A review of the websites of the UK political parties in the run up to the general election
The gold standard of political campaigning in the UK is still Labour's 1997 campaign. But Labour has been surprisingly ineffective in updating these campaigning principles for the digital world. Their first page is not the home page, but a form requesting your e-mail address. The button to skip that and go to the home page can only be found by scrolling. The Greens - the only other party to try data capture on their front page - are much cannier, offering visitors the chance to send a vaguely amusing e-card to a friend, thus offering an incentive to enter your e-mail address and your friend's.
On entering Labour's site, it seems to be more about getting money and information from the surfer, rather than offering people reasons to vote Labour, though there is a rather clever map that enables you to find out what Labour has achieved in your area. The Party that pioneered the six point pledge card offers nothing so snappy this time. A list of news releases is buried at the fourth tier of the site and laid out in the dullest manner imaginable. On the positive side, there is a wealth of information on the site, including a list of Labour's top 50 achievements. labour.org.uk 5/10
The Conservatives, by contrast, include a five point pledge card on the home page, alongside their top news story. Other news stories are easily found on the front page, and available as text or video downloads. The site is easier to use and gets straight to the point of why you might want to support the Conservatives, before asking you for money. conservatives.com 8/10
The LibDems do include news on the front page, but their version of the pledge card "ten reasons to vote Liberal Democrat" is rather harder to find. Ten reasons is arguably a bit many, but perhaps the party is gambling that visitors to its site will form a more sophisticated audience than voters canvassed on the doorstep - for whom Labour originally designed the pledge card. libdems.org.uk 7/10
Of the three major parties, the Conservatives win for interactivity and delivery of core messages, and the LibDems win on design. Overall the most attractive home page design is Sinn Fein's, though it gets weaker as you dig deeper into the site. The wooden spoon goes to Plaid Cymru. A simple English/Cymraeg choice as you enter the site, instead of repeating every page bilingually, would improve it 100%.