Stuff & Nonsense product and website design

How I imagined the Conservatives’ post-manifesto website could improve their messaging

The Conservatives launched their 2024 General Election manifesto. Its contents won’t come as any surprise to anyone who’s been following politics recently. Having no new ideas doesn’t mean their designers haven’t attempted to introduce a few of their own on the latest version of their website.

Left: Pre-manifesto website Right: Post-manifesto website.

At first glance, The Conservatives’ updated website design is a slight improvement over the pre-manifesto version I wrote about last week. But, it’s unlikely to inspire unbelievers, and the closer you look, the more you’ll notice there’s plenty of room for improvement.

With the campaign almost halfway through and their attempt to close the polling gap with Labour not moving the needle, The Conservatives have pivoted their messaging, telling voters that the world is a dangerous and scary place and they are the only party who can keep the country safe. To illustrate their point and continue the print metaphor, the new design includes a newspaper headlines montage, roughly cut-out text elements, and halftone images.

The Conservatives’ printed elements.

With its newspaper montage, the new header attempts to create an arresting image, but it’s let down by poor composition, sloppy typography, and an attempt to cram too many messages into the space. (I’m also made to wonder what part TV’s Angela Rippon plays in this dangerous and scary world?)

The Conservatives’ home page banner.

The header introduces a new typeface to The Conservatives’ palette, Abolition by Fort Foundry’s Mattox Shuler. Abolition isn’t a typeface used by any newspaper I know, and I’m curious why the designers chose not to use a condensed version of the Proxima Nova they used elsewhere.

The Conservatives’ home page banner. Top: Original. Bottom: Design transformation.

Below the banner, The Conservatives begin to explain the details of their plan, topped with a centred headline, full-width and centred-aligned paragraph, and a floating button. You see this pattern all over the web, I suspect because it’s common in frameworks, platforms, and visual website builders.

Commonplace it might be, but that doesn’t make it any less terrible. There are countless ways to arrange these three elements better. Just one option involves transforming the compact uppercase headline into a block and adding anchor lines around the button to structure the header.

The Conservatives’ panel. Top: Original. Bottom: Design transformation.

The current design of this panel header is made even worse when seen in context with the content it introduces. The Conservatives’ five tentpole policies are presented in a sideways scrolling section that pushes one or more policies off-screen, depending on their width. I can’t imagine they want to hide any policy, so a more effective layout would make them all visible.

The Conservatives’ panel

Arranging five equal-width elements onto a 12-column grid is difficult.

Design transformation

One possible solution is integrating the introduction into the 3x2 grid of topics. This reduces the vertical space needed, and their proximity binds the introduction and topics together.

Design transformation

The Tories might need a miracle to succeed on polling day, but they don’t have to call upon The Almighty to improve their design. All that would take is a few thoughtful changes and a little attention to detail. I constantly wonder why the design of political party websites—and plenty of others—is so poor. I don’t just mean their uninspiring images, lacklustre typography, and out-of-the-box layouts. I mean their inability to do what they’re designed to: engage an audience, communicate messages, and inspire people to act.

The Conservatives’ posters from previous campaigns

Like them or not—I don’t—The Conservatives have historically commissioned memorable messages like “Labour Isn’t Working” and impactful visuals like “Labour’s Tax Bombshell”for their posters and other media. Nothing about The Conservatives’ current design is memorable or impactful. And it’s not only The Conservatives who suck at this; it’s every political party website I’ve studied, and Labour’s website design is just as uninspiring.

I’m in no mood to help The Tories out, but I did wonder what I might do with their content, design assets, and messages. So, I used their colour and typography palette—including the newly introduced Abolition typeface—their 12-column grid and graphic assets. I made more of their print-inspired elements, used them to amp up their messaging, and restructured their content to give it a more visible hierarchy.

Transforming the Conservatives’ home page. Left: Original. Right: Design transformation.

Of course, I have no insight into The Conservatives’s messaging or strategy. I haven’t had to consider what may or may not be possible with their CMS, and I don’t have to answer to anyone if my assumptions are wrong.

Political websites should be designed to persuade, so I want to convince you that if you live in the Richmond and Northallerton constituency and Rishi Sunak is your MP, vote for Count Binface.

Written by Andy Clarke who tagged this with design, politics

Would you like advice and inspiration on making better designs for the web?

Every two weeks you’ll get design inspiration and insights on how to improve your design. View some recent emails, sign up today, and get:

    I promise never to share your email and you can unsubscribe with just one click.

    Get a free set of Layout Love grid templates if you sign up today.

    Hire me. I’m available for coaching and to work on design projects.