Political party interweb skillz, compared

25 April 2015 »

Tags: digital politics


It's general election time, and seven parties have set out their plans to run the country. But can any of them even manage to run a website?


The 2015 general election is nearly upon us. Running the country is a pretty big job, so I thought we should check out how the main parties are doing on something a bit easier first. Like, say, running a website. To keep it brief we’ll look at three things:

  1. Can they handle security? Properly implemented security protects your data from eavesdroppers and helps you know a website is genuine.
  2. Can they build a website that works on mobiles and tablets? Six in ten of us have a smartphone, and four in ten have a tablet, so responsive design is a must.
  3. Can they publish their manifesto in a digital-first format? Think Quartz or Medium, not frustratedly scrolling around a facsimile of a printed page.

Whatever your politics, it’s fair to say the digital experience is somewhat underwhelming. The biggest offense by far is the unanimous choice of PDF as the primary vehicle for publishing manifestos. This makes it materially harder to find out, first hand, the detail of what the parties are actually offering to voters. Either they don’t realise this (bad), or they don’t care (worse).

If you want to play along at home, I used the Symantec SSL Toolbox and the Google Mobile-Friendly Test Tool as well as taking a good look under the hood. If you’re really keen on digging into the detail then BuiltWith is also worth a visit.

Conservatives

https://www.conservatives.com

  • Security: Defaults to https, with extended validation.
  • Mobile: Responsive. Passes the Google mobile-friendly test. Looks pretty slick.
  • Manifesto: PDF and embedded PDF. Additional option to get personalised info, but only if you hand over your Facebook data in return.

Verdict: 4/10. So near, and yet so far.

Labour

http://www.labour.org.uk

  • Security: Defaults to http. There’s an incorrectly installed certificate (Akami) over https.
  • Mobile: Responsive. Passes the Google mobile-friendly test. A little bit clunky in parts.
  • Manifesto: PDF. You can also browse a summary online, organised by theme.

Verdict: 5/10. Special mention for hiding ASCII art in the source code.

Lib Dems

http://www.libdems.org.uk

  • Security: Defaults to http. There’s an incorrectly installed certificate (Nationbuilder) over https.
  • Mobile: Responsive. Passes the Google mobile-friendly test.
  • Manifesto: PDF, Easy Read, Braille, audio, Word and plain text. You can also browse a summary online, organised by theme.

Verdict: 6/10. If you’re going to put a digital bill of rights in your manifesto then you might want to sort out https on your website.

Green Party

https://www.greenparty.org.uk

  • Security: Defaults to https.
  • Mobile: Responsive. Passes the Google mobile-friendly test.
  • Manifesto: PDF and embedded PDF (abridged), British Sign Language, Easy Read, Braille and audio.

Verdict: 6/10. Good effort. Give us the full manifesto in HTML next time?

SNP

http://www.snp.org

  • Security: Defaults to http. Unavailable over https.
  • Mobile: Total disaster zone. Fails the Google mobile-friendly test (text too small to read, links too close together, mobile viewport not set, content wider than screen).
  • Manifesto: PDF.

Verdict: 1/10. There’s only one word for this: embarrassing.

Plaid Cymru

https://www.plaid.cymru

  • Security: Defaults to https.
  • Mobile: Also a disaster zone. Fails the Google mobile-friendly test (text too small to read, links too close together, mobile viewport not set, content wider than screen).
  • Manifesto: PDF, Easy Read and audio.

Verdict: 3/10. I’ve awarded a bonus point for matching Welsh and English language domains (plaid.cymru and partyof.wales, respectively), which is pretty cute.

UKIP

http://www.ukip.org

  • Security: Defaults to http. There’s an incorrectly installed certificate (Nationbuilder) over https.
  • Mobile: Responsive. Passes the Google mobile-friendly test. Looks and feels like amateur hour, though.
  • Manifesto: PDF and embedded PDF.

Verdict: 2/10. Special mention for misplacing their domain earlier in the year.

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