Political Web Site Design Builds Easy Sites – Not Minotaur-Filled Mazes
Usability is important for any website for a simple reason; if your supporters can't browse your site to easily find information then your site is useless. Usability simply means making your political web site design work in a way that is easy for your visitors and supporters to find the information they need when they need it.
Far too many candidates and organizations think that a site with clean, smooth usability is going to be expensive. While there are some organizations and candidates that will spend thousands of dollars on tests to ensure that a site is usable, that kind of functionality can be achieved without expensive experts and extensive testing. There are some simple guidelines you can follow with political web site design to ensure that your designers build your online presence with usability in mind.
Political Web Site Design Usability Tip #1 – The Tagline
For a commercial business, the tagline is the motto or simple statement by the company or organization on the homepage. It is meant to describe their site and their business in a simple phrase. Even as a political website, you have just 8 seconds to capture the attention of the average visitor (whether you're a group or a high power political candidate) so a strong tagline is the hook you need to keep them engaged just a little longer.
Without a strong tag line you'll have a hard time keeping visitors around.
Political Web Site Design Usability Tip #2 – Site Search
The longer your site is up, the more information and data you'll accumulate. This is especially true for political web site design. Even with carefully structured navigation you'll have a lot of deep pages and buried content. As more information surfaces and campaigns change, old content is shuffled to the back. Site search makes it easy for your visitors to see that old content within the archives without having to manually dig for long periods.
A search box should be at the top of the website above the fold. The button should clearly be labeled “search” so visitors understand the purpose of inputting text and hitting the submit button.
Political Web Site Design Usability Tip #3 – Avoid Extensive Images
Simply put, abusive use of design elements and graphics are always bad for a website. Not only can they bog down load times but many times the graphics are a distraction that only misleads visitors and supports. Not only do they distract from your call to action but they serve no real purpose and provide no value other than eye candy. Eye candy doesn't win donor support for your group or campaign. From a usability standpoint, less is always more. Political web design is about balance.
Political Web Site Design Usability Tip #4 – Site Maps
Site maps are designed to improve navigation and make content easy to find, but the greater bonus with site maps is to ensure the crawlability of your deeper pages for SEO purposes. If you rely on optimization as mark of your campaign marketing then a site map is an integral part of your political web site design.
Political Web Site Design Usability Tip #5 – Don't Break the Flow of the Funnel
Everything on your website is designed to flow and funnel visitors toward a specific destination. The content and calls to action move a visitor or supporter from the landing page to an opt in form, a blog, a news video or press release, to like your group on Facebook, etc. The option to break the flow should always be in the hands of the visitor. Avoid coding and political web site design elements that lock people into a task, forcing them to complete it or close their browser window to escape.
Keep in mind also that your design elements can break the flow of your campaign funnel when you don't make operations and such obvious to your supporters. Use strategic design and calls to action to guide them through every process, right down to signing up for a newsletter, update or joining your community outreach efforts.
Political Web Site Design Usability Tip #6 – Make Your Content Easy to Scan
If you want your site visitors to spend more time, to return and remain loyal then you need to make your content easy to scan. Political web site design that is based on content-heavy pages with a lot of clutter makes it impossible to quickly scan for relevant information. Eye tracking studies have proven that people don't typically read websites – they scan them in search of titles and emphasized text that stands out.
Because most people scan, they only extract small bits of information so make your most important info stand out to increase usability and loyalty. They also focus on initial paragraphs so make sure your first few lines of content are the strongest. Lastly, given the scan for strong titles and subheaders, make sure you're using those strategically to make your content stand out.
Political Web Site Design Usability Tip #7 – Don't Be Misleading with UI Controls
UI controls, or user-interface controls, are essentially your web elements, widgets and other controls outside of traditional navigation that visitors interact with. Avoid creating content and design elements that can appear to be UI controls such as graphic elements that look like buttons (but are not), underlined text that looks like a link (but is not clickable), etc.
When you have an element like this, it can break the flow of your campaign funnel and give the perception that there are broken elements on your website.
There are a lot of pieces that come together to form a strong strategy when it comes to your website, that's why many campaign consultants and political organization consultants recommend working with professional, experience designers. With the growing power of online outreach, your website plays a very important role in attracting and keeping supporters. Keep these political web site design tips in mind when it comes time to create a new site or renovate your existing online campaign.