format that is not as required by the standard, but which is highly likely to be understood by browsers regardless.

Cookie problems that are shown under the "Function" category are now only those where it is a case not just of standards non-compliance but an error significant enough that browsers will be likely to reject the cookie completely, or at the very least not process it correctly (e.g. treat it as a session cookie because the expiry date could not be understood).

Sitemorse excludes specific embedded content

As of week 25th September 2017, embedded content for URLs such as google maps, youtube, googletagmanager and soundcloud, will now be excluded from all Sitemorse assessments including INDEX assessments.

This update supports our clients who are unable to make changes to third party embedded content, therefore ensuring that this type of content is not negatively affecting reporting and scores.

Spelling and SMARTview

Monday, 15th August 2011: We have today enhanced Sitemorse SMARTview by including the results from the Spelling module in the SMARTview report.

All Sitemorse users have unlimited access to run Instant SMARTview on any website, running our full range of tests, checks and measures on the page in only a few seconds. If your subscription includes the Spelling module then any time you test a page on a site covered by this subscription (for example your own home page) we will include the results of the Spelling module in the SMARTview.

The Spelling icon displays a green tick if all the words visible on the page, the page metadata and any accessibility "alt" text was found in the relevant language dictionaries or your own custom word list.

If one of more words are unknown to us a red cross is displayed. Clicking this icon presents a list of the unknown words and a snippet of context. Users with SMARTview Developer edition are also told the line number of the source code and the HTML tag the word was found in.

If the word is correct, such as a company name or part of internal terminology you can click the add button to add it to your default custom word list. Following this decision future tests of the same site will ignore the word.

This enhancement is also available for any standard Sitemorse report. Each time we check a site for you (including weekly audits, adaptive page monitoring and ad hoc testing) we store the SMARTview of the page. Spelling results will now be included in the SMARTview window.


What are Metadata Tests?

Sitemorse checks that the HTML keywords and description metadata fields have some content and that the phrases are separated by commas.

What are eGMS tests?

UK government websites are assessed for eGMS metadata compliance. The terms listed are checked against the eGMS required schemas for both mandatory and recommended matches.

eGMS Subject field and translations of Schema categories

The 'eGMS.Subject.Category' (eGMS Version 3.0) and 'DC.Subject' (eGMS Version 3.1) fields are intended to be machine-readable, rather than human-readable, and therefore terms should be taken from the standard version of the appropriate category list. For example, IPSV terms should be provided in English.

This does not mean, of course, that categories as displayed to the user cannot be translated. For example, an automatically-generated navigational menu created from English IPSV tagging can easily be presented in an alternative language by using a translation table when the menu is displayed.

Use of eGMS.subject.category and DC.Subject

Version 3.0 of the eGMS required that web pages specify one or more categories from the GCL using the 'eGMS.Subject.Category' metadata field. Version 3.1 of the eGMS now requires one or more categories from IPSV term instead, using the 'DC.Subject' field.

The tests for the Subject field are as follows;

a. Is the correct scheme in use?

b. Does the ‘content’ field contain information?

c. Is the information in the ‘content’ field from approved terminology?

Approved Terminology

For an interim period, Sitemorse will be checking for both 'eGMS.Subject.Category' and 'DC.Subject', and both GCL and IPSV - sites using either eGMS 3.0 or eGMS 3.1 will be able to achieve full marks on the eGMS Sitemorse Mark.

Please note however that at some future date (to be announced), we will discontinue support for eGMS 3.0 and sites not using 'DC.Subject' with IPSV will be marked down.

Assigning more than one category

If multiple category terms belong to the same schema they may be included in a single Subject field, separated with a semicolon. Alternatively each field may be placed in separate meta tags to assign additional categories.

Example meta data that would pass eGMS Version 3.1:

<meta name="DC.Subject" scheme="eGMS.IPSV" content="Advertising">

Example meta data that would fail eGMS Version 3.1 - Missing mandatory field

<meta name="DC.Subject" scheme="eGMS.IPSV" content="">

Example meta data that would fail eGMS Version 3.1 - Bad data supplied

<meta name="DC.Subject" scheme="eGMS.IPSV" content="incorrect chosen term here">

The tree structure of IPSV

IPSV is a tree structure. However, software that uses the IPSV metadata is expected to have prior knowledge of the tree, so it is not necessary to include the entire 'path' on every document that uses it.

Indeed, it is actually wrong to do so, because the IPSV tree is deliberately designed with duplicate entries. For example, the term "Common Agricultural Policy" appears under

- "Environment: "Farming"

- "Environment": "Horticulture"

- "International affairs and defence": "European affairs": "European Union"

The intent of these duplicates is that a user can locate a document in multiple ways. For example, a user looking for a "Common Agricultural Policy" document as described above could find it by navigating down the tree via any of the routes listed.

Take for example "Environmental health", the correct way to tag an HTML document is simply:

<meta name="DC.subject" scheme="eGMS.IPSV" content="Environmental health">

Any IPSV-aware software reading the page will already know that "Environmental health" comes under "Health, well-being and care": "Health", and so you do not need to indicate this explicitly in the page.


An example of performance scores

Performance scores can be difficult to understand, these two examples show how the pass or fail of a Modem test should be interpreted.

Only Modem test passed

  • 56k Modem - 14s target : 12s *Pass*
  • 512k ADSL - 6s target : 8s *Fail*
  • 1024k Corporate Network - 4s target : 8s *Fail*

In this case, the web server is delivering pages at a rate that is greater than a 56k modem’s maximum speed but considerably slower than either the ADSL or corporate connections’ maximum.

In the first instance the speed of the modem is the limiting factor whereas in the second and third instances it is the speed of the server. This also explains why the download time is the same for both the 512k and 1Mb connections.

Only Modem test fails

  • 56k Modem - 14s target - 18s *Fail*
  • 512k ADSL - 6s target - 5.5s *Pass*
  • 1024k Corporate Network - 3s target - 4s *Pass*

In this case, the speed at which the web server is delivering pages is clearly sufficient for all types of connection, but the page itself is too big for a 56k modem to handle efficiently.

Any page over 84 kilobytes in size will be deemed to have failed the modem test simply because it would take over 14 seconds to download, regardless of the speed at which the server delivers it.

NB: A 56k modem has an effective download speed of 6 kilobytes per second.

Why monitor performance?

In an ideal world all users would have fast broadband and spread their visits to your site throughout the whole day. Unfortunately sites must still accommodate for dial up and ensure they have the capability to handle high demand. For example does the performance of your site vary by time of day, is performance adequate for your usage (e-commerce applications taking online payments or event bookings) and do you experience loss of service at a particular time, such as during an overnight backup.

What are Download and Response Time tests?

Download and Response Times shown the average timing figures over the entire test. This is a useful guide as the performance a site visitor would experience when clicking through various pages of your website - recording the performance of individual pages will not provide the same figures.

Think of the test as the time taken to complete a journey, from say London to Birmingham taking into account the different speeds you can achieve during the journey.

Response Time

The server delay between Sitemorse requesting an object and the server starting to send it, averaged across all requests made during the test.

Download Speed

The speed at which the server transmitted data to the Sitemorse system, averaged across all requests made during this test. Another term for the result of this test is 'bandwidth' - Your provider may say you have an XXmb pipe, which may directly contradict with the Sitemorse results, but we are recording exactly what is being delivered.

Performance Score

The above two figures are combined to produce the final score out of ten.

Understanding Landing page tests

Sitemorse provides in-depth information about the most important page on your site: the front page. This is, of course, the page that most visitors to your site will see first, and is also likely to be the last page of your site they will see if its performance is poor.

Users' expectations also vary depending on their own internet connection - modem users understand they have a slow connection speed compared to ADSL, for example, and are correspondingly more likely to be patient.

Download time is benchmarked against acceptable waiting times for users, according to the speed of their connection.

  • 56k Modem - 14 seconds target
  • 512k ADSL - 6 seconds target
  • 1024k Corporate Network - 4 seconds target

Why does Sitemorse report the same Landing page timings for modem/ADSL/corporate LAN users?

When timing the front page of your site, Sitemorse downloads the page, including all the necessary extra files such as images, stylesheets, JavaScript code, etc as fast as it can from your server. This time is shown as the 'Total time'.

For the 56k modem, 512k ADSL and 1M corporate LAN figures, Sitemorse calculates how long it would have taken someone with each of those connection types to download your front page - taking into account that these connection types cannot download data as fast as Sitemorse's servers can in the data centre.

Sometimes, however, the limiting factor on the speed of the page download is not the end-user's connection, but your web server. For example, if your web server is only sending data at 20kB/sec, both the 512k ADSL and 1M corporate LAN users can download data faster than this, and so they will both see a 20kB/sec download speed. Therefore they will also see the same total time taken to download the page.

So, if Sitemorse is giving the same figures for the download time for 2 or even 3 of the connection types, this is not a mistake or miscalculation. It just means the limiting factor in those speed tests is not the user's connection, it is your web server.

Time to first byte versus last byte

Time to first byte (response time) is very important - it gives the minimum possible time in which the user can see any indication of the server responding to their request.

Browsers generally start displaying a page before it has fully downloaded, thus "time to last byte" (download complete) is often largely irrelevant.

Moreover "time to first byte" is often extremely useful in diagnosing the cause of server performance issues.

In addition, "response" (time to first byte) is not the only parameter that Sitemorse measures. "Download speed" is the speed at which data is transmitted after it starts being sent. A site which is very fast at responding, but in practice very slow, will therefore not get a good

Performance score in Sitemorse.

Is performance monitored from multiple locations?

The main selling point of multi location is useful, if say your site is accessed by users around the world and you want to know how the site is being delivered from different points of presence. The problem is majority of monitoring systems can only carry out limited tests and are only looking at what the server is doing – not what is actually happening on the site, the visitor experience.

Measuring the site from multiple UK locations can actually cause very obscured results, this problem is normally compounded when companies provide an average, when one point records a problem – this in turn provides very misleading results.

Sitemorse has a far more intelligent offering to this, we make use of multiple locations but report from one (for UK Local Authority main sites), we are also looking at the delivery and the correct operation of the site not just if a server can respond to a request.

Sitemorse servers are centrally located, close to the Internet hub with multiple high-speed connections and less than a 2 millisecond round trip to the London Internet Exchange (LINX).


What does internal and external mean in the context of Functionality?

The Internal ('int') column shows the number of problems found on your site. The External ('ext') column shows the number of problems found with links to external sites from your site.

Can full marks be achieved using a Transitional Doctype?

If the code is fully compliant with the HTML or XHTML, Strict or Transitional standards then it will receive full marks. Note however that if it is not compliant with one of the Strict standards then it will be marked down in the AA accessibility category.

Sitemorse checks URLs for syntax and resolves the URL with the domain name server. If an error is received at any stage of this process, it is reported. Some syntax errors, e.g. the use of a back slash '\' may not affect Microsoft servers but are likely to cause problems with other servers that only recognise forward slashes '/'. In other cases, a server may be reporting an error using a recognised error code while delivering the intended web page instead of a generic error page (e.g. the ubiquitous 404 not found page). This indicates that the server has been configured incorrectly.

What is wrong with using the "&" character in a URL?

The & character needs to be encoded as &amp; when appearing in HTML, including in URLs. For example:

Incorrect: <a href="page.html?a=1&b=2">incorrect</a>

Correct: <a href="page.html?a=1&amp;b=2">correct</a>

You will see different results when typed directly into your browser's address bar, this is because your browser is expecting a normal 'unencoded' URL in its address bar, but it is expecting an 'HTML-encoded' URL in your HTML page.

The browser automatically converts the &amp; into the & characters when the link is clicked.

Does Sitemorse complain about empty "" (double quote) alt text?

The tag alt=" " is indeed the correct thing to do for images that provide no content (e.g. spacer gifs), Sitemorse will silently ignore these:

It will however complain when no alt tag is used, such as:

<img src="right.jpg" width="100" height="100">

Cookies are very common across many sites, they are used to personalise a site (such as a logged in area) and build up profile information about visitors for advertisers.

A Cookie is a piece of text, that attaches to your hard drive (but does not access your hard drive) and from which it can store and sometimes track information on how you make use of a web site.

Cookies can be removed by clearing your browser's cache.

Why is access denied reported when I can see the pages linked to?

Sitemorse checks that URLs linked to actually work. While fetching a page an "Access Denied" message may be received even though when visiting the site in your own browser content appears as you would expect.

The web server is reporting this page is forbidden using the recognised response code: 403 Forbidden. This should provide a page stating why access is denied (for example a user needs to login before accessing this resource) and suitable page content (such as a login page). Returning usual content is an indication that the server has been configured incorrectly.

