As well as doing better than expected in the polls, the Liberal Democrats website is best out of ten political party sites in the UK, with the Conservatives in second place, and Labour's site at number seven.
This is the verdict of a Webcredible study of UK party websites, which gives the Lib Dems' site 80%, while the Conservatives scored 67% and Labour on 48%.
We know already that the party leaders' websites are pretty poor, but it also seems that most political parties have a lot to learn about user experience, with an average score of just 50%, and only two sites scoring over 60%.
The study assessed the websites of ten political sites across a number of guidelines. Here are a few highlights...
One of the most important things that visitors to political websites are looking for are contact details; they may want to contact their local MP or candidate, or else join the party or volunteer to help.
Labour doesn't provide any email address, just a contact form which requires the name and addresses of users. The Tories do the same, but at least the site allows users to search for their local MP or candidate, providing contact numbers and email addresses for them.
The Liberal Democrats get full marks here, thanks to a prominent contact link at the top of the homepage and providing email and phone details for local party offices and MPs.
As on any e-commerce website a useful site search option can help users to find information if they can't access it by browsing, or else prefer to search by keyword.
No points here for Labour, as it doesn't have a site search option at all, at least not one that I can find. Both Conservative and Lib Dem sites do have the option, prominently displayed at the top right of the page.
The Lib Dem site doesn't cope well with spelling errors, meaning users have to start the search again:
The Conservative site recognises the same spelling error, and does at least offer some suggestions:
The average score for site search and presentation of results was 1.5 (out of five) and 1.6 respectively, so this is an area where there is plenty of room for improvement.
Listing key tasks on homepage
If visitors are arriving at these party sites with the intention of taking a particular course of action, such as joining, or are looking for policy information, it should be easy to find out where to go from the homepage.
This is an area where most websites are performing reasonably well. Of the three main parties, Labour and Conservatives both scored three out of five, with the Lib Dems gaining full marks.
Webcredible has assessed these homepages according to the five key tasks for visitors:
- Finding out about the party's policies.
- Finding out why to vote for the party.
- Getting information on party figures.
- Finding party news.
- Find out about campaigning/fundraising/volunteering.
While the Labour and Conservative homepages mark it hard to find information about party figures, the Lib Dem homepage provides an excellent example, providing all of this key information clearly, and above the fold. It also uses photos and icons to make this key information more clearly visible.