For simplicity’s sake, Landor’s US team compared the sites with the current Republican and Democratic sites at www.democrats.org and www.rnc.org, as the US parties’ election sites are no longer up and running. Landor has no political axes to grind, and has interpreted the sites solely on their design qualities.
Landor’s website: http://www.landor.com.
One of the first things that struck us as we reviewed the UK election sites was the Labour site. First, advertising on US political sites is unheard of, so we were surprised to see an ad for Unison, even though it is a trade union. Second, this is the only site we can remember that does not fill the space allocated to it by the browser. What is Labour saying here? That it doesn’t need a big pulpit? That it dares to be different? From a design standpoint, the layout is ill-suited to the browser window, and the execution seems unintentional.
Also, interestingly, the Labour graphics point to the right. In the US, Labour is usually associated with the left. Subliminally speaking, what’s the deal here? Using a dynamic element such as arrows is a good concept, but here they should move towards a destination within the interface and creative execution. Adding more meaning to the arrows to communicate visually would strengthen the site.
The metaphor of streets is fairly dated, but admittedly the US Republican metaphor of Main Street is much more pedestrian. The colour scheme used is generally pretty good, assuming red has meaning to the party.
In terms of navigation, the Labourites have ‘greyed out’ parts of their menu bar which should indicate they don’t function, when in fact they do. Fixing this would provide a more intuitive interface – and ensure that those checking out the site don’t pass over material without realising it.
Finally, where’s the brand? Overall, the lack of a strong, unified Labour brand proposition is evident.
Site design: The Wire Station
The Conservative Party site, by contrast, uses a good colour scheme and more of the consistent branding that is used throughout their other media, and which we expect to see. The site organisation, however, is a bit ‘jumpy’ and uses technology somewhat inappropriately. Are we really expected to sit through all 25 pledges with their small type while the headline cycles back and forth? These pledges should be on another page, with just headlines on the home page.
Site design: WebWorks>
The Referendum Party
The site for the Referendum Party is very tired. The colours are completely washed out. While delivering a ‘message’ to the users on a home page is good, the concept of a welcome letter is flat. Worse still, the letter doesn’t engage the audience or persuade it to go further into the site. Lack of graphic support further weakens the tired image. There is no branding in evidence, menus and navigation are inconsistent, and there are no other options for viewer feedback other than ‘I like it!’ Overall, pretty disappointing.
Site design: James Hall
Scottish National Party
The Scottish National Party is a good example of what we mean when we say: ‘Just because you can spin a logo doesn’t mean you should.’ In general, the technology in this site is overused and takes too long to download, and when it finally gets there you feel that it hasn’t been worth it – the overall graphic design is tired. The questionnaire is good.
Site design: in-house
Even though the Liberal Democrats have a confusing, animated title and ambiguous graphic on the home page (is that supposed to be a teacher?), the site is well branded and laid out in a pleasing, intuitive fashion. The site uses fairly good icons, although with the ‘Join Us’ symbol we wonder if we’d be joining a bunch of squares. Good use of the medium for applying to join the party and for feedback, although not clear on what the graphic of scientists means on the ‘Join Us’ page.
Site design: Thought Interactive
Contrast these sites with the US Democrats’ site, and clear distinctions are evident. While branding on all US political sites could improve, the pictures strongly support the headlines, the design is relatively clean and navigation throughout the site is clear (although the Kids Campaigns logo doesn’t fit the design). In contrast, the Republican National Committee’s site looks like Toyland and fails to communicate the image that the RNC possesses in its actions and media efforts.
Overall, design of the UK sites is considered ‘second-generation’ in that it is more concerned with icon use and strategy-indifferent technology than focusing on good design, information hierarchy and meaningful functionality.
When developing a website, as with any other interactive medium, it’s critical to quickly identify the site’s message and to whom the site should speak. It must be executed in an aesthetically pleasing environment so people can determine whether to read on. Just like any other brand, you need to determine who you want to speak to and what you want to say. Few of the UK sites exhibit these characteristics.