Sitemorse reports errors that are valid with a 4.01 Doctype

Sitemorse will not be complaining, under the Code Quality section, about any code that is valid under HTML 4.01 Transitional, Frameset or Strict.

It will correctly report code that is deprecated (i.e. most features that are in Transitional but not Strict) as a Priority 2 Accessibility problem, under the Accessibility section.

I receive the error "Connection reset by peer"

This error can occur as part of 'url/fetch/exception' diagnostic. During the communication between Sitemorse and your web server the connection was unexpectedly dropped by the web server.

Checking web server logs for similar occurrences may yield a clue as to why the connection was dropped mid communication.

Sitemorse downloads and checks PDF files for broken links and accessibility tagging. Links are 'hyperlinks', familiar to all web users as text a user clicks on to open another URL. Often documents created for print contain web address which cannot be clicked, for example '', allowing the user to type this into their browser.

Modern PDF creators aim to automatically convert such addresses into real hyperlinks to aid web users. If this is undesirable check for any configuration options to disable such activity.

It is, however, worth noting a broken link is of little use to a user, whether a hyperlink or plain text.

Why does Sitemorse not recognise pod cast URLs?

URIs of the form "itpc://" are sometimes seen as a shortcut for subscribing to iTunes podcasts.

However, as the "itpc" uri-scheme has not yet been registered with IANA (as described in RFC 4395 "Guidelines and Registration Procedures for New URI Schemes") the URI cannot be guaranteed to work in all browsers.

For this reason "itpc://" URIs fail the Function diagnostic url/fetch/badscheme with the message: "Unknown or unsupported URL scheme 'itpc'"

More information on registered URI schemes:


How do I receive Monitor Alerts?

Sitemorse sends messages via email and/or SMS.

How powerful is Sitemorse monitoring?

More than checking if your site is up Sitemorse users set thresholds ensuring only alerts relevant to each individual are received, i.e. a drop in Performance triggers an SMS message to the network manager, whereas a detailed email message can be emailed to the web development team if an Accessibility error is detected.

How to monitor PDF files (or site documents)

Individual web pages can have their own monitors, and thresholds. These must however all output HTML.

If you wish to monitor a downloadable document, such as a PDF file, instead monitor an HTML document linking to the file. Then that link will be checked (along with all the other links in the page).

What does availability mean?

A site is considered available when the web server is successfully serving an HTML file for the page in question, i.e. returning a "200 OK" response with a "text/html" body. - If the response is a redirect then the redirect will be followed and then the new URL checked instead.

What should I look at in order to compare the Sitemorse monitoring service to others?

That it provides alerts for problems.

That it does not generate false alarms.

Occasionally, the Internet Service Provider (ISP) that hosts a monitoring service may not be able to link to the ISP hosting the monitored website, creating the false impression that the monitored website is unavailable. In order to ensure that this does not happen, the monitoring service should be hosted by an ISP with the highest availability possible. Sitemorse is hosted by an ISP with a 100% availability record for over three years.

Receiving error code 500 but everything looks fine.

There are numerous reasons why you might receive an error code 500: "The server encountered an unexpected condition which prevented it from fulfilling the request". If you cannot recreate the error yourself it can be difficult to fix.

The best place to start is by looking at your web server logs, search for the error code and see if there is any pattern. When under heavy load some servers return such an error when their execution has taken longer than expected.

I received an Alert, what do I do?!

To get more detail, visit the monitor page

The page draws the two line and two pie charts, scroll down to the bottom of this page and you will see the dates of the tests, click the date when the problem was reported, this will then list the individual tests – you will be able to see the one with the problem, click this and this will present all the data for that test including the detail of any problems.

Why does an external site going down show on my monitor?

Although you cannot directly affect the reliability of sites outside your control, links from your site to third party sites are nevertheless regarded as being part of your site by site visitors.

If a user clicks on a link on your site, and the next thing they see is an error page, they will generally regard that as a failure of your site. Additionally, external link failures sometimes require you to do something about, for example, if the external site has moved or been re-arranged or de-commissioned.

If an external link is frequently down, you may wish to consider whether or not it is worth putting such an unreliable link on your site.

Reason for "non-complete in allocated time"

Monitoring not only includes the HTML of the page itself, but also all images and other content used by the page, this includes checking all hyperlinks leading away from the monitored page.

If one of these resources is down, or responding very slowly then the monitored page itself is incomplete.

What is response time?

The response time figure shows the time elapsed between Sitemorse's HTTP client starting the request for a particular URL, and when the web server starts responding with the content data (sometimes known as "time to first byte").

It is important to note, especially in larger reports, that the report shows the average response time across all requests made to your web server during that test.

Explaining Standard and Enterprise Monitoring

Sitemorse monitoring regularly checks your page for changes. If a problem is detected an alert is sent out via email and/or SMS. Features include:

o Unlimited alert recipients

o Personal “thresholds” per recipient – ensure only the relevant people are informed

Sitemorse offers two different monitoring contracts:

Standard clients

- thresholds based on Sitemorse scores and total number of failures

Enterprise clients

- flexible alerting, down to individual tests

- Scaling alerts:

- Alert different based on the severity of a particular type of problem (e.g. the number of missing links on a page. If one was missing you could alert person “A”. If 5 were missing you could alert person “A” and immediately escalate it to person “B” as well).

- Escalation

- Definable “delay before alerting”

- Establish a “chain” by adding a longer delay on additional recipients. If the problem is not resolved the person next up the chain is informed.

- Spell checker integration

Setting up Alert recipients

Click “add a new alert recipient” on the Monitor page takes you to the page for defining who should be alerted and how.

When setting up an alert recipient you need to establish:

- A method of contact, either email or mobile number

- A name and description

And finally a set of thresholds, which when deviated from cause an alert to be sent

Setting Thresholds - Standard Version

The standard version limits the criteria you can specify. A single page split into the different sections of Function, Accessibility, Code Quality etc allows you to establish the various threshold levels.

If you do not wish to trigger an alert for any specific criteria, simply leave the box blank

Setting Thresholds - Enterprise Version

The Enterprise version breaks down the threshold options over several tabs:

- Summary

- Spelling

- Function

- Accessibility

- Code Quality

- Performance

- Metadata

Setting Thresholds - Summary Tab

The summary tab allows you to set the who, how and when.

Setting Thresholds - Function Tab

In addition to the standard function thresholds at the top, a new table mirroring the Sitemorse report is shown.

Three columns - Internal, External and Total - permit specific thresholds to be set for each test.

For example, to be alerted if four or more external broken links are found, enter 4 in the Ext column of “url/fetch/notfound”.

For the same error it may be more important to know if any internal broken links are found, therefore enter 1 in the Int column of “url/fetch/notfound”.

Similarly it may be desirable to know immediately if a bad URL path is detected, whether internal or external. In that case enter 1 in the Total column of “file/url/badpath”.

*The other option tabs present very similar screens for you to define the thresholds.*

How to download monitor data

Monitor summary data is available to download as a CSV formatted file for offline analysis.

To download the data, start by navigating to the monitor page.

Next From the "Trend Analysis" links underneath the main graph select "This Month".

You can change the reporting period, interval and how the data is averaged on the right hand side.

When ready click, "Download CSV spreadsheet".

Monitoring reports an email address is unavailable but email is working.

Sitemorse checks all the Mail Exchange servers for a domain when it verifies an email address. It goes through the SMTP protocol exchange as if a message was going to be sent to the recipient, stopping just short of the point at which an email would actually be generated.

Sitemorse correctly, by design, notifies you if any of the mail servers for your domain are not operating correctly. Faulty secondary mail servers can cause problems to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the nature of the fault, and in any case a server which regularly has problems will need either repair or removal from the list of mail exchangers.

Many domains are configured with a single primary mail server and one or more simple store-and-forward backup servers. If the primary is down mail should not bounce but will be delayed and delivery possibly interrupted until the server is back up again.

My site is being monitored by another monitoring system, why does it produce different results to Sitemorse?

The Sitemorse Global Heartbeat monitoring has 9 independent monitoring stations that examine your chosen page every 5 minutes, checking that it returns a working status (i.e. 200 OK), and that the time taken to fetch the HTML is not too slow. Other monitoring systems may check downtime and slow response of your site in different ways, more or less often, and may have different criteria as to what to consider a problem that should be reported. In particular, monitoring from your web hosting provider may not show problems due to their network connectivity.

My site is being reported as slow and I don't want to be alerted about this

You can pause alerts that are being sent for a monitored site as follows:

  • For a site on your dashboard (that is being monitored) click on 'Journeys & Monitoring' link
  • Select the 'Cog' icon next to monitor title
  • Select the 'Alert Recipients' tab
  • For each alert recipient, click the Cog symbol next to the listed email address (or sms number) to view the 'Configure alert recipient' page.
  • Click 'Yes' checkbox for the Paused option, and then 'Save all changes'

Alternatively there are options on the 'Configure alert recipient' page to choose different options for 'Alerts outside office hours':

  • No alerts
  • Downtime only
  • Downtime and slow response

I am receiving lots of slow response alerts, can I change the slow response thresholds?

Yes, you can edit the slow response thresholds as follows:
- From your dashboard, select 'Journeys & Monitoring' under a site that is being monitored
- Select the Cog icon next to monitor title, and select the tab 'Targets & Thresholds'
- For 'Response Targets' -> 'Home response target:', the default is 2000 ms (2 seconds), but you can enter another threshold, e.g. 3000 ms and click 'Save changes' at the bottom of the page. Then the alert recipients will only be alerted when it takes the home monitors more than the specified time to receive a response from your site's front page. NB. by 'home monitors' we mean if you are located in Europe, then the Sitemorse monitors that are in Europe.
- For 'Response Targets' -> 'Response target:', the default is 6000 ms (6 seconds), but you can enter another threshold, e.g. 10,000 ms and click 'Save changes' at the bottom of the page. Then you will only be alerted if your site takes more than the specified time to respond to the global monitors (e.g. if you are located in Europe, then the monitors in the non-Europe locations).

To view the monitor alert events:
- From your dashboard
- Select 'Journeys & Monitoring' for a monitored site.
- Select 'Full Detail' link
- Scroll to the bottom of the page and you can view the events coming back from the monitors, e.g.
EU response time (2,057ms) is too slow

Sites are being reported as down in a continent that I don't want to know about

There are two options that will reduce the number of down alerts being received.

Set 'Single Point of Presence Alert Thresholds'
- From your dashboard
- Select 'Journeys & Thresholds' from a site that is being monitored.
- Select the Cog icon next to the monitor title
- Select the 'Targets & Thresholds' tab
- At the bottom of the screen, set 'Single Point of Presence Alert Thresholds' to the drop down option 'Never alert on one PoP'
- This means that the front page of your site has to be slow or down in 2 or more locations before an alert is raised.

An additional option would be to switch off receiving alerts from specific continents:
- From the 'Targets & Thresholds' page above, under the section 'Monitoring Continents', unselect any continents from which you do not want to receive alerts.

Can I download monitor events in a spreadsheet?

The monitor events spreadsheet can be downloaded at any time as follows:
- From your dashboard
- For a site, click 'Journeys and Monitoring'
- Select 'Full Detail' to view the monitoring results
- At the top right of the page, select the duration you would like the events for (i.e. day/week/month/year).
- Then scroll to the bottom of the page, and on the right of the "Events" section title there is an Excel download icon. This will provide a spreadsheet of all alert events for the duration you have selected.

Code Quality Diagnostics

file.url.offtop: Relative URL attempted to move beyond top level



A relative URL on a web page attempted to navigate off the top of the directory hierarchy. This may cause broken links on some browsers, although most browsers automatically compensate for the error, so it is difficult to spot in user testing.


<a href="../../../index.html">

url.fetch.needauth: A "401 Unauthorized" response was received



While attempting to fetch a file from a web server, the server returned a "401 Unauthorized" response. This means that authorization credentials (for example, a username and password) are required to fetch that URL.

This *may* not be a problem, for example the site may have a members-only area which requires a login, however the diagnostic is warning you that Sitemorse was unable to look inside this password-protected area since it did not have appropriate credentials.


HTTP/1.0 401 Unauthorized

url.fetch.moved: A "301 Moved Permanently" response was received



While attempting to fetch a file from a web server, the server returned a "301 Moved Permanently" response. This response explicitly means that the URL used was incorrect and should be updated to the new URL provided.


HTTP/1.0 301 Moved Permanently


file.html.unnecessaryvalue: A value has been assigned to an attribute which takes no value



Some attributes do not take a value.


<input type="checkbox" name="accept" checked="yes">

file.html.repeatedattr: A tag has been assigned the same attribute more than once



Each attribute may only be specified once on each tag.


<a href="" href="">

file.html.titles: More than one <title> tag specified



A page may only contain one title. Often this problem occurs because a new title has been added to a page without removing the original.


