Maman Poulet | Clucking away crookedly through media, politics and life

Cheap Job, Badly Done.

April 19th, 2009 · 11 Comments · Blogging, Irish Politics, Social Media

Sunday morning and Fine Gael are still trying to bury the story of their new website and the fact it’s design is unoriginal and actually awful looking and fails to improve on previous offerings except we can now see Enda Kenny’s videos.

Following the ‘launch‘ of the Fianna Fáil website last month the word reached us that Fine Gael were planning a new site. In fact it was Steph (later to become star code investigator!) who found this out when she met Enda Kenny while he was out canvassing with Senator Paschal Donohue. Fine Gael at the time of FF launch criticised the party for their use of services outside the state.

The new Fine Gael Website when we discovered it used the design of the BBC Website – in fact the IT manager of Fine Gael advertised on a freelance recruitment site specifiying what he was looking for.

Hi out there,

I am looking for a freelancer who is able to do some ground work for a new website.
I will give you a example of what I am looking for:

http://www.bbc.co.uk (only the start page)

I prefer the same kind of functionality:
Users must be able to set their own layout and information.
All displayed content must be PHP + mySql driven

This is more a scripting job as we have our own graphic designers

If you are that person please contact me ASAP!

‘Raincheck’ (later identified as Rick Bisschop, FG IT manager), hired Alexey from Perm State Technical University who completed several jobs for Fine Gael and FG’s IT manager wrote a number of recommendations.

It was a pleasure to work with Alexey. He did a nice js, ajax + php project for me with-in the agreed time frame. Good communications and a very flexible attitude. I will and can highly recommend Alexey as your freelancer. We are continuing our work relationship with new projects. Regards Rick Bisschop IT manager Fine Gael Dublin, Ireland

and another recommendation last week

Again fantastic work, excellent communication skills! I can and will recommend Rulon! – Rating 10 out of 10…

4 hours after the initial revelation that there was BBC code all over the new FG website design Enda sent an email to members and subscribers – 6.26pm in the evening. It was rather hurried as I pointed to when I posted it on Thursday night.

Later that night FG were contacted by David Cochrane from Politics.ie and they denied that the new website was a ‘direct copy’ of the BBC site.  Careful use of the word direct there.  Ciaran Conlon also said that the site found by me and  ‘that some people have viewed at the .org address is not necessarily what people will see tomorrow’.  Not necessarily? Another careful use of terminology.

However by this stage Steph had released examples of code, a video of how it was discovered and closed the case on the fact that the site design was a rip off.

We also had bloggers find links to the advertisements from Fine Gael staff on freelance websites and the fact that someone based in Russia had done work on the new project!

The finegael.org  site was taken down on Thursday night and scrubbed of the BBC code before the ‘official’ launch at 11am on Friday morning.  And the new site on finegael.ie was very much looking the same as the one we saw on finegael.org the previous day minus the bits of code which were blatant lifts from the BBC site (including a reference to the weather!)

Fine Gael when they did reply to queries (to both an email from Steph and the contact from David Cochrane) were busy stating this was an internally handled project and outlining all the features on the site.

This is an organisation that spent over €12million in 2006 and 2007 according to the annual report/Clár which they could not even put on-line for their ?rd Fheis and I uploaded for use earlier this month! The new website project seems like a job done on the cheap.

FG say that only 5 percent of the site work was conducted in Russia. If Alexey in Russia did the coding (and not so well it seems!) for the site how much design work remained on the site apart from feeding content in and inserting the pictures and new logo?

I’m wondering what sort of testing the new website has undergone – does it work with screen readers?

Again like the Fianna Fáil website this site was launched without being fully completed. How easy is it to find information including contact information for the organisation or it’s elected officials?

How many non techsavvy people tested the new design out before it was launched and gave their feedback? How open are the party to receiving feedback from web developers and on-line communication experts? (Not very if Page 2 of this mornings Sunday Tribune is to be believed)

This story is no longer about Fine Gael being caught copying BBC code for it’s website design.

Above all this incident is about the second biggest party in the state and another example of it’s lack of serious commitment to on-line engagement with voters in the country,  a lack of faith in Irish based web developers, and no imagination in the excuse making department either!

I know many commentators are fed up listening to Irish politicians invoke Obama when talking about online engagement and voters . We need not worry about Fine Gael – they are so far from Obama’s technological savvy here that they will not be tarred with the brush of Obama Juice seeking.

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