St Patrick’s website

The Birmingham St Patrick’s Festival has a new website, proudly launched last month.


Given that this represents one of the major cultural celebrations in the city, one which has been claimed to be one of the largest outside of New York (if I remember rightly) I’d be interested to hear what you all think.


  1. Well, this site hails back to the 20th century! In internet terms that’s a long time ago. The opening page – when does it stop loading? Oh, I see, you’re supposed to ignore the rotating graphics and click through.

    Then the contact link. No link, you have to go to the link page to access it. And when you do!

    Then there’s the frame design, haven’t seen one of those for a long time.

    I think the “largest outside of New York” moniker is rather like the canal comparison with Venice. Few people in the rest of the country seem to know that Birmingham has a large Irish community. Perhaps it’s because there is isn’t the religious angst in Birmingham that exists in Liverpool and Glasgow and represented by their football teams.

  2. Hard on the eyes; green and yellow text on splash page (blee); criminal use of yellow text on a white background (exacerbated by the black drop shadow); naff animated gifs; green text on green background for headers and sidebar menus; three different colours of text used in the body; incomplete content (at least indicate that something’s going to be added if you’re going to include headings without sub-content) and a lack of visual voice or identity appropriately representing the event and the vibrant Irish community.

    Need I say more?

  3. Oh dear. Considering this is probably Birmingham’s largest cultural event (and subsequently a huge pull for tourism) shouldn’t this have had some input from the council? I’d be up for bringing it up to speed, but I really think it’s more of an issue of the Council recognising what’s important in Birmingham’s attempt to reach out the wider world. This is especially important if the Eastside is going to be any success.


    If you work at any of these companies, have a word?

    Feels like nobudgetitis.

    A stark contrast to this £400 million story.

    Perhaps it’s someone going off on their own and getting frustrated by nobody helping them get the site funded. Who knows?

    Either way, it’s depressingly poor in its amateur execution, lacks design quality, makes bad use of technology, fails on usability, accessibility and readability measures, and does nothing to help anything other than raise awareness that another cultural component of the city is being mismanaged.

    For a moment there I thought we were onto a sea-change in the people in the city ‘getting it’ when it comes to using the web…

    Guys. Start again – get a blog set up with a default template, change the photo at the top and you’re done.

  5. Okay – so that was a bit harsh perhaps.

    Just as a bit of a demo of what I’m talking about, here’s a site I’ve mocked up based on that suggestion in a couple of minutes.

    If any of the organisers are interested in trying it out or commenters want to put their money where their mouths are on this issue, leave a comment on the site or email me and I will upgrade you to an admin user so you can all edit it.

    Photo by Martin OC – under a Creative Commons licence:

    Over to you. Happy to delete the thing if it’s no use. Just let me know.

  6. Oh dear, Oh dear, Oh dear! Typographic Irish cliches. No sophistication. No imagination. All it lacks are the Leprechauns. I can’t imaging that this is how the Irish see themselves – there again, presumably they do if the Festival Okay-ed this website. But why? Lack of budget has no effect on the typefaces used – a good one cost no more than a bad one! If Ireland has the youngest population in Europe what is this website doing using typographic solutions that are as old as the hills?

  7. Others might have done too but I’ve passed on comments and offer in the direction of the organisers. Message should reach the right folk tomorrow morning.

  8. Budget or no budget this is a poor effort. Even on a shoestring it’s not hard to use some available resources such as Stef demonstrated with WordPress to produce a respectable site for this event. If Birmingham’s cultural community has learnt anything in the last 12 months surely this blog alone can be a guiding light? Community supplied content will drive a technically sound, usable website where a lack of budget cannot stretch to a more considered design. Unfortunately this site appears to be the work of someone working separated from Birmingham’s creative community and left unsupported because of it. But its not too late to fix this.

  9. dp

    It looks like all that’s needed is for someone to step forward and offer some assistance. The guest book has some similar comments and a response about joining the committee. I take that to mean that a bit of neighbourly outreach by Birmingham’s creative community would be the right thing to do. They’ve clearly got funding, so it’s probably not a matter of buying in the talent. In that case, it may be more about developing a relationship.