<title>New title</title>

<title>Old title</title>

file.html.unknowntag: A start or end tag was found which was unrecognised



A start or end tag was found which was not defined in the HTML specification. This diagnostic may be caused by a tag name being misspelt.



file.html.unnecessaryclose: An end tag was found for an element which does not require one



Some elements in HTML should not have close tags.


<input type="radio" name="gender"> Male</input>

file.html.tagnotallowed: A start tag has been found in a position in which that element may not appear



HTML elements may only appear in certain places in the document - they may not be nested arbitrarily.



<p><br /><li>List item one</li><br /><li>List item two</li><br /></p>


<ul><br /><li>List item one</li><br /><li>List item two</li><br /></ul>

file.html.closingunopened: A redundant close tag was found



A close tag has been found for which there is no corresponding open element.


<table><tr><br /></td><br /></tr></table>

file.html.eof: The end of the file was reached unexpectedly



The end of the file was reached when more information was expected.


<a href="http://www.example.<br /><em>end-of-file</em>

file.html.implicitclose: One or more elements were still open at the end of the file



One or more elements that require explicit close tags were still open when the end of the file was reached.


<a href=""><br /><em>end-of-file</em>

file.html.missingattr: A start tag is missing required attributes



Some elements require particular attributes to be present in the start tag. This diagnostic can be caused by an attribute name being misspelt.



<form method="post">


<form method="post" action="search.cgi">

file.html.badattr: Invalid attribute name



The attribute is unrecognised or inappropriate to the tag in which it occurs. The attribute name may be misspelt.


<a hreff="index.html">

file.html.badvalue: Invalid attribute value



The value is unrecognised or inappropriate to the attribute to which it is assigned.


<td colspan="two">

file.html.badentity: Invalid character in entity



'Entities' are formal references to specific characters. They are usually employed when use of the literal character is restricted or impractical. For example, the Latin capital letter C with a cedilla (Ç) is represented by &#199; or &Ccedil;.

Entities are introduced with the ampersand (&) character followed by a prescribed set of characters. This diagnostic is often triggered by an attempt to use a literal ampersand without encoding it as &amp;, especially in URLs.



<a href="index.cgi?letter=A&lang=en">


<a href="index.cgi?letter=A&amp;lang=en">

file.html.brokencomment: Incorrectly-terminated HTML comment



HTML comments have a very precise syntax. A correct example is as follows:

<!-- comment text here -->

Too many or too few hyphens are a common cause of invalid comments, which can result in all or part of your page being ignored by browsers.


<-- invalid comment --------->

file.html.closeattrs: A close tag contains attributes



HTML does not permit the use of attributes in close tags.


</a href="">

file.url.exception: Exception while processing URL



An uncategorised error occurred while processing a URL. Refer to the error message for more information.

file.url.misleading: URL contains misleading description


The target implied by the link text is not the actual target of the link. This may be misleading for users. This can easily occur when links are updated.


<a href=""></a>

file.url.badscheme: URL scheme must be specified in lower-case



A URL used by your site used a scheme specified using one or more upper-case characters. URL schemes must be specified in lower-case.



file.url.badpath: Illegal character in URL path section



A URL used by your site included an invalid character in its path section. The character may be incorrect, or it may need "escaping" to make the URL valid.


file.url.badauthority: Illegal character in URL authority section



A URL used by your site included an invalid character in its authority

section. The character may be incorrect, or it may need "escaping" to make the

URL valid.



file.url.badfragment: Illegal character in URL fragment section



A URL used by your site included an invalid character in its fragment section. The character may be incorrect, or it may need "escaping" to make the URL valid.


file.image.size: Image file size or dimensions do not match


An image used in an HTML page is being resized by HTML or CSS attributes, or is an unexpectedly large file for the dimensions of the image. Resizing an image in HTML or CSS can increase the page weight unnecessarily.

file.html.unknownentity: Unknown entity name



'Entities' are formal references to specific characters. They are usually employed when use of the literal character is restricted or impractical.

For example, the Latin capital letter C with a cedilla (Ç) is represented by &#199; or &Ccedil;.

Entities are introduced with the ampersand (&) character followed by a prescribed set of characters. HTML defines a specific set of named entities which may be used.

This diagnostic is often triggered by an attempt to use a literal ampersand without encoding it as &amp;, especially in URLs.



<a href="index.cgi?letter=A&lang=en">


<a href="index.cgi?letter=A&amp;lang=en">

file.url.badquery: Illegal character in URL query section



A URL used by your site included an invalid character in its query section. The character may be incorrect, or it may need "escaping" to make the URL valid.


file.html.unknownid: Fragment identifier not found


A link references a fragment identifier that does not exist on the target page. Fragment identifiers indicate a particular part of a page, and linking to one will generally cause the browser to both navigate to that page and scroll to the part of the page indicated.


<a href="">

In article.html:

<h1 id="foooter">



A web server attempted to set an HTTP "cookie" but its request was not compliant with standards.

This is usually because a non-standard expiry date format was used (the correct format is Wdy, DD Mon YYYY HH:MM:SS GMT).


Set-Cookie: CUSTOMER=WILE_E_COYOTE; path=/; expires=Wednesday, 09-Nov-14 23:12:40 GMT

ARIA testing

ARIA attributes on web pages are optional. Sitemorse thinks ARIA attributes are great and beneficial but you don't have to use them. If you choose to use ARIA attributes, Sitemorse checks your web pages to make sure they are: valid ARIA attributes; correctly formatted; and the attribute values are valid.

Here are some examples.

Misspelled aria attribute (should be aria-label)

<p><a href="#" aria-labell="this is misspelled" title="this is misspelled">ARIA attributes</a>

Attribute value invalid (misspelled false)

<input type="submit" id="sf_submit" value="submit" aria-pressed="falsse">

Attribute value must refer to something else in the document (in this example, thsLink refers to the id "thisLink" but is misspelled)

<p>ARIA <a id="thisLink" href="#" title="aria labelledby attribute">labelledby</a> needs a <span aria-labelledby="thsLink">corresponding</span> id.</p>

ARIA errors are shown in the code quality section of the Sitemorse reports.

Interpreting Sitemorse Reports

Publishing availability statistics (suitable for Priority Outcome R25)

Sitemorse offer their clients a web publishing wizard that provides a fast, non technical and efficient way of externally publishing monitoring statistics.

We provide a choice of formats, for Local Authorities this includes meeting the needs of Priority Outcome R25.

On the Monitor URL page click "Configure publicly-available statistics"

Set the start month and select which data you would like to be made available. The URL provided is unique to your account and all you need to link to the public stats.

How are percentage marks calculated?

Percentage marks represent the proportion of tested pages that (pass/fail) (ALL/ANY) automated accessibility or eGMS metadata tests.

Our CMS includes code validation, is that enough?

Code quality checking, while important, is only half the story. Seeing exactly what your user's see Sitemorse is able to test performance, monitor for problems and call upon a vast array of tests to ensure you meet all the accessibility guidelines, eGMS requirements and validate all aspects of your content, including PDF files. Why not try a free test now and see if our results match your CMS?

When will reports be delivered?

Weekly and monthly Sitemorse reports are generally not run to a specific schedule as our catalogue of tests is always increasing. If you require your test to be run at a regular time please contact us.

Sitemorse Warnings - Code Quality

Warnings are problems in the page code and frequently are violations of W3C or IETF standards and commonly affect the visual display of your site or slow it down.

Sitemorse Exact Overall score

The exact overall score takes account of all the Sitemorse tests

What is the difference between Java category and JavaScript category

These are two different technologies:


An object-oriented programming language developed initially by James Gosling and colleagues at Sun Microsystems.

The language, initially called Oak (named after the oak trees outside Gosling's office), was intended to replace C++, although the feature set better resembles that of Objective C. Sun Microsystems currently maintains and updates Java regularly.


A script language - a system of programming codes, created by Netscape, that can be embedded into the HTML of a web page to add functionality. In general, script languages such as JavaScript are easier and faster to code than more structured languages such as Java and C++.

Illegal character(s) in URL path section: '\xad'

If you copy and paste a URL from a Sitemorse report into either the "Request new immediate test" or "Add new site" page a warning may be displayed in some browsers.

Sitemorse uses the hidden character '­' to inform the browser where the text should be wrapped. URLs on dynamic web sites are often long, and in order to prevent the URL appearing as one continuous line we insert '­' characters indicating where to wrap the URL if necessary.

When copying the URL from Sitemorse some browsers include these characters, even though they are invisible.

The easiest way around this problem is usually to choose some text that links to the page in question (for example in the report title), click the right-hand mouse button to bring up the menu, and choose 'Copy shortcut' or 'Copy Link Location'.

How To - use the Inventory tab

Many people that responded to our Client Survey earlier this year said they didn't use the information on the Inventory Tab or didn't know what it was for.

It would be useful to go through the information on this page and explain how it could be useful.

The Inventory Tab essentially gives you an Inventory of what was found as Sitemorse analysed the pages covered by the report. Its purpose is to tell you what was found so that you know what's there in order for you to validate that what's there should be there. We've had organisations find that Word and Excel files are on their sites when they are expressly forbidden. Or Flash is present when it's policy not to use Flash.

The top left hand box covers the data types found (e.g. HTML, CSS, JavaScript, .gif files etc) and gives you a count, an average size and a maximum size. You can click on the type and get a detailed list which gives you the location so you can easily track down problems.

Most organisations have a policy on the size of images. However, with more and more people having the ability to add content things can sometimes slip through. We had one instance where someone had added three pictures onto a page straight from their digital camera. Three 2Meg pictures on a page meant that it was a little slow in loading!

We tell you from where your content is served and the type and version of Webserver software that's serving up the content.

Opposite the list of Data Types is a list of the technologies employed. Java, Cookies, Flash

Below this is information on email links and links to external pages. Selecting either of these will take you to more detail along with the ability to drill down on any errors on either of these types of link.

If you'd like to discuss this in more detail, please feel free to contact us.

Managing old documents (inc PDFs) on your website

It's a fact of life that over time the master document used to create a PDF can become lost or inaccessible, thus your ability to carry out corrective action on that document (which may contain valuable content) can be at best limited, or at worst impossible.

Instead of 'deleting' old files, consider creating an area (perhaps as even a sub-site / sub-domain etc) to house the 'old' PDFs that can no longer be changed. Make it clear that this area contains 'archived' documents that may offer limited capability.

Sitemorse also supports the rel=archived attribute on links that indicates that the target of the link is an archived document that is kept for historical purposes and cannot or will not be updated to bring it in line with current standards and hence should be ignored for testing purposes.

Useful Technologies

My site passes other validation (bobby / W3C) but not Sitemorse

W3C Validation, Watchfire, Bobby and others are not as comprehensive tools as Sitemorse – for instance in verifying that HTML code is correct. For example, the W3C validator cannot tell you that color="lemon" is an invalid attribute value (there is no colour "lemon" defined in the HTML standard).

Automated testing is possible for some W3C accessibility criteria. Different tools implement tests for different criteria. Sitemorse automated accessibility tests cover more criteria than our competitors’ tools do. Consequently, Sitemorse may flag accessibility problems that other tools miss.

For example the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 - Checkpoint 11.2 concerns the avoidance of deprecated HTML tags. Tests for this particular criterion are not offered by the majority of competitive tools.

It is also important to note the difference between simply validating code and the detailed tests Sitemorse performs. Sitemorse tests cover the whole breadth of a site - including seldom used pages. The range of tests are also vast, including verifying that email address actually work, accessibility checks and performance analysis.

Should I use, manual or automated accessibility testing?

Sitemorse performs a selection of automated accessibility tests. Wherever possible, the tool identifies explicit problems. Otherwise, users are alerted to possible problems and a manual check is required. Automated testing is appropriate for some, not all, accessibility tests.

How to redirect all your visitors to a new location

Often web developers need to redirect a visitor to another part of their website, another domain or just refresh the page itself with an updated version. Server side techniques have the advantage of wide acceptance, although their use requires access to the web server. Conversely client side methods are available to all content writers, but experience mixed results.


Aimed at creating dynamic pages JavaScript is usually overkill for a simple redirect. Such examples include:


Since not all browsers support JavaScript it should never be used to control access to a site. With the above code and scripting disabled the user would see just a blank page. With no evidence your organisation even exists.

Meta Refresh tag

<meta http-equiv=refresh content="1 URL=">

This tag causes the page to redirect to the new URL after 1 second.

Such tags are not recommended, WCAG 7.4 and 7.5 forbid "periodically auto-refreshing pages" and the use of "markup to redirect pages automatically".

Alternatively by entering a refresh interval of 0 the page reloads instantly. A method best used when you are unable to deploy server side redirects.

