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ACT Political Parties website roundup 2008

By 9 September 2008 45

I’ve got a nasty head cold at the moment. But I felt my life was still lacking in pain. So yesterday I went and had a poke around all the political party websites to see what they had to offer and what they said about the eight parties vying for our votes next month.

In past elections where we’ve done this we’ve paid a lot of attention to hosting arrangements, software used to host the sites, and disability access.

But automated disability access checkers are no longer free, and the software the disabled use has become much better at handling carelessly constructed websites. Also in this era of virtualised hosting the exact arrangements say less than they used to.

So this time I’ve just looked at general aesthetics and usability. Knock yourselves out in the comments explaining how and why I’m wrong.

Parties appear in the order in which they are listed on the register of political parties.

Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch)

It’s attractive, and well laid out. The policy area is sadly a single huge Megabyte of pdf, so it’s there, but who’s going to read that?.

The newsroom is a bit light, mostly being links to other pages such as the Chief Minister’s Departmental page.

The TV page is still waiting for content, and the radio page has one ad.

Good layout and candidate information compensates.

Four stars.

Australian Motorist Party

It’s a clean and effective layout. But the site could do with more images, or any images at all other than just their logo.

Policies are a little light, And tumbleweeds are blowing through the through the newsroom.

Three stars

Liberal Democratic Party

The LDP has lots and lots of ideas. As you’d expect after a whole wing of political philosophy is crammed down to a lone minor party.

The website has only one candidate named and no mention of which electorate he’s contesting.

The press releases link is not working in Safari.

Two and a half stars.

Liberal Party of Australia (A.C.T. Division)

It’s got a big Z on it. And two pictures of big Zed depending where you’re at in the slideshow.

Black and white photography seems to be a big campaign theme of the Canberra Liberals on top of their blue and gold colours looking rather regal. It’s not entirely clear why the huge purple buttons were required.

Liberal TV has fourteen videos available for those who have tired of life.

There’s no consolidated newsroom. Which means visitors need to know that Vicki Dunne makes statements on the environment. Perhaps they’re assuming a little too much knowledge there? To be fair the front page does have the most recent news on it.

Policies are at least laid out to make it easy to find them.

Three and a half stars.

Pangallo Independents Party

It’s… grey…

With very big headlines.

The newsroom, however is functional, albeit in very, very, large type with some whitespace irregularities.

The whole site needs more photographs. And there are some obvious typos and spelling errors leaping out.

Apparently they’re only running in Molonglo. Or at least that’s the impression the website gives.

Three stars.

Richard Mulcahy Canberra Party

The old http://www.richardmulcahy.com.au/ appears to have been hauled down which is a shame because it was a bit of a landmark as the ugliest website in the world. Based around netscape grade tables and with canary yellow everywhere. A 2007 view of an earlier horror has been maintained by the Internet Archive.

That excitement has been replaced with a postcard on the new site which eventually leads to a website.

That site sports a sad little menu item saying that a whole 628 visitors have been in since 5 August. We can only hope it bears up to the streams of curious rioters.

There’s no actual mention of which candidates are standing for which electorate.

The site does have a good looking newsroom, but it’s lacking updates since 15 August.

Three stars.

The ACT Greens

Purty. Green.

Menu items on the top and right leaving new content on the left. i.e. Thoughtfully intended to service regular visitors.

Candidates are heavily promoted, including which electorate they’re representing.

The newsroom is a bit light and apparently East Gippsland logging is a major issue for them at this upcoming ACT election. (Act local people, act local).

Four and a half stars.

The Community Alliance Party (ACT)

Busy! With mixed fonts.

And a series of testimonials from un-named people. Hmmm…

Candidates are well laid out by electorate, even if Norvan’s photograph makes him look like he has downs syndrome (I’m reasonably sure he doesn’t).

Policies are so voluminous as to beggar belief.

Four stars.

Candidates aren’t finalised until 24 September so at that time we’ll go back and see what web-presences they’ve whipped up for themselves.

[Disclosure: The ALP and LDP are, at the time of writing, advertisers with RiotACT.]

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45 Responses to ACT Political Parties website roundup 2008
#1
dorkus mallorkus10:18 am, 09 Sep 08

I clicked on the Membership Application Form link on the Liberal Democratic Party’s website – the form itself refers to the party as the “Liberty & Democracy Party”.

In the absence of a Monster Raving Loony Party candidate, I think I’m gonna have to vote for the schizophrenics (provided they’ve actually got a candidate in my electorate).

#2
Thumper10:26 am, 09 Sep 08

What ACT politics needs is a Screaming Lord Such….

