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Election '05: Labour tops campaign website study

Parties criticised for "style over substance" and navigation issues
Written by Andy McCue, Contributor on

Parties criticised for "style over substance" and navigation issues

The Labour Party has delivered a blow to rival parties in the run up to election polling day next week by topping a study of the best political websites.

The exclusive research conducted for silicon.com by the Usability Company puts Labour first, the Conservatives second, the Liberal Democrats third, closely followed by the Green Party and Robert Kilroy-Silk's Veritas Party.

But although the study - which assessed both usability and accessibility of the campaign websites - credits the Labour Party's slick website, the Usability Company found it was a disappointing case of style over substance across all the party websites.

Jennifer Thomson, usability specialist at the Usability Company, said: "While the display of and use of content is exemplary on the Labour Party’s site, it feels very basic, shallow and as if there simply isn't a lot to it."

Labour scored well on accessibility too with the only let down being that the manifesto was not offered in HTML or Word format.

The Conservative website takes a more standard format but the study found it "sparse" and often confusing, displaying Tony Blair's image more often than Tory leader Michael Howard's.

"It is all too easy to forget which party's site you’re looking at as Tony Blair's photo is displayed several times throughout the site - including the flash banner on every single page," said Thomson.

The text on the Conservative website also came in for criticism for being too small - 8.5 font - and Thomson said: "This font size is difficult to read, makes it tedious to look at the site and means that nothing really stands out on the pages."

The Liberal Democrats, on first appearance, have a glossy and engaging website but the study found it was let down by "confusing" and "overwhelming" navigation issues. On accessibility the Lib Dem party colours work against it with white text on a yellow background making for a poorly contrasting and difficult-to-read combination.

The Green Party site came in for criticism over lack of content and frustrating navigation while Kilroy-Silk's Veritas Party website had a religious rather than political feel to it.

"The first impression of this site is that it is not actually a political party's site but instead either a religious site recruiting members with its 'Join us, and together we can do it' link; or an infomercial site with its swirling purple background and a glamour pose of Robert Kilroy-Silk," said Thomson.

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