Server Side "3xx" Redirects

Each web server handles the configuration of redirects differently. While apache allows web developers to edit the '.htaccess' file to store permanent and temporary redirects other such as Microsoft's IIS require administrative access.

301 Moved Permanently

The requested resource has moved to a new permanent URL. The client should store this and not check again until it's cache is cleared.

Best used when content has moved for the foreseeable future.

307 Temporary Redirect

The requested resources has moved to a new location, however the client should continue to check the existing location as the move is temporary.

Redirect once and once only

Redirects have their place, but can be over used. Try to avoid redirecting to one page, which redirects to another and so on. Keep it simple.

Further Information

Utilising accessibility technology

Developers of software include technology where possible to aid users with a minor or significant disability. Microsoft, for example, include ways to navigate without a mouse, with the aid of a magnifier or even simplistic screen readers.

Users with a visual impairment may find the magnifying abilities of the popular browsers helpful when looking at your site. It is therefore important to learn how these technologies work and include their use in your site testing.

Further reading


Importing a custom dictionary

You can import any list of words into a private word list you own or have write access to.

Microsoft Office Suite

After clicking "Add to dictionary" in Microsoft Word or another Office application the word is placed in a 'custom.dic' file.

Search for the dictionary

The simplest way to locate the file is by searching your computer. From the Start Menu select

Search >> Files and Folders.

Then type 'CUSTOM.DIC'

Occasionally more than one file will be found. Simply open these in Notepad to determine the one you are after.

Locate the file through Word

If your dictionary has a different name, or is located on a network share you can find its path through Word. Firstly open Word, and select:

Tools > Options > Spelling & Grammar > Custom Dictionaries...

This displays a new dialogue, if more than one dictionary appears in the list select the one you wish to import. At the bottom of the dialogue window the full path to the 'CUSTOM.DIC' file is displayed. Now open this file in Notepad.

Other Applications

Dictionaries can be imported from many applications who store word lists in a plain text file. Simply locate this file to begin.

Types of Word List

Microsoft Office dictionaries are straightforward. Each word is separated by a new line. Sitemorse imports in the same way.

Importing a List of Words

After logging in to Sitemorse navigate to the Site page of a domain you manage by clicking the "View all XX tests". Now select the "Word lists" tab.

Select the word list you wish to amend by selecting its name. This new page displays the current list of words on the left. If you have write permissions to this word list you will see an additional right hand column with options to add a single word, import multiple words, or alter the word list settings.

It is this second option, to import multiple words that we paste our list of words into (one word per line). When ready click "Import list"

You will receive confirmation as to whether the add was successful. Sitemorse only allows the apostrophe to be used, other punctuation, including numbers and '!"#$%&()*+,-./:;<=>?@[\]^_`{|}~' are not permitted. Sitemorse will also inform you if a word already exists.

What text does the Spelling module look at?

The Sitemorse Spelling module looks at any text returned to your visitors. In addition to standard paragraph and table cell tags Sitemorse checks alternative image text, meta data and form value fields.

Although Sitemorse does not check the result of JavaScript code it does read between the <noscript> tags, checking the language quality seen by those browsers with JavaScript disabled. This text may be rarely seen by your content developers and can uncover hidden problems.

Is there anything the Spelling module does not look at?

Currently the Spelling module is limited to HTML files, we do not analyse the spelling in external files such as PDF documents and images.

Additionally Sitemorse ignores UK Postcodes and all web and email addresses.

Not all words are found in a dictionary

Sitemorse recognises this and supplies a number of Global Dictionaries. Containing company names, place names and recognisable words.

These lists are growing all the time as we come across new terms. The contents can be viewed from the Dictionaries tab of your site page.

The power of the Sitemorse Spelling module is however with you. Any word we identify as "questionable" may be added to your own dictionary. Once you have marked it as correct we remove this word from the report, and ensure it will not be questioned during future tests.

If you already have a word list in your organisation you can import this through the "Word lists" tab.

Why does it say I do not have permission to edit my report?

Up until the introduction of the spelling module Sitemorse reports have been classified read only. Generally our clients only interacted with the site when requesting a new report or immediate test. The ability to configure word lists and modify the current report is unprecedented. To this end Sitemorse now enforce the permissions assigned when your account was created.


A site owner can make any changes they desire to the reports and dictionaries.

A shared site

A standard shared appearing in your site list is read only. You may view the reports and not make any changes.

A shared word list

Enhancing this arrangement the Sitemorse spell checker allows the dictionaries and filters to be shared with our users in your organisation. Quickly and simply from the dictionaries tab (see later) you can assign write access to your word lists. Once you have made the change your colleague may modify the relevant reports and dictionaries.

What is a search filter?

Have you ever wondered how many times your company name appears on your site? Maybe you would like to know if all traces of your old office address have been removed. Perhaps a rebranding exercise has you trawling through every page on your site?

Search filters from the Spelling module make such tasks easy to achieve. As Sitemorse examines your site it sifts its way through the text. If it finds a word, or phrase, you are filtering for it highlights when and where it made the find, just like any other problem.

The number of filter matches are detailed on the spell check summary. You may then view every instance of a word, it's URL, line number and parent tag.

Why is this word not in your dictionary?

While we try to include many useful words in our global dictionaries we must exercise some discretion. Some words are so familiar we do not mind how they appear. For example few would argue the term "BBC" should be capitalised. But what about "RSS" or "UK".

Importing a great number of acronyms would ensure they are not marked as possible spelling mistakes. However they might mask real spelling mistakes. Take for example a Tropical Fish web site. It meant to label the title of the page as "CRAB AND FISH". However the author has mistakenly entered "CRB AND FISH".

CRB is a well known acronym for the Criminal Records Bureaux. Were we to have added this to a global dictionary such an important spelling mistake would have gone unnoticed.

For this reason we encourage our clients to add such acronyms to their own private dictionary. We are, nevertheless, always looking to increase the number of words in our global dictionaries.

What languages does the Spelling feature support?

The spelling feature of Sitemorse supports over 120 languages. The languages that we will check are listed at the following URL:

Please note that a language being on the list does not guarantee full support for it, it just means that we have a dictionary for that language that will be consulted during a site assessment when content marked as using that language is found. The list may be updated at any time.

Specifying the language of content via the lang attribute

The 'lang' or 'xml:lang' attributes should be used to declare the main language of a document via the 'html' tag and, where appropriate, to denote any change in language. This is helpful for screen readers and other assistive technology reading the page aloud as well as selecting the right dictionary for the Sitemorse spell checker to consult.

The 'lang' or 'xml:lang' attributes attribute consists of a simple code, which is defined and maintained by IANA under the "Language Subtag Registry". This outlines a short language code which can be further refined by several criteria, including geographical region, for example:

'lang="en-GB"' : the British version of English

How to use the 'lang' or 'xml:lang' attributes:

When serving HTML you should use the 'lang' or 'xml:lang' attributes to declare the language of the document. For example, the following declares a document to be in Dutch:

<html lang="nl">

When serving XHTML as text/html, you should use both the lang attribute and the xml:lang attribute. A British English site would use:

<html lang="en-GB" xml:lang="en-GB" xmlns ="">

If your language changes during the document you should mark the relevant section of text with the new language. For example:

<p>The French for <em>cat</em> is <em lang="fr">chat</em>.</p>

Sitemorse will detect the change and consult the appropriate dictionary - if available.

Further information:

Language Subtag Registry

Tags for Identifying Languages

W3C Internationalization (I18n) Activity

Further reading and historical reference:

HTML 4.01 Specification, Chapter 8: Language information and text direction

FAQ: Two-letter or three-letter language codes

Email diagnostics

url.mailto.badaddr: mailto URL contains bad address



A mailto URL used on your site contains a malformed email address. Email addresses must consist of one or more characters followed by an @ symbol and a domain name. Domain names may only contain alphanumeric characters and hyphen.


<a href="mailto:sales">

url.mailto.badheader: mailto URL contains unknown header



A mailto URL used on your site tries to specify an unknown header. Although the syntax defined in RFC 2368 allows any header to be specified, in practice only a small subset of headers will work in most browsers. The subset of headers that will work in most cases are: to, cc, bcc, subject and body.


<a href="">

url.mailto.badoption: mailto URL contains bad option



A mailto URL used on your site contains a bad option.

The options section of a mailto URL must consist of pairs of names and values, the name separated from the value by an = character and each pair separated from the next by an & character.


<a href="">

url.mailto.noaddr: Email domain information not found in DNS


The information relation to an email domain could not be located in the DNS. All email addresses must be looked up in the Domain Name System to find their server addresses before they can be contacted. This error is produced when the DNS indicated there was no domain or server with the indicated name.


Metadata Diagnostics

file.html.badmeta: Phrases in meta keywords tag must be separated by commas


The "meta keywords" tag on an HTML page does not appear to have commas separating the keywords. Each keyword should be separated by commas, not spaces.

Words separated by spaces are treated as single keywords - i.e. "holidays greece cyprus" will only be matched in a search engine if a user types exactly "holidays greece cyprus" and not just "holidays" or "greece" or "cyprus".

It is possible that the page actually does use commas to separate its keywords, but that each keyphrase on average has too many words. You should revise the keywords to use shorter phrases - the chances of a user typing in a long keyphrase exactly identical to yours into a search engine are very small.


<meta name="keywords" content="widgets styrofoam elastoplast">

file.html.metascheme: Meta content does not match its declared scheme


The "meta" tag has a scheme declared but the content provided is not valid under that scheme. For example, the W3CDTF scheme specifies a list of specific date and time formats that are allowable, and if the content does not match one of these then Sitemorse will generate an error.


<meta name="DC.Date.Created" scheme="w3cdtf" content="Tuesday 5th March 2004">


Good Practices for Capability URLs Section 5.4 Canonical URLs 



The canonical link on an HTML page is not used correctly. There should be a single canonical URL for a resource when there are several capability URLs that are used to provide access to that resource. Ensure that there is only one canonical link per page. Canonical loops must be avoided.



<link rel="canonical" href="" />

file.html.longtitle: Title is over-long



The page title on an HTML page was much too long. Page titles should be kept reasonably short, preferably under 64 characters long, in order that they act as a useful quick reference to what the page is about. Most browsers will truncate titles over around 80 characters long.


<title>Acme Corporation - Web Site - Sales and Marketing - Press Releases - Archived Press Releases - 1994 - 3rd Quarter - August 3rd - Fiscal Results for 2nd Quarter Show Increase in Turnover, Profits, Loquacity</title>

file.html.notitle: Title is missing or generic phrase


The page title on an HTML page was either missing or was a generic placeholder phrase such as 'untitled document'. These are generally inserted automatically by HTML editing programs and should be replaced by a more meaningful title.


<title>Untitled Document</title>

file.html.longmeta: Meta tag content is too long


The "meta keywords" or "meta description" tag on an HTML page is too long.

Search engines will truncate or ignore the data provided. This diagnostic is generated if any item of your meta-data is 1024 bytes or longer.


<meta, name="keywords", content="aardvark, aardwolf, abac, abaca, abacate, abacay, abacinate, abacination, abaciscus, abacist, aback, abactinal, abactinally, abaction, abactor, abaculus, abacus, abaff, abaft, abaisance, abaiser, abaissed, abalienate, abalienation, abalone, abampere, abandon, abandonable, abandoned, abandonedly, abandonee, abandoner, abandonment, abaptiston, abarthrosis, abarticular, abarticulation, abas, abase, abased, abasedly, abasedness, abasement, abaser, abash, abashed, abashedly, abashedness, abashless, abashlessly, abashment, abasia, abasic, abask, abastardize, abatable, abate, abatement, abater, abatis, abatised, abaton, abator, abattoir, abature, abave, abaxial, abaxile, abaze, abb, abbacomes, abbacy, abbas, abbasi, abbassi, abbatial, abbatical, abbess, abbey, abbeystede, abbot, abbotcy, abbotnullius, abbotship, abbreviate, abbreviately, abbreviation, abbreviator, abbreviatory, abbreviature, abcoulomb, abdal, abdat, abdest, abdicable, abdicant, abdicate, abdication, abdicative, abdicator, abditive, abditory, abdomen, abdominal, abdominalian, abdominally, abdominoanterior, abdominocardiac, abdominocentesis, abdominocystic, abdominogenital, abdominohysterectomy, abdominohysterotomy, abdominoposterior, abdominoscope">

file.html.titles: More than one <title> tag specified



A page may only contain one title. Often this problem occurs because a new title has been added to a page without removing the original.


<title>New title</title>

<title>Old title</title>


What calculation is performed for A and AA accessibility?

Accessibility is based upon a ratio off 60% Priority 1(A) and 40% Priority 2 (AA). This reflects the importance of Priority 1 over Priority 2.