#3
jakez10:33 am, 09 Sep 08

Dorkus: The LDP are in a strange limbo world at the moment where on a Federal level they are the Liberty & Democracy Party but in the ACT they are still the original Liberal Democratic Party.

The reason for this is that ACT Elections accepted the name despite it being challenged by both the Democrats and the Liberals. The AEC however did not accept the name.

Last I heard, they were going to appeal the AEC decision as they seem to be quite attached to the Liberal Democratic name.

Of course, none of that really matters when you forget to submit the full name onto the ballot and are thus listed simply as LDP (as they were last Federal election).

—————

The Liberal Party website is a vast improvement on the old one and there are many things I like about it. I think some aspects of it are a bit too smart arse. Johnboy mentioned having to click through to the MLA before finding the press release. This is something that irritates me as well and points to a bit of a form over function problem.

#4
dorkus mallorkus10:40 am, 09 Sep 08

@jakez: That explains that, then – thanks.

It might be easier all round if they just change their name to The Minnie Bruce Party, since that name isn’t being used anymore.

#5
jakez10:49 am, 09 Sep 08

How about the Lenny Bruce Party? Same political philosophy but a lot more humour.

#6
Skidbladnir10:57 am, 09 Sep 08

Any chance of a “These people pay the-RiotACT to push ads on you people?” disclosure? (No sums needed, just a comment)

And its either Down syndrome or Down’s syndrome, but never Downs syndrome.

#7
Loquaciousness11:02 am, 09 Sep 08

As far as usability goes, opening the sites with Lynx (under Linux) can be a good way to assess how “friendly” they are …

For those not lucky enough to have easy access to lynx, I had a quick look at the front pages. Most do OK. The Liberal Democratic party site looks terribly confusing, and features a large banner at the top labelled as “yellow gunk” (obviously no one thought too hard about the text version of that picture)! The Pangallo Independents site is almost completely unreadable, but where they failed, Richard Mulcahy’s site succeeded – it can’t be navigated at all.

On the offchance that anyone is interested in seeing the screenshots, let me know, I would be happy to oblige.

L

#8
Granny11:15 am, 09 Sep 08

Ah, but “yellow gunk” has excellent social comment. Yoko Ono could have done something truly magnificent with it.

; )

I would be interested to see the screenshots. It could be quite funny!

#9
jakez11:28 am, 09 Sep 08

Yep put up the screenshots.

#10
Skidbladnir11:55 am, 09 Sep 08

Yellowgunk.jpg is the filename of the yellow LDP banner, just check their html or mouseover & rightclick – > Properties it.
http://ldp.org.au/cssimages/yellowGunk.jpg

And the LDP Policy Forum (running wordpress) hasn’t had new content for some time now.

#11
Loquaciousness1:33 pm, 09 Sep 08

jakez said :

Yep put up the screenshots.

Will do tonight, and post links for all :)

L

#12
johnboy1:36 pm, 09 Sep 08

I did actually do the Lynx test, but thought the results were a little tedious and we do enough Mulcahy bashing.

Anyway if L wants to spend the time screenshotting them then best of British to her.

#13
Loquaciousness1:41 pm, 09 Sep 08

Skidbladnir said :

Yellowgunk.jpg is the filename of the yellow LDP banner, just check their html or mouseover & rightclick – > Properties it.
http://ldp.org.au/cssimages/yellowGunk.jpg

Yes, what’s happened is that they haven’t provided any alt-text for it (which is what people using text-only browsers such as lynx see instead of a picture). So, lynx has used the filename of the image in an effort to give the reader some indication of what the picture might be. As the filename is yellowGunk.jpg, that’s what is being presented. Part of making a site accessible and standards compliant is providing meaningful alt-text for images. To be fair, most of the rest of the pictures have reasonable names (with a couple of exceptions, and all without alt-text, from what I can tell), but since yellowGunk is at the top of the page, it’s rather noticeable.

L

#14
Loquaciousness1:42 pm, 09 Sep 08

johnboy said :

Anyway if L wants to spend the time screenshotting them then best of British to her.

Well, I wasn’t going to, but people have asked (I didn’t expect that, to be honest!). I’ll only do the interesting ones.

L

#15
Granny1:50 pm, 09 Sep 08

I actually found the big “ALP Members Only” button a tad unfriendly. Sort of like, “Scabs, keep out!”

#16
jakez1:56 pm, 09 Sep 08

Say hypothetically that I only just learned what Lynx is, only use Firefox, IE, and Safari (on my Iphone), and have no desire to look at the hidden details of a websites secret filenames.

