I am rather confused.  Tourism Ireland have a new website. It is hosted at Ireland.com for which they paid €500,000 to the Irish Times.

The site itself cost 2.5 Million Euro. It is difficult to figure out where the money went. The launch of the site caught a fair amount of reaction on Twitter last night. Here is a  summary.

 

 

 

 

 

Critically the key point is this one.

I took another look through the site this morning on my iPad and PC. It’s not pretty. The first thing is that it felt slow to load.  This is on a 50MB broadband connection.  It grabs your attention initially. Then it shakes you around makes you dizzy and dumps you on the floor.

The UI is, as the tweets above, suggested awful. It claims to be developed for Tablet and mobile but its not any better over there either. It is also in many ways objectively worse than the site it is to replace DiscoverIreland.

Search for Dublin on Ireland.com

We have the bizzare situation where the search for the term Dublin throws up mostly links to Carlow. I have nothing against Carlow,  but I haven’t gone looking for information about Carlow. I’ve gone looking for Information about Dublin.

When I go instead to the old site that it is supposed to replace DiscoverIreland.com I at least find some information about Dublin when I search for it.

 

Search for Dublin on DiscoverIreland.com

It gets worse from there.

It is a mess to navigate (as has been mentioned by everyone).

It functions on a tablet, but it is in no sense that I would understand it designed for a tablet.

There is a stunning lack of information on the site. If I’m trying to get to Ireland from the US I am given a limited list of cities that fly direct to Ireland.

Travelling to Ireland

It appears to be the same from other countries. The key thing about a site like this is to remove barriers, to make it as easy as possible to get to Ireland by whatever means possible.  If they had spent the money building an integration with something like Skyscanner so that people could get to Ireland by the cheapest and easiest way possible there would be some justification for spending some of this money.

Searching for Music Venues

The search results are dreadful – as mentioned above, but look at music venues. Interested in coming to Ireland for music. It appears that Portaferry Hotel Cookery school is one of our top music venues.  The problems with search reeks of something that was rushed into going live. There is a big push on around ‘The Gathering” and St Patrick’s day is 7 weeks away and it is a key day for Tourism Ireland.  There was a need to get this site rolled by now. And I suspect that this site was planned to go live a long long time ago.

What we have is a turd. Polished with lots of pretty background images but a turd none the less. And a multi-lingual turd.  It is a wasted opportunity and a waste of money.  If you really want to build something that has value build some reviews into the site . Enable some conversation and enable some feedback. There is a vague hint at social with the ability to share content from the site. The IT piece notes

the site replaces discoverireland.com which was built in 2006 before social media, smart phones and tablets became commonplace

Yet in the tender document – which is 27 pages long – the words mobile and social are mentioned three times and the word tablet is mentioned once.

The redevelopment of discoverireland.com will not only consider web browsers but also advances in tablet computing and web mobile.

This is not a very social site.

There are some very curious things about the launch of this site. The tender document states

Tourism Ireland is seeking to appoint a Web Development Services Provider for the next 3 years, commencing no later than 1stApril 2011, with the option to extend annually for a further 3 years.

So has the first version of this website taken almost 2 years to build ? And did it really cost €2.5 million to deliver it?  I’d love to see the breakdown of the cost. You can create quite a lot for a lot less money.

We can argue over the design (and people will always argue over the design). The bigger problem here is the opportunity cost.  There is the money opportunity cost.  And after over a decade in GE, and almost three years in a startup I know how to be frugal. There is a vision opportunity cost. The vision to focus on the customers and to do something different.

€2.5 Million is a phenomenal amount of money for what is a brochureware site, built over a content management system, albeit it running in 11 languages. I’d assume that new content is being continually produced for and by Tourism Ireland and I’d also assume all the existing content was to be ported across.  Yet Ireland.com is functionally poorer than DiscoverIreland. According to the tender documents DiscoverIreland.com “is available in 45 versions in 19 languages.”)  Why would you  not migrating 15 of your versions and 8 of your languages, that strikes me as very very strange?

Reading through the tender documents I wonder what the the people who put the tender together were thinking? My summary is “build us a visionary site around a CMS, directions to follow”. The tender could have done with an awful lot of work.  The people writing the tender could have done with some help. “Set a thief to catch a thief” and set someone with the expertise to help you put the right tender together. Sometimes what you don’t know will get you killed, other times you’ll look foolish.  When I think of the design and technology talent across this country, when I think of the products and services that people are bootstraping and building daily for a fraction of this cost the mind boggles.  Wasted opportunity and turd polishing just aren’t good enough. I’d love to see more. If anyone has any of the bid documents I’m dermot.casey (at) gmail.com