Accessibility (WCAG 2.0) Full List

Please see the following for a full list of techniques
and failures for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
2.0 (WCAG 2.0):

Use of tables in web design

Tables are intended to display tabular data, their use to control layout should be discouraged but not ruled out. Instead the use of additional mark-up can ensure a page remains accessible to all.

Guideline 5 of WCAG 1.0 covers several recommendations under the banner "Create tables that transform gracefully":

  • For data tables, identify row and column headers

The TH tag should be used to clearly define and separate the header cells of a table.

  • For data tables that have two or more logical levels of row or column headers, use markup to associate data cells and header cells

Complex tables may require a hierarchy of headers, for example to separate rows into groups by location. The W3C describe several examples of how to achieve logical headings

  • Do not use tables for layout unless the table makes sense when linearized

In order for a screen reader of another accessibility tool to interpret a page the content is simplified, linearisation is the process of turning such a page into one long document. Tables add extra work to this process, inadvertently a screen reader may separate two page elements which should be together. This can be difficult for a developer to imagine and test.

Sitemorse recommends the command line browser Lynx, for this and many other tests, to experience a site in it's most basic manner. Additionally Firefox users with the Web Developer Extension have the option under Miscellaneous to "Linearize Page" and witness the result

  • If a table is used for layout, do not use any structural markup for the purpose of visual formatting

The tags mentioned earlier for tabular data must not be misused. The TH tag must always refer to a column heading never just the first cell of a table, or to make the contents central and bold. CSS can achieve the same result and not interfere with accessibility aids.

  • Provide summaries for tables

Summary text can be read by screen readers as a general descriptor of the tables purpose or a synopsis of the data content.

<table summary="This table charts the number cities in the UK and their respective populations">

Additionally tabular data tables should contain a caption providing a more concise description of the tables purpose and whether the visitor need view the table.

<table summary="This table charts the number cities in the UK and their respective populations"><caption>Population by City</caption>

  • Provide abbreviations for header labels

A visitor using a screen reader may tire of the full column name, if appropriate provide a shorter alternative

<th abbr="Population">Population, rounded to nearest thousand</th>

Do decorative images require an alt tag?

All images must supply a text equivalent. The term "text equivalent" can be "nothing" - the simplest example being "spacer gifs" which are completely blank and therefore clearly provide no additional content.

Purely decorative images, such as work colleagues standing outside your business, serve as a visual break, dividing content and enhancing readability. An imaginative alternative text could be supplied, such as "image of employees posing dramatically against a blue sky" - but that's a description of the image rather than an alternative text, and it would not help someone who couldn't see the image to understand the page or use the site.

Sitemorse will report a 'wcag10/linktarget' diagnostic when

the same link text is used for different target URLs. An important aspect of link text is its uniqueness. Typically a web page may link to several resources, either directing the user to different parts of the same page, or to different pages altogether.

Each link to a different target must have a unique description text, allowing users to quickly, and unambiguously, locate content on a page.

Take, for instance, a page which links to company reports:

<p>Company ABC <a href="reportABC.html">report</a></p> <p>Company XYZ <a href="reportXYZ.html">report</a></p>

The link text in both cases is simply "*report*", the description is not unique.

To resolve this alter the link text to ensure uniqueness:

<p><a href="reportABC.html">Company ABC report</a></p> <p><a href="reportXYZ.html">Company XYZ report</a></p>

Alternatively Sitemorse also takes into account the 'title' attribute. Thus the following example is also permitted:

<p>Company ABC <a href="reportABC.html" title="Company ABC">report</a></p> <p>Company XYZ <a href="reportXYZ.html" title="Company XYZ">report</a></p>

In this example the first solution is certainly desirable.

Further information:

HTML 4.01 Specification - Chapter 12 Links

Adjustable screen font sizes

The option to include a set of tools to adjust the screen font sizes is not a requirement of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

As ever, the basic principle is that all the content should be accessible to people who need to vary the font size. Therefore there are a couple of points to note:

  • as usual, all non-textual content must have textual equivalents (e.g. "alt" attributes for images),
  • stylesheets should specify font sizes in relative units (e.g. "120%" or "1.2em" rather than "14pt" or "20px"),
  • the site layout should be tested with varying font sizes (using the 'font size' control in the browser) in order to ensure that the layout still works with non-default font sizes.

There is no need to add a separate control to vary the font size on the web site. Users' browsers already have this control built-in to their web browser, which, if the rules above are followed, will work perfectly well with no assistance required from the web site itself.

Some people like to add such a feature regardless, perhaps as a "visible demonstration" of commitment to accessibility.

break any rules.

Function Diagnostics

url.fetch.connref: Connection refused by server


While attempting to fetch a file from a web server, the connection attempt was refused by the server.

This means either that the link is broken in that it is pointing at a machine that does not serve web pages, or that the web server software was overloaded or not running during the test.

url.fetch.accessdenied: Access is denied



While attempting to fetch a file from a web server, an "Access Denied" message has been received.

This usually indicates that the URL was incorrect, although it may mean that a public page has inadvertently linked to a private resource, or that a resource that was previously public has been made private.


HTTP/1.0 403 Forbidden

url.fetch.badport: Server port in URL must be numerical



A URL used by your site used an invalid port number. Port numbers (which are, when present, after the ':' after the host name in a URL) must be specified as one or more digits.


url.fetch.badscheme: URL scheme was unrecognised


A URL used by your site used an unrecognised scheme. (The scheme specifies the method of fetching the data - for example 'http').

This error may be produced if you use the local-file scheme ('file'), if you mis-spell the scheme (e.g. 'htttp') or if you use an obscure scheme which is likely to be unavailable on most browsers.




url.fetch.badstatus: Bad HTTP status returned by server



While attempting to fetch a file from a web server, an invalid HTTP status line was received. The status line indicates whether or not the request was successful, and if not gives an indication why not.

It must be of the form: HTTP/<version> <code> <reason> where <code> is a 3-digit status code. Either this line was not according to the correct syntax, or it was missing.


HTTP/1.0 4

url.fetch.emptylocation: Redirect code received but empty Location header given



While attempting to fetch a file from a web server, the server indicated that a new URL should be used instead. However, the new URL given was blank.


HTTP/1.0 302 Found


url.fetch.exception: Exception while downloading file


An uncategorised error occurred while attempting to download a file from a network server (e.g. a web server). Refer to the error message for more information.

url.fetch.noaddr: Host not found in DNS


The address of a server could not be located in the DNS. All server names must be looked up in the Domain Name System to find their address before they can be contacted. This error is produced when the DNS indicated there was no server with the indicated name.


url.fetch.noeoh: No end-of-headers found in HTTP response



An HTTP response consists of headers followed by the response content.

While attempting to fetch a file from a web server, the end-of-headers marker that indicates the start of the content was missing. This is a malformed response from the web server and the content could not be retrieved.

url.fetch.nolocation: Redirect code received but no Location header given



While attempting to fetch a file from a web server, the server indicated that a new URL should be used instead. However, no new URL was provided.


HTTP/1.0 302 Found

url.fetch.notfound: File not found



A web server has reported that a file expected to be present was not found. Either the URL is incorrect, or the file has been moved or deleted.


HTTP/1.0 404 Not Found

url.fetch.redirectloop: Redirect points back to the original page



While attempting to fetch a file from a web server, the server indicated that a new URL should be used instead. However, the new URL is the same as one previously used in the same request - i.e. the server is creating an infinite circular loop of redirections.


HTTP/1.0 302 Found

Location: /same-url

url.fetch.unknownstatus: Unknown status code received from web server



While trying to fetch a web page from a web server, an unknown status code was received. This may mean that the web server is having temporary difficulties, that the web server is misconfigured, that the URL is incorrect, or that there is a bug in the web application code on the web server.


HTTP/1.0 670 Nonstandard Error Encountered

url.fetch.timeout: Timeout downloading file


A time-out occurred while attempting to download a file from a network server (e.g. a web server). This is usually because either the web server's network connection, or the web server itself, is too busy.

url.unknown.exception: Exception


An uncategorised error occurred. Refer to the error message for more information.

file.html.noframes: A <frameset> tag was found, but no <noframes>



Frames are not supported by all browsers and may pose difficulties to disabled users. In addition, search engines often ignore the contents of sub-frames. Developers should ensure that content is accessible to browsers which do not use frames.

url.fetch.errorstatus: Error status code received from web server



While trying to fetch a web page from a web server, an error status code was received. This may mean that the web server is having temporary difficulties, that the web server is misconfigured, that the URL is incorrect, or that there is a bug in the web application code on the web server.


HTTP/1.0 500 Internal Server Error

file.flash.badchunking: File format error in Macromedia Flash SWF file



A Macromedia Flash SWF file delivered by the web server violated the file format specification. The file could not be fully processed. It will almost certainly not play correctly in users' browsers. The file is either truncated or has become corrupt.

file.flash.badsignature: Macromedia Flash SWF file is missing the file signature



A Macromedia Flash SWF file delivered by the web server is missing its file signature header (FWS or CWS). The file has either become corrupt, or is simply not a Flash file (although the web server claims that it is).



A web server attempted to set an HTTP "cookie" but its request was invalid and is likely to be rejected or misunderstood by browsers.


Set-Cookie: CUSTOMER=WILE_E_COYOTE; path=/; expires=Wednesday, 32-Nov-14 23:60:61 GMT

file.image.badtype: Image file has incorrect type


A file used as an image in an HTML page is being served with a MIME type that indicates it is not an image, or that does not match the actual image file format. For example, a JPEG image served with a MIME type of image/gif.

file.image.invalid: Image file is corrupt


The image file is corrupt and could not be decoded as a valid image.

file.general.php: PHP error



Errors from the PHP language used to create the web site, they both corrupt the display of the web page and can cause serious operational problems with the site.


Why do some mailto addresses fail?

Sitemorse checks urls for syntax and passes requests to the appropriate mail servers, stopping short of actually sending an email. If any error messages are received from the mail servers, they are recorded.

As Sitemorse checks all mail servers for any given mailto: url, it may uncover problems that are not immediately apparent. Emails are passed to the first mail server that will accept them. The mail servers are prioritised such that the primary server gets the first opportunity to handle the mail, followed by the secondary then tertiary and so on.

Therefore if there is a problem with the tertiary mail server it will remain unnoticed until there is, for example, a high volume of emails occupying the primary and secondary servers and emails fail to be delivered. Undelivered emails do not always raise immediate error messages to the sender and in most cases the recipient is completely unaware that emails are missing. It is not possible to check that an email address is functioning correctly simply by sending emails to it.

Why perform mail checks?

Even if an email link is correctly written it should not be assumed that the link actually works. Moreover if there are multiple addresses which have not been checked then 5%, for example, of outbound emails may not be correctly sent or received.

My mail server fails with "Too many concurrent SMTP connections"

Sitemorse only ever makes a single connection to a mail server, returning any error message encountered. If Sitemorse experiences an error during an email transaction there is every reason to believe a user would experience the same fault and be unable to send email.

If this error references a backup (or secondary) mail server email will probably be delivered as expected to your domain. In the event the primary sever cannot be contacted a client will contact the backup server, and receive the error message. Every mail server advertised as accepting mail for your domain must be able to do so.

The error message "Too many concurrent SMTP connections" is generated by the message transfer agent (MTA) running on the mail server.

The popular MTA "EXIM" returns this message when under heavy load from all domains it accepts mail for. Capacity on such a mail server should be increased.

Why does Sitemorse check my backup mail servers?

Any domain (the part after the '@' in your email address - e.g. '') which is used for email has one or more mail servers listed in the domain name system. For example:

'MX 10'

'MX 20'

When someone else's mail server is trying to send you email, it generally tries your mail servers in priority order, lowest number first. In the example above, server 'a' is therefore the "primary" mail server, and server 'b' is a backup server.

The important thing to note here is that which server is contacted is not under your control - any listed server may be contacted at any time. For example, a temporary network fault anywhere on the Internet between the sender and your mail server could mean that a backup server suddenly receives mail. If the primary server goes down or become unresponsive, the backup server(s) will immediately be required to handle all the mail for your domain.

For these reasons, Sitemorse checks all the listed mail servers when it is testing an email address - backup mail servers will always be receiving a small percentage of the mail, and can at any time suddenly be receiving all the mail. If the backup server is misconfigured, you could be losing some of your mail all of the time - and if the primary server goes down, you could be losing all of your mail. Sitemorse helps you ensure that such a misconfiguration can be detected before it causes major problems.

Mail exceptions - MessageLabs' clients

Sitemorse testing of email addresses that are handled by MessageLabs often produces problem diagnostics. These are due to the way MessageLabs' servers handle mail transactions. We are not saying we agree with the outcome of our discussions, or the individual setup at MessageLabs we are merely seeking to explain why the errors occur.

