IE7 causes problems for travel websites

The arrival of Internet Explorer 7 as the main browser for users could see some leading travel websites facing serious problems with functionality and accessibility.

An in-depth study carried out by a usability expert at the one of the UK’s big four tour operators, which has been leaked to Travolution, revealed a catalogue of errors affecting sites just months ahead of what is expected to be a massive increase in the number of people using IE7.

Problems encountered included security warnings against using sites, lengthy delays as pages loaded into the browser and a string of difficulties with reading text and viewing images. Of the sites examined, only three – Expedia, EasyJet and – were found to be “functioning normally”, according to the report’s author.

The study, which was carried out in two so-called mock environments, a typical office set-up (high security and firewalls) and home user (lower security), found that four of the sites had problems with misaligned text and overlapping of backgrounds.

Booking and other forms of functionality on the four sites – Thomas Cook, First Choice, Bmibaby and Teletext – would not be “seriously affected” by a switch by users to IE7, the report found.

However, three other sites examined in the test, which was also run on rival browser Firefox, were found to have a number of serious technical hitches with IE7.

Some pages on failed to show prices for products and content often flowed into skyscraper advertising slots, the study found.

Users trying to complete bookings on Opodo could find themselves faced with full-page security warnings about the site, while some payment pages for Thomson failed to load within a 15-minute timeframe.

The report concluded a reason for the severe warning could be the addition of new anti-phishing features on IE7, which have been “designed to report malicious websites”.

IE7 is Microsoft’s attempt to re-establish its dominance after Firefox helped to reduce IE6’s share of the market to around 80% this year.

Consumers are expected to start automatically receiving the browser in the next few months, as part of a regular software update from Microsoft. All new PCs with the new version of its operating system, Vista, will also have IE7 pre-loaded.

The author of the report said: “At a time when every major travel agent is driving more and more of their business online, the last thing the industry needs is the IT equivalent of the summer of 2006. Yet this is what we may be facing as Microsoft releases IE7.”, Thomson and Opodo all said work is continuing to ensure compatibility before a full roll-out of IE7.

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