Political Web sites not pulling in voters

Political party Web sites have failed to comply with usability guidelines, according to research from the interactive system design company The Hiser Group, who said that the six major political party sites are failing to attract the swinging voter. The group said in a statement released today that the parties need to "seriously rethink how they present their information", as it claims voters are increasingly turning to the Internet to aid in making voting decisions.

Political party Web sites have failed to comply with usability guidelines, according to research from the interactive system design company The Hiser Group, who said that the six major political party sites are failing to attract the swinging voter.

The group said in a statement released today that the parties need to "seriously rethink how they present their information", as it claims voters are increasingly turning to the Internet to aid in making voting decisions.

The six parties whose Web sites were evaluated include the Australian Democrats, Australian Greens, Australian Labor Party, Liberal Party of Australia, The Nationals and One Nation, with Hiser checking for usefulness and usability.

"Though political party Web sites are rarely the sole factor driving voters' preferences, these sites do play an important role in filling in some of the gaps in loyal voters' and more importantly in swinging voters' minds," said The Hiser Group's managing director, Susan Wolfe.

Wolfe said that all the sites -- with a small exception in regards to the Labor Party Web site -- are letting swinging voters down, which she said "translates to losing an opportunity to gain another vote for them."

"These sites should be tailored to assist people better understand the particular parties," said Wolfe.

The research was undertaken in March and April of this year by impartial voters trawling the sites for information useful to helping them decide which party to vote for.

Hiser claims the results of the research indicate that all sites failed in even the most basic usability guidelines and good practice.

It stated, "The sites often made it hard for users to find policies on particular topics due to poor information design, such as structure and labelling, and poor interaction and visual design, where it was unclear where links were taking the user."

The study also showed that most of the sites did not provide usability features for blind users, such as text-to-speech screen readers.

"This failure to comply with W3C [World Wide Web Consortium] and Australian guidelines is in direct conflict with the government's stated obligation to provide information and services to all users," said Wolfe.

"While parties are not currently serving to address the needs of the voting community, there's ample opportunity for one party to demonstrate leadership and provide a good experience to attract swinging voters. It will be interesting to see which political party will take up the challenge."

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