When an email is sent to your domain, the sending server uses the Domain Name System (DNS) to look up your mail servers. Usually, there are two or more servers listed, with associated priority values - typically a "primary" server and one or more "backup" servers.

The DNS will always send mail to the primary server. The backup servers are there to accept email when and if the main server is unavailable for any reason, and to forward it on to the main server when it returns to service. The backup servers will, in a conventional setup, accept incoming email which they then forward to the primary server. This conventional setup allows Sitemorse to check that both the primary AND backup servers are available, functioning correctly and are configured correctly. Your primary and backup servers are integral parts of your email service which is why we check both of them.

The servers that MessageLabs list in the Domain Name System as "backup" servers are not true mail servers. They never accept email, but simply always return a "temporary failure" error code. (this allows them to reduce the amount of Spam they have to handle) This error code is what is shown in the Sitemorse diagnostics.

If you require further information, you should contact your MessageLabs account manager to discuss your specific setup.

We have further details of mail setup online at

Why does my mail server fail with Access Denied?

Sitemorse tests all the mail servers listed for your domain, including the backup ones that are in general infrequently used. We can find hidden problems that only occasionally surface in normal use.

However, in some cases an ISP deliberately blocks servers from talking to your mail servers, which can cause an Access Denied error message.

Ask your ISP to un-block our servers IP addresses ( and Please note that during Sitemorse's testing, it talks to your mail servers, but it never actually sends any email through them. Thus, there is no need to block our servers - it would not result in you receiving any junk mail or test messages.

Sitemorse Surveys

Why do tests appear to differ from the surveys?

Survey results are based upon a single test run during the period stated. As the date of the test is unannounced there are occasionally discrepancies between the two tests. For example if an external site times out, html errors exist or your site is under heavy load the Sitemorse marks may drop.

Sitemorse customers with sites listed in a survey will receive the full report in their account some weeks after publication.

Selecting those sites to survey

The selection of sites to include in a particular sector survey is compiled from a number of sources.

Where a specific governing body exists, such as the publication of the FTSE 100 / 250 constituents and Fortune 100 rankings, we update our database prior to each survey.

Traditionally the Fortune 500 list is published in April of each year, thus our May Fortune survey matches the latest list of companies.

When are the tests carried out for the survey rankings?

To create the survey rankings, site checks are run during the month of the published report - the timings changes regularly as historically we have seen site owners tweak "their" site knowing when the tests were being performed.

The exact date the published report was run can be found on the statistics tab of a report, together with the total URLs examined and tests conducted.

Which of my domain names is tested?

Sitemorse tests the domain name listed under "site address". Occasionally if the majority of the site is hosted on a sub domain we will include this address when testing your site.

For instance, take the domain ''. Should visitors to this site be immediately redirected to '' a Sitemorse Survey would include the sub domain of the site. The same process is applied even if the redirection takes place within a frame - a method used to disguise the true URL from the visitor.

Alternatively, should '' redirect to '' - a separate domain name - we will endeavour to update the site address and survey this new domain in future. For some organisations determining the "default" or "primary" site can be difficult. Wherever possible Sitemorse uses the email addresses and metadata to determine the proper site to Survey for an organisation.

Surveys description

We have added a new "Surveys" tab to the Sitemorse secure site. This is intended to provide quick and convenient access to the Sitemorse surveys that we produce on a regular basis.

The Surveys page displays the complete list of public survey categories that we produce (for example, "Central Government" or "FTSE 100"). By each category is shown the most recent survey report, and a list of any sites shown on your "Site List" page which are included in that survey category.

To view the summary report for a survey, click its entry under the "Latest report" column. Summary reports are always available; if you have a current testing contract relating to a site which is included in a survey category, then you will see the full survey detail instead.

What do Sitemorse Surveys test?

Surveys check the top 125 pages of each website, Sitemorse measures performance, tests functions and checks compliance (HTML/eGMS/Accessibility) thoroughly on each of the tested page, and then ranks the site based on the weighting detailed further below:

  • Function

Testing how well will the website function for a user, examples of the tests include checking if there any broken links or missing downloads, illegal characters used, DNS issues or emails that will not work.

  • Code Quality

Thoroughly checking the build (HTML) code of the site and checking against the recognised web standards (poor website code can hamper performance and cause serious display issues)

  • Accessibility

Based on the available tests that can be carried out automatically on a site, e.g. is there an 'ALT' text tab on the images to allow screen readers to advise a visually impaired user to be told about the image, we are testing the site for both A & AA compliance reporting on page failures.

  • Performance

Checking the ability of the servers to react to page requests and look at your ability to manage page delivery, not just on one page but we report the average performance across the site, providing a valuable indication of the experience a site visitor would receive.

In this report we do not comment on any measure of site sensitivity, popularity, ease-of-use, effectiveness or the commercial objectives, considerations and constraints, which may have been applied to site direction, development, design and performance criteria.

Full description of Sitemorse Benchmark Ratings

Code quality

What is Code quality?

Code quality tests check the HTML sent to visitors conforms to standards. For example checking tags have been closed correctly.

Why is Code quality important?

To users presentation is critical, if simple things like broken links and images appear on your corporate page the user is given a distorted view that your company does not focus upon quality. Additionally search engines may not properly catalogue or index a site that contains HTML errors.

After the initial effort to design a complete site additions and corrections need to be checked at each stage to ensure they meet the same quality as the rest of the site.

Why Is ViewState reported as invalid?

ASP.NET records the state of each HTML control on a page through a technology called ViewState which is enabled by default. Viewing the source of an ASP.NET page will reveal an entry similar to the following:

<input type="hidden" name="__VIEWSTATE" id="__VIEWSTATE" value="..." />

The HTML 4.01 specification section 6.2 SGML basic types requires 'id' and 'name' tokens to begin with a letter. As the generic attribute 'ID' is declared as SGML type 'ID' it cannot begin with an underscore.

As of November 2010 Sitemorse reports the following error for HTML pages and no error for XHTML pages:

file/html/badvalue - "__VIEWSTATE" is not a valid value for attribute "id" to tag "input".

Previously to this date Sitemorse enforced the rule for both HTML and XHTML. Although the collection of legal values for token names in XHTML is much larger than that permitted in HTML we enforced Appendix C, our reasoning was as follows:

XHTML is a blend of XML and HTML - to support current browsers, including IE7 XHTML is served from the web server with a text/html mime type. The XHTML 1.0 Specification requires XHTML content served with a text/html mime type to conform to certain "Compatibility Guidelines outlined in Section C.

Furthermore Section C.3 Fragment Identifiers states:

When defining fragment identifiers to be backward-compatible, only strings matching the pattern [A-Za-z][A-Za-z0-9:_.-]* should be used.

Thus our conclusion was that in order to comply with the compatibility specifications the 'id' attribute could not begin with an underscore.

However, given the widespread use of the '.NET' platform and direct discussions with the W3C we have decided that 'id' attribute values starting with one or more underscores has no negative impact on modern browsers and is therefore acceptable for pages declared as XHTML.

Fixing ViewState in ASP.NET

One of our clients submitted a workaround to force valid ID values for HTML and therefore fully compliant for XHTML pages. The code can be applied either to a Master Page or in individual pages.

Source code for the VB ViewState fix

How Code quality is scored

Sitemorse reports analyse the results from hundreds of tests. The Code Quality score is determined via the benchmark table.

NB, if the number of errors detected represent less than 0.8% of the possible errors in the test, the code quality will be equal to or greater than 99.2%. Which will score 10/10 for Code Quality.


What is HTML 5?

HTML 5 is the long-awaited successor to HTML 4, the standard web markup language which has been with us for well over a decade now. If the development of a new web standard has mostly passed you by so far, you can expect to hear a lot more about it over the coming months as media interest increases. For example, coverage of the recent release of Internet Explorer 9 and Firefox 4 has focused attention on the abilities of both these browsers to handle HTML 5-based content. However, if you inferred from this that release of HTML 5 is imminent, you'd be wrong - it's a long way off yet.

So what's the timetable?

It won't surprise anyone in the online world to hear that the HTML 5 project has already been running for many years, is behind deadline and growing in complexity by the day.

In point of fact, HTML 5 is being developed by not one but two bodies: the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C - and the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG - Many key players are participating, including the four major browser vendors (Apple, Mozilla, Opera and Microsoft) and a range of other organisations and individuals with diverse interests and expertise.

Work commenced in 2004, but it was not until 2008 that the W3C Working Group published the First Public Working Draft1 of the official specification. The original timetable envisaged that HTML 5 would reach final sign-off by late 2010 but that date has come and gone. At April 2011, the latest plan is to move to 'Last Call' (an invitation to communities inside and outside W3C to confirm the technical soundness of the specification) in May 2011, with a target of 2014 for full 'Recommendation' (i.e. when HTML 5 becomes the officially recognised standard).

Why do we need HTML 5?

HTML 4 has been around for well over a decade now - an eternity in the technology world - and publishers seeking new techniques to provide enhanced functionality are being held back by the constraints of the language and browsers. HTML 5 is an attempt to meet that challenge with an improved, unified and consistent markup language for both content and applications, resulting in significant benefits across the entire panoply of modern web-enabled devices ('interoperability', as it's known).

Just two examples of the key differences between HTML 4.1 and HTML 5:

Better multimedia

One key 'interoperability' challenge is to take multimedia to the next level. Although multimedia has made breath taking progress in recent years, developers rely heavily on APIs and plugins to make it work - resulting in problems such as the iPhone not supporting Flash. HTML 5 includes video and audio elements designed to enable multimedia to be embedded into web pages directly. This should make it far easier to ensure that multimedia content can be accessed without any problems on a PC, tablet, phone or other device.

More logical page structures

First we had tables and then we had stylesheets - a major leap forward that freed up web page design and led to the incredible sophistication of modern sites. HTML 5 is another logical step forward: new elements have been introduced to identify page sections - e.g. <header> <footer>, <nav>, <article> and <footer>. This should not only make it easier to build and change pages (less reliance on IDs and classes), but it's good for assistive technologies as well, making navigation that little bit easier.

For more details on the numerous differences between HTML 4 and 5, see the article at

Should we be using HTML 5 now?

HTML 5 is very much a work in progress and there's still a long way to go before it's been thoroughly specified, tested and declared fit for purpose. Although developers and designers everywhere are champing at the bit, Philippe Le Hegaret, W3C interaction domain leader, issued the following note of caution in October 2010: "The problem we're facing right now is there is already a lot of excitement for HTML 5, but it's a little too early to deploy it because we're running into interoperability issues."

Having said that, it would be wrong to suggest that nothing should be done until HTML 5 gets the official green light. This is all part of the non-stop evolution of web technology and developers are quite naturally already experimenting with innovative features such as the <video> tag. However, there's a very long way to go before compatibility and stability issues have been ironed out, so you need to be clear about any risks you are taking. This is a time not to get over-excited by the hype, or to allow yourself to be swayed by web agencies who see opportunities for extra business!

For more information on HTML 5 compatibility issues, see

Is it ok to change my doctype to HTML 5?

Some online pundits are already advocating changing all your doctypes to the new, simpler HTML 5 version: <!DOCTYPE html> since many of the tags defined in HTML 4 are still supported in the newer version. Sitemorse recommends against it simply because it's far too early. HTML 5 is supported by hardly any browsers at this point and there's no reason to risk any kind of confusion with your page coding. Mislabelling a page runs the risk that it won't validate properly, and labelling an HTML 4 page as HTML 5 is not only incorrect, it provides no useful benefits.

Does Sitemorse support HTML 5?

Sitemorse does not currently officially support HTML 5 as the new standard is still a long way off from being finalised. However, we have partial HTML 5 support that is intended to prevent its use producing spurious errors in Sitemorse reports. We are constantly monitoring the situation and are happy to answer any queries you may have relating to your use of HTML 5 and its impact on your Sitemorse reports.


1. W3C Working Draft 22 January 2008: 'HTML 5: A vocabulary and associated APIs for HTML and XHTML':

1. W3C press release: 'W3C Confirms May 2011 for HTML5 Last Call, Targets 2014 for HTML5 Standard':

1. Steve Jobs: 'Thoughts on Flash':

Useful links


WHATWG: 'W3C: Hold off on deploying HTML5 in websites':

W3C: HTML5 differences from HTML4: "

Article published: April 2011

Understanding the tests conducted by Sitemorse

How many pages can Sitemorse test?

At the time of requesting a new test users can select the maximum number of pages to scan. If you have a small site, or just want to scan the first few pages pick 50. At the other end of the scale Sitemorse can scan 50,000 pages. Our default is 250 pages. If your site’s page count is greater than our maximum then please contact us.

How are pages counted?

Sitemorse tests begin horizontally (scanning along the various main pages) and then vertically (taking each of the sub pages in turn).

