Party political 'con' fab

(Ed says: Enough of politics Malarkey, this blog is about design!) I usually refrain from commenting on other designers' work but in this case I thought I'd cast a critical eye on the design of a few UK political party web sites.

With less than a month to go until the General Election, here in the UK you can't seem to get away from inanely grinning politicos squeezing palms and kissing babies for the cameras. Hell, if Alex was still of a kissable age, I'd be locking him in the house until May 6th! (Ed says: Enough of politics Malarkey, this blog is about design!)

OK, let's talk about design

Without dwelling on political agendas, negative campaigning or the relentless sniping at the opposition (Ed says: I've warned you once!), I have so far been dictinctly underwhelmed by the design quality of the party's campaign materials. Now I usually refrain from commenting on other designers' work (unless I'm awarding a Web Standards Awards star) but in this case I thought I'd cast a critical eye on the visual design of a few UK political party web sites. I started by getting a bunch of links from the BBC election site.

Party web sites montageParty web sites montage: JPG (410Kb)

It's clear from the montage that as expected the main parties have poured more resources into their campaign sites and the results are infinately slicker than minority parties with lesser access to donor millions. The three main national party sites (Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats) are all more finely honed, although the LibDems site still retains an almost charming understated feel. In contrast, among the minor parties all retain a happy activist look and lack both the gloss or attention to detail found on the major sites.

Aha! I hear you say, But quality comes at a price. Well while this may be true, but I would have hoped that at this time in the political cycle and with many voters dissatisfied with the state of their political representation, that the minor parties would have upped their game.

However large or small their organisations or how deep their pockets, all the sites seem to me to lack that killer punch which I would have expected at such a time. Most seem to focus on the features of their star (sic) players rather than the benefits to us 'customers' of electing them. I've seen more imaginative, well targetted sites which sell washing powder or sofas than I have in this brief look at political parties. Overall, I'm disappointed.

A bunch of links

Over to you

What do you think? Am I being too critical, too cynical? Have I missed the point? And what political sites have you seen (or worked on) which you feel are great examples of the medium?


  1. #1 On April 14, 2005 01:02 AM Jon Clark said:

    Yeah, it seems as though there are hardly any pictures of normal citizens on any of the front pages. Because of this, a lot of the visitors to the sites may feel a bit alienated. Just a little observation.

  2. #2 On April 14, 2005 01:18 AM jordan said:

    Your description of the political condition is reminiscent of our (US) election last year... very few people were happy with the major parties, but the minor parties failed to capture the public imagination.

    On the webpage front, you're right - it does seem that the smaller sites aren't quite as classy. It's a bit disturbing how the Conservative party enjoys making Mr Blair look like he's evil by always capturing the odd grin and pointed/arched brows...

  3. #3 On April 14, 2005 09:18 AM paul haine said:

    I think it's interesting that both Labour and the Conservatives have pictures of Tony Blair on their front pages.

  4. #4 On April 14, 2005 11:01 AM pixeldiva said:

    A potentially more interesting question would be:

    ... are they accessible?

  5. #5 On April 14, 2005 11:11 AM Paul Livingstone said:

    I think it's typical of the Conservative party to dedicate a vast amount of their home page to the demonisation of Tony Blair, whilst the remainder of the party sites choose to focus on politcal agenda.

    I'm also pretty dissapointed to see that the SNP's website falls firmly on it's arse in terms of disability access. Disable the style-sheet and behold a multitude of sins.

  6. #6 On April 14, 2005 11:17 AM Paul Livingstone said:

    Oh and the SNP's website is managed by the open source CMS, Plone. Which I think is interesting.

  7. #7 On April 14, 2005 06:38 PM Schultzy said:

    I noticed when I started accessibility all the political parties are not accessible.

    That and they where all terrible and they had just inforced the law about accessibility in the Uk.

  8. #8 On April 15, 2005 02:22 PM dotjay said:

    AbilityNet seem to think Labour have the edge in terms of Web Accessibility: eNation report #7.