I first visited Ireland around this time eight years ago, for St. Patrick’s Day 2012. It did not take me long to fall in love with the place. Since then, I have revisited Ireland other times, lived there for about a year and a half, and been around most of the country. As a result, my Irish experience has been a mixture of thrills and disappointments.
When I recently revisited Ireland around the same time that the Coronavirus outbreak started, I once again had mixed feelings. Many things were really nice, but I wasn’t spared any disappointments.
As part of the Sorry State of the Web series, in which I promote good web development practices by illustrating bad ones, I will focus on websites (and other technology services) I came across during my research for this trip. Other things that annoyed me, such as cafes charging you an extra 2 Euros just to toast your sandwich, will be out of scope.
The Aran Islands may be beautiful, but their website could have been better.
In fact, they did make it better by fixing this problem with ampersand HTML entities showing within the page.
Insecure WiFi at Penneys
Penneys, the chain of department stores that you might otherwise recognise as Primark in the UK, offers free WiFi to their customers.
Unfortunately, given that you need to join the WiFi via an endpoint that does not come with a proper SSL certificate, it is not only useless, but plain risky for customers to use.
Secret Valley Wildlife Park
The Secret Valley Wildlife Park website has a number of issues.
For starters, some of the links at the bottom (i.e. Terms & Conditions, Privacy, and Cookies) don’t work. The cursor doesn’t even turn into a pointer, and if you look at the HTML, it seems they put anchor tags without
On the Animals page, images take ages to load because they used huge images in the page without using thumbnails (see also: The Shameful Web of April 2017 (Part 1)). If you’re including large images in a page, always use small versions and link to the larger version.
There also seems to be a problem with HTTPS… we’ll get to that too.
Going on the online booking system (which is what we care about when it comes to HTTPS, since sensitive information is involved), we see that HTTPS looks okay so far. They also used to have a test ticket type that I’m happy to see has been removed. In fact, they recently updated this page with a plea for funds since Coronavirus is messing up their business (understandably).
Unfortunately, when you proceed to the next step and are about to book a ticket, the connection suddenly isn’t secure any more. It’s a small mixed content problem because of an image, but the problem is that it undermines the trust that people have in such websites (when it comes to keeping their sensitive financial data secure), and can potentially have security-related consequences.
So while I sympathise with Secret Valley (and so many others affected by the Coronavirus), it’s also important to keep your data safe. By all means, send them money, but do it using alternative, secure means.
The M50 Toll
If you’re going to be renting a car in Dublin and using it to drive around the country, one of the things you’re going to have to do is pay the toll on the M50 motorway. The M50 uses a barrier-free toll system that can be paid online by 8pm on the next day.
While the close deadline is a little annoying, being able to pay it online is quite convenient… when it works.
In this case, the system just didn’t want to work, although I tried several times. This can happen, but what is a little worrying here is that I don’t think those details about the error (the XML-like thing) should be disclosed to the customer.
Blackrock Castle Observatory
If you like science, then Blackrock Castle Observatory is a great place to visit. They have a lot of interactive exhibits that explain concepts from astronomy and science in general:
Wait… what’s that at the bottom-right, where the arrow is pointing? Let’s take a closer look:
Uh oh… someone didn’t activate Windows! That’s quite embarrassing, and can be seen on several of their exhibits.
Although Ireland will always have a special place in my heart, it hasn’t spared me any disappointments, both in terms of the service I received in various places as a tourist, but also on websites and other technology-related services.
This article, like others in the same series, is an educational exercise aimed at improving technology standards, especially on the web which so many people come in contact with. The aim is to learn from this and provide a better service, so I hope that nobody is offended, particularly in this difficult time.
Instead, I hope that in such times, when we depend on technology so much more, we can overcome these obvious problems and use technology safely and reliably to reduce the burden of living in a difficult situation as much as possible.
With the Coronavirus currently devastating health, economy, tourism and peace of mind across the world, we need to be safe, help each other, and show empathy because so many people are affected in different ways.