Can Sitemorse test within a firewall or Intranet

Sitemorse clients can supply authentication details for Sitemorse to log into externally accessible Intranets or staff only sites.

We can also provide the IP addresses of our testing servers if you wish to audit an internal resource.

Will Sitemorse work for any type of browser or operating system?

As our reports are web based, your results are available regardless of your type of computer, operating system, browser or internet connection. JavaScript is not required.

Does my web server make a difference?

No - Sitemorse accesses your site in the same way that a user's browser does. No matter what technologies your site uses on the back end, the public interface always uses standard systems such as HTTP and HTML, and it is through these standard systems that Sitemorse is testing your site.

Are results influenced by Applets (Java/Flash) on my site?

No - Sitemorse only looks at the page sent to the user's browser, not how it is created. All pages should however work without the need to install or use Flash and other other tools which can be troublesome to some users.

Does the page count include logged in areas?

For Sitemorse surveys only pages available without login are audited, Sitemorse clients may supply login information for a variety of authentication methods.

How can Sitemorse help to improve my site?

Sitemorse provides an independent detailed assessment of the technical features of your website. It features an overall view including main problems, a detailed view including the specific line numbers of faulty code and a historical view with access to all past reports in order to identify trends or anomalies. The majority of readings are also benchmarked according to widely accepted standards, e.g. 14 seconds is the maximum acceptable home page download time for users with a 56k modem dial-up connection. You may select the number of web pages to be tested during a scan from a range of sizes, starting with a single web page, up to the number of testing credits that you have purchased. 1,5 or 10 page scans are run immediately whereas larger tests are queued and may take a matter of hours before the scan is run.

Does Sitemorse make multiple requests?

Sitemorse audits make only one connection request at a time. This shouldn't be enough to make any noticeable impact on the server load.

Additionally, "normal" user browsers also make multiple requests simultaneously - fetching images, style sheets and other files to render the page.

Sitemorse monitoring makes up to five simultaneous connections at a time. The equivalent of a couple of users browsing your site.

How do Sitemorse tests actually work?

Sitemorse engages your web server using HTTP protocols and the returned files and/or error codes are examined individually.

What if we have more than one web server?

To ensure the best response to each user many of our customers spread the load of their site over multiple web servers. Should one of these web servers fail, or serve content that is different from the others, some users may receive an old page or perhaps none at all. Problems like this can be hard to diagnose from the inside. By providing a direct link to each server (ie and Sitemorse tests their content and performance individually, especially important if your servers are located on different networks.

What about archive areas?

Even if parts of a site are marked as an archive if the content is online it should be correct. "Out of date" links which have expired since publication should be removed. If you have chosen to provide historical information to your users then it should be accessible to all of them.

Does Sitemorse honour the robots.txt file?

The 'robots.txt' file is intended to prevent automated web agents from accessing certain parts of a web site. For example a compliant search engine spider will prevent itself from indexing any areas of your site listed as denied in your robots file.

Sitemorse is designed to experience a web site as the user does. Users do not consult the robots file when browsing, and nor are they made aware of its content. Were Sitemorse to ignore pages or directories listed in the robots file problems with the page code which potentially affect your users would go unnoticed.

Additionally because Sitemorse reports are only made available to you the tests do not "leak" any information to external users.

Removing Sitemorse visits from web usage statistics

To your web server Sitemorse tests look like any other traffic. Consequently any web statistic software you have running will include our visits like any other.

If you wish to exclude Sitemorse from such figures simply filter requests where the User-Agent contains the characters "b2w ".

If your software does not support this an alternative method is to exclude our IP addresses, currently: and . Please note IP addresses are liable to change in the future without warning.

What if my website is spilt into several domains?

Sites often split content up via sub domains. For example '' or '' move two departments to their own, isolated, area of the site.

A Sitemorse test of the main site (in this case '') considers the two sub domains as external sites, and does not follow these links.

This has several advantages, domains split by department are often maintained by a different web team, working to another schedule. The site tests can be configured independently of one another, reporting direct to the relevant personnel.

However, such divisions can be made purely for convenience. Perhaps to host a number of pages on a different web server. In this case Sitemorse can be configured to include the sub domain - contact sales for further details.

Accessibility Diagnostics (WCAG 1.0)



Link text should be meaningful enough to make sense when read out of context - either on its own or as part of a sequence of links. For example, write "Information about slippers" instead of "click here".

If more than one link on a page shares the same link text, all those links should point to the same resource. If two or more links refer to different targets but share the same link text, distinguish the links by specifying a different value for the "title" attribute of each A element.


<a href="example.html">click here</a>

wcag10.nodeprecated: Avoid deprecated features of W3C technologies



Avoid deprecated features of W3C technologies. Which features are deprecated can be determined from the W3C specifications.


<applet code=""></applet>

wcag10.noredirect: Do not use markup to redirect pages automatically



Do not use markup to redirect pages automatically. For example, in HTML, don't cause pages to automatically redirect with "HTTP-EQUIV=refresh" until user agents allow users to turn off the feature.

You should instead use server-side redirects (e.g. the "302 Found" HTTP response code) to achieve this effect.

This diagnostic is produced if you are using the "meta refresh" to cause the browser to display a different page. The alternative 'wcag10.norefresh' diagnostic is produced if you are using the "meta refresh" to cause the browser to refresh the same page.


<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="5; url=newpage.html">

wcag10.validate: Create documents that validate to published formal grammars



Details of specific validation failures are included in the Code quality section.

Validating to a published formal grammar and declaring that validation at the beginning of a document lets the user know that the structure of the document is sound. It also lets the user agent know where to look for semantics if it needs to.

It is preferable to validate to W3C grammars.



wcag10.usestyle: Use style sheets to control layout and presentation



Content developers should use Cascading Style Sheets to control presentation of their documents and enable separation of structure and presentation.

For example, do not use the HTML <font> tag, use the CSS 'font' property instead. Meanwhile the use of 'B' and 'I' tags is not recommended.

Such tags are intended for visual presentation effects. Instead, where possible, apply style sheets, or the structural emphasis tags, 'STRONG' and 'EM', which render according to the media - such as via speech inflection changes when experienced through a screen reader.


<link href="style.css" rel="stylesheet" type="text/css">

<span style="font-weight:bold; color:red">Attention</span>

The <em>Knowledge Base</em> contains <strong>new</strong> articles

wcag10.useheadings: Use headings to convey structure



Sections should be introduced with the HTML heading elements (H1-H6). Other markup may complement these elements to improve presentation (e.g., the HR element to create a horizontal dividing line), but visual presentation is not sufficient to identify document sections.

Since some users skim through a document by navigating its headings, it is important to use them appropriately to convey document structure. Users should order heading elements properly. For example, in HTML, H2 elements should follow H1 elements, H3 elements should follow H2 elements, etc. Content developers should not "skip" levels (e.g., H1 directly to H3). Do not use headings to create font effects; use style sheets to change font styles for example.


<h1>Section 1</h1><br />...<br /><h2>Section 1.1</h2><br />...<br /><h1>Section 2</h1><br />...

wcag10.norefresh: Do not create periodically auto-refreshing pages



Do not create periodically auto-refreshing pages. For example, in HTML, don't cause pages to auto-refresh with "HTTP-EQUIV=refresh" until user agents allow users to turn off the feature.

This diagnostic is produced if you are using the "meta refresh" to redisplay the same page. The alternative 'wcag10.noredirect' diagnostic is produced if you are using the "meta refresh" to cause the browser to display a different page.


<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="10">



Avoid causing content to blink (i.e. change presentation at a regular rate, such as turning on and off).


<blink>Don't do this!</blink>

wcag10.logicalevents: For scripts, specify logical event handlers rather than device-dependent event handlers



An event handler is a script that is invoked when a certain event occurs (e.g, the mouse moves, a key is pressed, the document is loaded, etc.). In HTML 4.01, event handlers are attached to elements via event handler attributes (the attributes beginning with "on", as in "onkeyup").

For event handlers that do more than just change the presentation of an element, content developers should use application-level event triggers rather than user interaction-level triggers. In HTML 4.01, application-level event attributes are "onfocus", "onblur" (the opposite of "onfocus"), and "onselect".

wcag10.labelforms: Associate labels with controls



Form labels should be explicitly associated with the form input elements they relate to. Use the <label> tag for this purpose.


<label for="name">Your name:</label><br /><input type="text" name="name" id="name" size="30">

wcag10.altvisual: Provide an auditory description of the important information of the visual track of a multimedia presentation



For any important information which is conveyed solely by the visual part of multimedia content, provide an auditory equivalent in the presentation.

wcag10.noservermap: Provide client-side image maps



Client-side image maps can nearly always provide exactly the same functionality as server-side image maps, but they are more accessible, easier to use, and often provide a faster response for the user. Make sure you provide 'alt' text for each region defined in the map.


<map name="map1"><br /><p>Navigate the site:<br /><a href="guide.html" shape="rect" coords="0,0,118,28">Access Guide</a> ~ <br /><a href="shortcut.html" shape="rect" coords="118,0,184,28">Go</A> ~ <br /><a href="search.html" shape="circle" coords="184,200,60">Search</a> ~ <br /><a href="top10.html" shape="poly" coords="276,0,276,28,100,200,50,50,276,0">Top Ten</a><br /></map>

wcag10.nopopups: Do not cause pop-ups or other windows to appear



Do not cause pop-ups or other windows to appear, and do not change the current window without informing the user.


<a href="foo.html">read about foo</a>

wcag10.titles: Title each frame



In order to assist users viewing the site non-visually and to enable them to understand the relationship between the various frames, each frame should have a title.


<frame src="main.html" title="Main content">



If you must use server-side image maps (which you shouldn't - see W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 - Checkpoint 9.1 ensure that all links which are contained within the map are also available as normal text links on the page.


<a href="">

<img src="welcome.gif" alt="Welcome! (Text links follow)" ismap></a>

[<a href="reference.html">Reference</a>]

[<a href="media.html">Audio Visual Lab</a>]

wcag10.altscripts: Ensure that pages are usable when scripts, applets, or other programmatic objects are turned off or not supported



Pages which use dynamic features such as JavaScript, Java applets, Flash animations, etc, must still be usable if these features are unavailable. It is allowable to use this type of dynamic content, but it must not be required for operation of the site. For example, do not use the 'javascript:' URL scheme as a link target.

wcag10.altupdated: Ensure that equivalents for dynamic content are updated when the dynamic content changes



*Manual Check*

Extending upon WCAG Checkpoint 1.1 (all non-text elements must have a textual equivalent provided) checkpoint 6.2 requires users manually check that the two are synchronous, especially after system updates or where the dynamic content is enhanced.

Suitable testing methods include using a browser to visit your site with the required applet or scripts disabled, in order to check whether the textual equivalents provide sufficient detail. Additionally browsing with images switched off will display the 'alt' text accompanying your images.



*Manual Check*

Even after considerable effort not every page can be made accessible. To remedy this create an alternative accessible page that uses W3C technologies and has equivalent information which is updated as often as the original page. A script may be helpful in automating this.

If you decide to offer an alternative version, which should always be seen as a last resort, continue to design the original page in the most accessible manner as possible.

wcag10.alttext: Provide a text equivalent



All non-text elements must have a textual equivalent provided. For example, <img> tags must have an alt attribute specified.

When writing the alternative text you should bear in mind that it should fulfil the same function or purpose as the image itself - it should not just be a description of the image.

Common Questions

What are the Sitemorse IP addresses used for site assessments?

The Sitemorse IP addresses used for site assessments for the in-depth website reports are and

Please note IP addresses are liable to change in the future without warning (although will not change frequently) .

Internal sites can be audited by allowing access to the Sitemorse IP addresses.

Does Brand score affect our overall mark and therefore ranking in the INDEX?

The Brand category score doesn't affect the overall score or the quarterly INDEX's score or ranking. This is because Brand is used to check local company style guidelines and not global web standards.

Can I add many dictionaries?


To view your current dictionaries:
- From your dashboard, click the Cog icon to the right, under one of your sites.
- Select 'Spelling configuration' from the drop-down menu.
- One of the dictionaries can be selected as 'Default'. This is the custom dictionary that you can add words to from Report -> Spelling category's list of possible spellings.
- You can add words directly to any dictionary by selecting the dictionary name, and adding a word.
- To include any dictionary to be consulted for your audits, you'll need to tick the 'Consult' checkbox next to the specific dictionaries that you want to be consulted. A dictionary's words will then be considered as spelt correctly for future audits.
- You can also add new dictionaries by clicking 'Add new dictionary', then add words, and click 'Consult' to ensure it's consulted.

How do I view all site email addresses?