  10. As the website administrator of our website I take to heart all the ill feeling directed at our website. Yes it could be better. Yes it is done on a shoestring – basically sod all. As I work full time I have to work on this during my spare time and new to webdesign. I have used Serif webplus 10 software to produce the website. I am one person in a team of five who organise the Festival (including the parade). Input and assisstance from the rest of the community would be welcomed. Professionally web designers would be welcomed but finances are limited. Anyway, at least you’re visiting our website even if you don’t like it.

  11. Thanks for the comment plasticbrummie. I hope you don’t take this all as a personal attack on you and the team. What really strikes me as strange is how the City (with a capital C) can push the festival as being a major part of the city’s calendar but not give you any support in this regard. Not necessarily with money but by noticing you’ve got a problem here which could easily be sorted by hooking you up with the right people. I’m sure there are tech-minded members of the Irish community who’d be happy to put together a basic website pro bono. I remember the website last year being a rather confusing too so this isn’t a new thing.

    Maybe what we need is a sort of dating site to match up non-profit orgs with web designers who need to boost their portfolios?

  12. dp

    @Pete: ‘Maybe what we need is a sort of dating site to match up non-profit orgs with web designers’

    Yes please. Given that there are some good resources for the DIY crowd (e.g. OpenAdvantage), and WordPress), but still a very big gap between the number of groups that would benefit from a combination of formal and informal technical advice, any kind of access to people with answers would be a very good thing. Just think of a few favourite local festivals and events over the past few years. How many of them could have done a lot more with a bit of technical support?

  13. Back in the day I used to support NP organisations like this with sites built in Frontier/Manila – we’d host them for free, source an appropriately priced designer to do a deal on building the site or going beyond the templates, and hand-hold the org through administering it. As Stef’s shown, these days WP, Blogger et al all do the job superbly. Throw in Flickr for photos and any number of other specialist services that seem appropriate (Google Maps for the Parade I would have thought), and you’ve got a functioning and credible basis for building an online presence in even less than 4 hours I’d guess.

    Anyhoo, as someone who’s done a lot of this kind of thing I’m up for helping in some way, even if it’s just with advice, but there seems to be no shortage of people here who are more than capable of that. To reinforce Pete’s sentiment: Criticism of the StP’sDay site is not a criticism of the individuals involved, but if something is promoted as representing a whole community or city, it needs to be of an appropriate standard.

  14. @plasticbrummie I’ve sent you a long-ish email with the login details to that demo site as well as some instructions on adding news stories and pages.

    And if you want to delete the site there is a link at the bottom of that email on how to do it.

    Just to reiterate, my comments above were born out of frustration, not malice.

    “Nobudgetitis” looks like the correct diagnosis!

  15. pd

    In 2004 I spent a couple of hours fixing the navigation on this site – so it was valid xhtml/css (try it in a non internet explorer browser). The ‘webmaster’ said thanks but I’m going to keep it as it is along with this message
    LOL! – it’s not my site it’s your browser and the w3c that are wrong! I decided not to join Pushbikes. This site still gets updated even though someone with sense has set up

  16. @pd – the (former ?) webmaster of the pushbikes site is somebody whose reputation for being convinced he’s right & the rest of the world is wrong goes back over 10 years.

    i remember one memorable posting from him to the old newsgroup uk.local.birmingham where he was slating microsoft for windows crashing on him (back in the day of windows 3.11). turned out he had completely rearranged his file system so all the executable files were in a folder ‘exes’, all the dll files were in a folder ‘dlls’, all the jpg files were in a folder ‘jpgs’ etc. you get the picture.

  17. I wrote – in a personal capacity – to the organisers in 2002, offering them free advice on improving the accessibility of their then website. At my instigation, so did Julie Howell, then of the RNIB. I received a curt reply from the festival organisers, suggesting I “come up to Birmingham” and do the work myself. To the best of my knowledge, none of the recommended changes (such as using meaningful alt text) were made.

  18. Karen

    Hi everyone
    Thank you for your comments and I hope you enjoyed the Parade yesterday. We, as a voluntary committee, appreciate your input. As my colleague said earlier we don’t have a budget for this and we aren’t experts – we wanted to get the information out there. We have received correspondance from Louis as mentioned above and at our debrief we will look seriously into this. In the meantime we look forward to seeing you all at an event soon.

Comments are closed.