Build up to the General Election – Part 1 – The Conservatives

The run up to the general election this summer has inspired a collection of blog posts looking at how successfully each of the main political parties are using their websites to communicate their key messages and acquire support.

Although much of their digital activity is expected to take place on social networking sites, the websites are still an important hub of information – they must explain their policies and what they stand for clearly and concisely, help the user find their local representative and who they could ultimately vote for and give ways to support the party in the build up to the election.

Part 1: The Conservative Party – www.conservatives.com

Conservative homepage

The homepage is dominated by rotating, high quality images displaying prominent campaign messages and linking to videos and news stories. This is regularly updated and primarily focuses on David Cameron speaking in various situations. I’m left with the impression that Cameron is out there, passionately campaigning every day.  In an election where personality is likely to play a major role for the Tories, the website is doing a good job of presenting Cameron as a pro-active, confident leader.

‘What we stand for’ is clearly shown in the centre of the homepage as five numbered points, expanding to show a short paragraph. They are easily understood but not supported with links to further content to substantiate the ideas. Policies are shown lower down in the homepage, one at a time.  A drop down box offers quick links to other policies but it isn’t clear that this updates the space on the homepage.  The positioning of the link to more detail alongside the dropdown suggests they are related which is not the case and I initially missed the link completely.

I find the policy pages via main navigation – they are structured by policy category, ordered alphabetically making it easy to find specific areas of interest. Policy pages themselves are text heavy and littered with campaign slogans which I personally find off-putting. They could be improved by providing highlights at the top before launching into the detail. However, they do include videos which are more engaging.

Next I look at how easy it is to get involved with their election campaign. The most obvious action on the homepage is a large button giving me the option to ‘donate now’.  Separately, the Start Campaigning section on the homepage offers some action points. Most of these are vague or localised and irrelevant to me e.g. ‘telecanvassing voters in Pendle’.  However, reading the detail, I can see this takes me to ‘a new online networking site making it easier to campaign and donate’.   In fact, most of the practical aspects of support are handled on their Facebook pages and not on their main website.  Their social networking presence is impressive. Links are given for Twitter, YouTube, Delicious and Flickr. Clearly they see a huge opportunity in social networking sites, as did Obama in his presidential campaign.

Finally, I use the homepage postcode search to find my local candidate. I’m given a name and contact details along with a link to their CV and what they personally stand for. This is the type of information I’m expecting and I feel like I understand my local candidate and know how to find out more about him.

Summary

The Conservatives have an up-to-date, well organised site that portrays the key information clearly on the homepage. Aside from showing the core policy information, the role of the site is primarily to pull together their various campaigns run through social networking sites. The website successfully signposts out to each site, creating a positive impression of constant activity and campaigning. The site sets the Conservatives apart from their past image, giving the impression of a slick, modern and technologically advanced Party.

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