You can view the email addresses and their locations from the Inventory as follows:

- Select 'Inventory' link for a site on your dashboard to view the Inventory summary page.
- Select 'Email breakdown' category to view 'Email Findings - Status By Domain' page.
- Then select one of the listed domains to view the 'Email results' page, that will list all the emails found for that domain, for the current assessment.
- For each email, click the plus symbol, and a list of all the locations of that email address will be shown.

To view 'all' the email addresses for a site, a full site assessment would need to be run, and then view the associated Inventory.

NB. Only email addresses specified using a mailto scheme will be listed, e.g. .

Why is it good practice to use PDFs on a website?

PDF files are far more widely readable in web browsers - indeed many web browsers will now display them automatically in the browser, just like HTML pages. PDF files will also more reliably be displayed identically to how they were created. Additionally, Microsoft Word files can contain computer viruses and hence may represent more of a security threat to recipients than PDF files.

How does Global Heartbeat monitoring work?

There are currently 9 independent Sitemorse Global 
Heartbeat monitors (based around the world) and each
carry out one fetch of the HTML of the front page of
the site every 5 minutes. So there's a total of 9 fetches
every 5 minutes. A check includes the status code
returned (e.g. 200 is OK status) and the download time
for the HTML only.
The Sitemorse Global Heartbeat monitor IP addresses
are listed at the following URL:
The list may change at any time (although will not
change frequently) but this file is always up-to-date.

How do I search my site for a word or phrase?

You can create a search filter to search for specified words or phrases.

Add a Spelling Filter
- From your dashboard:
- Select the Cog icon next to a site
- Select 'Spelling Configuration' from the drop down menu
- Click button 'Add new search filter'
    - Add a name (e.g. X Search Filter)
    - Add a description (e.g. Filter search for x terms)
    - Click 'Create'
- Then select the filter
    - Type in a word and click 'Add'
- Then return to dashboard, select Cog icon and 'Spelling Configuration'
- Select 'consult' checkbox next to the new filter dictionary.
- The words in the filter dictionary will then be found in the next audit.

To view the filtered words:
- Following the next audit, click on the 'Report' for the site
- Select Spelling category
- At the bottom of the page click 'Search filter matches'
- The words/phrases will then be listed and where they are found
- (If the 'Search filter matches' link isn't clickable, no terms were found.)

Please note if you want to find all of a filter's specified words/phrases on your whole site, you will need to check the most recent 'full site' audit with the filter applied.

Search filters can only be added to sites that the Spelling category has been enabled for.

NB. Only the owner (normally the master user) of the dictionary can add words / phrases to that dictionary by default. Further users can be given access to add words and phrases, upon request to Sitemorse.

Can I assess a PDF?

Yes. There are two ways to run an assessment of a PDF.

Method 1:
- From your dashboard, click the + plus symbol on the 'Ad hoc' tab.
- Type in the PDF web address
- Click checkbox 'Tick if the URL to be tested is a PDF file.'
- Press 'Run audit'
- The PDF with then be assessed and the results shown as a Sitemorse Report.

Method 2 (only applicable if your browser displays PDF files in the browser window):
- Browse to a PDF page on the internet.
- Click your 'SMARTview' bookmark.
- Once the assessment is complete the Sitemorse Report for the PDF will then be displayed to you.

Fewer pages have been assessed than the previous audit

The number of pages assessed (if the schedule hasn't changed) could be due to:
- Your content editors may have made changes to your site
- Sitemorse has now applied extra global exclusions, e.g. to most,, google maps and googletagmanager links, so these sites are no longer assessed. This is because the content from these sites is not editable by site owners, nor in many cases can the inclusion of the content be avoided.

To compare which directories and sub-directories of your site have been assessed for each audit:
- From your dashboard, select 'Inventory' link under a site, then select 'Directory map' category to view the directories and sub-directories that have been assessed.
- Then from your dashboard, click on the calendar icon for the above site, select the previous audit, select Inventory>Directory map, and compare the URLs assessed. Any changes are likely to be changes to the site contents.

To exclude a link or directory from your assessments, please make a support request to Sitemorse. A local config can be applied by Sitemorse to ignore specific internal or external links, but they won't apply to your INDEX reports.


Can I view the words in my custom dictionary?

To view the contents of the default dictionary for a site:
- From your dashboard, select the Cog icon under a site
- Click 'Spelling configuration' option from the drop-down menu
- Click on the default dictionary to view the words in that custom dictionary (this is the dictionary where the 'Default' option is selected).

Please note, only sites where the Spelling category is included for assessments will have the 'Spelling configuration' menu option available.

If SharePoint is configured for downloading a PDF rather than opening in browser, can Sitemorse still test the PDF?

Yes, Sitemorse assesses these PDFs.

SharePoint indicates this to the browser by setting a 'Content-Disposition' header, which will not make any difference to how Sitemorse treats the PDF file.

What versions of HTML does Sitemorse check against?

Sitemorse checks against the following HTML versions:

HTML 4.01


HTML 5.1

Does Sitemorse ever assess a cached version of our site?

Sitemorse never caches files, so will always test your web site as it is currently being served to users. If changes you have made to your site do not appear to be reflected in a Sitemorse report, check whether your changes have been published to your live site, and whether or not you have a server cache as part of your web serving system.

We recommend that links be removed from a CSS if they are no longer used. Alternatively links can be excluded from future assessments. Please contact Sitemorse to add an exclusion.

Please note exclusions are not applied to INDEX reports.

Why has my score dropped?

Please look at the detail of the report for each category, and compare it with a previous report to see which area has produced a drop in score.

Check also that the same or similar number of pages have been assessed for the current and previous report. For example, a monthly full site assessment would usually audit a larger number of pages than a weekly assessment.

If there are no obvious reasons for the change of scores as outlined by the report detail, then please contact Sitemorse where we can review your reports, according to your arranged Support Contract.

Can I upload a list of words to my dictionary?

To upload a list of words to a dictionary:
- From your dashboard, click on the Cog icon next to the site and select 'Spelling Configuration'.
- Select the dictionary you wish to add words to.
- Click on the link 'import a list of words' upper right of page.
- Then paste the list of words (one word per line), click 'Import list', and these words will be ignored for future assessments.

NB. The dictionary with the Default radio button set, is your default custom dictionary, in which words from the Spelling category of a Report are added.

Why is Sitemorse not finding our broken links? OR Why is Sitemorse reporting problems with our custom 'not found' page?

A fairly common web server misconfiguration is to set up a custom "404 Not Found" page, but to mistakenly make it return a "200 OK" HTTP status code. This means that Sitemorse (and search engines, etc) has no way of knowing that this is a 'not found' error and not a working page.

Note there is nothing wrong with using a custom 404 page, the key point however is that it must still return a 404 status. The user's browser will still display the custom error page you have created.

Are Meta Keywords required?

Keywords are optional; they do not affect any Sitemorse score. If you do have keywords however they must be in the right format - words or short phrases separated by commas - otherwise the score will be reduced due to the format error.

We use Aria attributes, do we still need Alt attributes?

WCAG 2.0 standards require Alt attributes to be set. Aria attributes are great and beneficial, but as well as, not instead of Alt attributes.

Can I download all spelling diagnostics?

To view all the spelling diagnostics for a Report, in a Spreadsheet:
- From your dashboard, select 'Report' link for your site.
- Then select Spelling category to view the Spelling Summary page.
- Click 'View all questionable words' link to view 'Content reading and spell checking' page.
- At the bottom click 'Download as XLS' link.

Can I view previous Reports?

For your live scheduled sites, Sitemorse stores historic Reports, and you can view previous assessment results.

If previous assessments have been run for a site, there will be a Calendar icon above the date for that site on your dashboard. Click the Calendar icon, select a Report date, and this will update the date, the Screenshot, the overall Score, the Report, Inventory and Priorities links, to those of the selected assessment.

On the Calendar drop down icon there is also the option to select 'full history' where you can view a page of historic Reports for a site. From the full history page, the Report, Priorities and Inventory can be selected for each assessment.

Accessibility G134: Validating Web pages - how to do I pass this?

In order for the diagnostic G134 to be passed, the page has to comply with the rules of HTML pages as laid out in W3C specifications; the related diagnostics are shown under the Sitemorse Code Quality category. Pages are usually checked against the HTML 4 or HTML 5 standards (the latter being indicated by <!DOCTYPE html> at the start of the HTML file).

If I pass all AA checks, but not A checks, am I AA compliant?

No. Each level (A, AA, AAA) have different checks, so you can pass 100% of the AA (priority 2) checks, but unless you also pass all of the A (priority 1) checks your site is not AA compliant.

Fragment identifier (id) used more than once - how do I fix this?

It is very important that "id" values are unique within each page, as their entire purpose is to uniquely identify a single page element. If the intention is to use CSS to style multiple elements then rather than an id, a class should be used instead.

How do I run an Ad hoc assessment for a site on the digital properties view using credits?

From the digital properties view, click on the Cog icon next to the site you require an assessment for, select the drop down option "Request new audit". Select number of pages you would like assessed, and 'Queue audit' button. If the full site is assessed, only the number of credits used will be deducted from your credit balance. You will be automatically emailed when the assessment is complete. The resulting 'Report' will be listed under that site on your dashboard.

You can check the number of credits that you have, by clicking 'My Account' menu option top right once logged in. Please contact Sitemorse if you require more credits.

What is the file/html/mixedcontent diagnostic about?

If a page is served by HTTPS and contains a `<script>` or `<iframe>` tag whose content is served by HTTP, this request will be refused by all major browsers, so we are now flagging this up as a Function diagnostic.

My site doesn't appear as I would expect it to in SMARTview?

SMARTview shows how the page looks with scripting switched off.

If you disable JavaScript in your browser and then refresh your web page, see how the page displays without JavaScript, as compared to how it appears in SMARTview.

Issues related to the page can also be viewed as a Report in the Ad hoc tab -> 'SMARTview' section of your dashboard, as well as via SMARTview. NB. SMARTview reports are stored for one month and are then deleted. 

Factors that affect the Performance result for an assessment of a site

Factors that affect the Performance are:
- Download speed of all assets in the assessment. Assets are all URLs fetched during the scan.
- Initial response time of all assets in the assessment.
- The download time of the front page only.

There are two charts on the Performance summary page of a report, that show the 'Average time to first byte for recent audits' and 'Average download speed for recent audits' respectively. Each point on the charts represents an assessment, which could be scheduled or ad hoc, a 125 pages assessment or another number of pages like 5000. All the URLs fetched affect the Performance score, so a larger size assessment will have a greater number of assets that will affect the final Performance result.

Recommended ways to investigate Performance across the site:
- Ask the advice of your hosting company, and that they check the uplink from the web server has plenty of spare capacity.
- Follow up with your cms provider. Some CMSes cache commonly used pages. In this case, a smaller test could likely have more commonly visited pages assessed, and a larger size test could have more 'less visited' pages assessed. The uncached pages could therefore contribute to the larger test being slower. So we recommend speaking to your CMS provider to ask them about this, and other factors that they might know that could affect performance.

Please note that pages can also perform at different speeds at different times, so although a page can be assessed by SMARTview for performance on a particular day, that cannot be compared directly with another time and day.

Accessibility Priorities (WCAG 2.0)

H44 - Using label elements to associate text labels with form controls


Technique relates to:

  • 1.1.1 - Non-text Content (A)
  • 1.3.1 - Info and Relationships (A)
  • 3.3.2 - Labels or Instructions (A)
  • 4.1.2 - Name, Role, Value (A)


Technique relates to:

  • 2.4.4 - Link Purpose (In Context) (A)
  • 4.1.2 - Name, Role, Value (A)
  • 2.4.9 - Link Purpose (Link Only) (AAA)

H64 - Using the title attribute of the frame and iframe elements


Technique relates to:

  • 2.4.1 - Bypass Blocks (A)
  • 4.1.2 - Name, Role, Value (A)

F30 - Failure of Success Criterion 1.1.1 and 1.2.1 due to using text alternatives that are not alternatives (e.g., filenames or placeholder text)

Make current alt text meaningful

The value of an alt attribute on an image contains text but it does not help somebody using a screen reader determine what the image is. For example, the alt text might be "picture 1" or "fg567.gif".

Video help


Technique relates to:

  • 1.1.1 - Non-text Content (A)
  • 1.2.1 - Audio-only and Video-only (Prerecorded) (A)

F41 - Failure of Success Criterion 2.2.1, 2.2.4, and 3.2.5 due to using meta refresh with a time-out

Don't use automatic page refresh

This page is set to refresh automatically after a few seconds and it might be confusing to a screen reader if the page contents change suddenly without warning.

Video help


Technique relates to:

  • 2.2.1 - Timing Adjustable (A)
  • 2.2.4 - Interruptions (AAA)
  • 3.2.5 - Change on Request (AAA)