Why is ‘standards compliance’ and the lynx test important?

#17
johnboy1:58 pm, 09 Sep 08

Because Lynx, as a text only browser, approximates how a blind person’s web browser would read the page to them.

#18
whistle2:00 pm, 09 Sep 08

Some funny judgements here when it comes to website ratings. I don’t see how a single document that summarises all Labor candidates is impressive – we aren’t even given pictures of what they look like.

Nor do I see how the CAP policies are so voluminous as to beggar belief. They aren’t really that long and when you start reading you see an awful lot of apple pie.

#19
Aurelius2:09 pm, 09 Sep 08

Of course, Loquaciousness, if you used a real browser, and a real OS, then maybe you’d be able to see the websites.

#20
jakez2:15 pm, 09 Sep 08

johnboy said :

Because Lynx, as a text only browser, approximates how a blind person’s web browser would read the page to them.

Ah yes that’s what I thought. I worked at Vision Australia for a fortnight as a temp. The biggest stumbling block is stupid flash buttons that don’t work until you click on the board to activate them. I can see them well enough to figure it out but my blind coworker had no idea what was going on. The reader just wouldn’t pick up the text until it was clicked on.

That was a fascinating two weeks. It’s amazing how many gadgets and systems they use to try and get by in our world.

#21
peterh2:25 pm, 09 Sep 08

Aurelius said :

Of course, Loquaciousness, if you used a real browser, and a real OS, then maybe you’d be able to see the websites.

and what is that?

#22
Loquaciousness2:31 pm, 09 Sep 08

Aurelius said :

Of course, Loquaciousness, if you used a real browser, and a real OS, then maybe you’d be able to see the websites.

Well, I don’t use Lynx on a daily basis, but if I had a disability, I probably would. Sucks to be blind, huh?

And as for ‘real browsers’, any web dev will explain the differences between writing sites for Firefox, and sites for IE …

L

#23
Aurelius2:35 pm, 09 Sep 08

A real browser is one that shows you websites.
If you can’t see the sites properly, then you aren’t using one.

#24
Loquaciousness2:41 pm, 09 Sep 08

jakez said :

Say hypothetically that I only just learned what Lynx is, only use Firefox, IE, and Safari (on my Iphone), and have no desire to look at the hidden details of a websites secret filenames.

Why is ‘standards compliance’ and the lynx test important?

For you, it probably doesn’t matter how the website is put together. For those with a disability, using non-standard browsers or other interfaces, the sites can pretty easily get mangled, and the person trying to ‘read’ them won’t be able to get the information easily or at all.

Web standards have been developed to ensure that all websites can be ‘read’ (which can include spoken, in the case of the vision impaired), by people using a variety of tools.

Lynx is a text-only browser, which (as JB said) can give you a good idea of how a text-to-speech device would ‘read’ it. In other cases, people may be perfectly able to read, but unable to see the difference between contrasts, or have difficulty with some fonts or other devices – in these cases, Lynx presents the website in a standard font and without the bells and whistles.

L

#25
Loquaciousness2:44 pm, 09 Sep 08

Aurelius said :

If you can’t see the sites properly, then you aren’t using one.

Exactly. Which is why the vision impaired require something like Lynx. So they can see the sites properly.

Seeing (or hearing) it as text-only beats hell out of not seeing it all …

L

#26
Aurelius2:46 pm, 09 Sep 08

“For those with a disability…”

Why’re these people on my internets anyway?!?!?!?!?!?!

#27
Granny2:49 pm, 09 Sep 08

But if a website is written in Yoda it will sound that way no matter what browser you use.

#28
whistle2:50 pm, 09 Sep 08

The website ratings are based on dodgy logic. The ALP candidate profiles are described as so good as to redeem the poor info on other parts of the site. Yet those profiles are all lumped into a single short PDF. There aren’t even photos of what the candidates look like.

The CAP policies are described as “so voluminous as to beggar belief.” In fact they are not very long and you don’t need to read much to see they are full of apple pie rather than hard clear policy decisions – eg: spend $X on doing Y to Z extent. Maybe johnboy was being ironic in his assessment of CAP? But that’s hardly a four star website.

#29
Skidbladnir2:51 pm, 09 Sep 08

Aurelius said :

A real browser is one that shows you websites.
If you can’t see the sites properly, then you aren’t using one.

Aurelius, you’ve never seen a blind programmer going about his work, then?

#30
johnboy2:52 pm, 09 Sep 08

Whistle you’re free to offer your own alternative rankings.

But I will say that if Labor had broken out their policies they would have scored higher in my highly subjective personal opinion.

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