GLA candidates websites reviewed and rated

GLA site

Soon, members across London will select their candidates to run for election to the Greater London Assembly. Most of the selection campaign e-mails from candidates have included a link to a standalone selection website, which has been approved in advance for publication by the Returning Officer.

As a London-based member who will have a vote, but hasn’t yet decided whether to exercise it, let alone whom to excercise it for, I decided to put the candidate’s websites head to head. At the end of the post, in the interests of fairness, a full list of candidates appears. If I’ve missed off a candidate’s website, please let me know.

What criteria did you use to assess the sites?

Candidates scored big points for:

  • Having a manifesto that was easy to find and digest
  • A website that was well structured and easy to navigate
  • Meeting disabled accessibility and good coding standards (don’t worry if you don’t understand these tests in the review – failed is bad, passed is good).

Bonus points were received for e-campaigning wizardry such as blogs, online video etc. It’s important to note that candidates did not score points for having a website that was bigger than their rivals. In my estimation quality is more important than quantity – the goal of these sites is to win votes, not rival War & Peace.

The majority of sites were reviewed on 17 April. Ajmal Masroor and James Allie were reviewed on 21 April. By this point the selection campaign was well underway, and in my judgement, the sites should have been fully ready to be public. The sites are listed in descending order, the joint ‘winners’ first. Where two sites have a joint score, or no score, the sites are listed in alphabetical order by candidate surname.

Note: this review is a review of the candidate’s ability to put a website together. It’s up to you to decide how important that skill is when you come to cast your vote, so I wouldn’t obsess too much about ‘your candidate’ coming top or bottom of this review.

I’m a candidate, or I built a candidate’s website, and I think you’ve been unfair, what can I do?

I suggest you leave a comment underneath the post, and I’ll reply there too – so if your site is marked up or down for any reason, the rationale for doing so is immediately made public.


 

Duncan Borrowman's siteDuncan Borrowman

Usability & appearance: 7 / 10

Standard good Prater Raines package, coupled with lots of embedded video and a sense of activity and action on the home page. Perversely, perhaps an overdependence on video on subsequent pages.

Manifesto presentation: 9/10

The five-point manifesto is the first thing you see on the homepage. Subsequent pages are more biog than manifesto.

E-campaigning wizardry: 3 / 5

Good collection of online video.

Standards compliance / disabled accessibility: 7 / 10

Meets WCAG P1, XHTML & CSS standards compliant, but uses table based design and has no access keys. Videos could be subtitled.

Any howlers?

None that I can see.

Overall score: 26/35


 

Ajmal MAsroor's siteAjmal Masroor

Usability & appearance: 10/10

Simply and attractively laid out. Nice use of photography.

Manifesto presentation: 8/10

Easy to find, clearly laid out manifesto section distinct from the biography.

E-campaigning wizardry: 0/5

In place of where the video should be we have “A page dedicated to a webcam diary and blog. Easy to use and friendly for the viewers and readers….” – sounds more like an instruction to the web designer than a holding message for the public.

Standards compliance / disabled accessibility: 8/10

Fails WCAG P1, but on a single point that could be fixed in seconds (image ALT tags). Fails XHTML validator, passes CSS validator.

Any howlers?

No imprint. One of the marks of a true campaigner is getting your imprint right, no?

Overall score: 26 / 35


 

James Allie's websiteJames Allie

Usability & appearance: 7/10

Easy to use, as there is only one page and one PDF relevant to the GLA selection on James’s site.

Manifesto presentation: 7 / 10

While there is a link to a PDF of James’s PDF manifesto, the key points are also on the web page – making them very easy to find.

E-campaigning wizardry: 0/5

Zip, nadda, zilch.

Standards compliance / disabled accessibility: 9.5/10

The only site to pass all levels of WCAG. 1 very minor error on XHTML validator. Two very minor errors in CSS validation.

Any howlers?

None that leap out at me.

Overall score: 23.5/35


 

Caroline PidgeonCaroline Pidgeon

Usability & appearance: 7 / 10

A clever approach to site structure and navigation, focussing on targeted messages. Some of the main site links at the top are on too light a background though, and difficult to read. Also, the eye doesn’t automatically catch the none-area-specific navigation at the top of the page.

Manifesto presentation: 10 / 10

A tailored page for every London borough demonstrates a lot of thought and effort, and there’s good use of photography. At the bottom of every page, Caroline’s e-mail address is displayed prominently with a message that she wants to “learn from local members” about their experiences.

E-campaigning wizardry: 3/5

Caroline’s the only candidate with a blog integrated in to their campaign website. Though it’s a blog with scary people straight from a Doctor Who set who have had their faces erased because of the election rules. I’d rather it was “Caroline’s blog” than “Administrator’s blog”, but that’s a small thing.

Standards compliance / disabled accessibility: 3 / 10

Fails WCAG P1, fails XHTML standards test, fails CSS test.

Any howlers?

Just those white links on a yellow background.

Overall score: 23/35


 

Stephen Knight's websiteStephen Knight

Usability & appearance: 7 / 10

One of the less inspiring Prater Raines designs, but everything on the site is easy to find, and it feels like the navigation has been thought through and has a certain coherence lacking in some of the other sites.

Manifesto presentation: 6 / 10

Again, not so much a manifesto as a biography, though there are some priorities listed on one of the pages. Obligatory Lib Dem bar chart shows a certain connection with things Lib Dem campaigners like to see. In one photo, Cllr Knight is stood in front of some phone boxes that have been toppled like Dominos. Is this a famous South West London landmark? I don’t have a clue what they are, and the alternative text – “phone boxes” – doesn’t enlighten me.

E-campaigning wizardry: 1 / 5

An automatically generated e-mail list.

Standards compliance / disabled accessibility: 8/10

Meets WCAG P1, XHTML & CSS standards compliant, but uses table based design and has no access keys.

Any howlers?

Last news item was dated more than a month ago, presumably when the site was sent for approval to the Returning Officer. If Cllr Knight is prevented from adding more news by the selection rules, he should have used pages that weren’t datestamped

Overall score: 22/35


Jeremy Ambaches's siteJeremy Ambache 

Usability & appearance: 9 / 10

Easy to navigate. Careful use of white space coupled with a light and welcoming design.

Manifesto presentation: 4 / 10

Again, no real manifesto – just a biography, but the biog is well laid out with good use of campaigning photography. I hope the people in those pictures aren’t members though Jeremy, or you could be in bother!

E-campaigning wizardry: 0 / 5

There’s just nothing.

Standards compliance / disabled accessibility: 8/10

Meets WCAG P1, fails XHTML test but with minor errors, passes CSS test. Well thought out ALT tags, but again no access keys.

Any howlers?

Only that I suspect one of the most prominent photos on his site may break the rules, but if it does then it was presumably approved by the Returning Officer, so he’s in the clear.

Overall score: 21/35


 

Meral Ece

Meral Ece websiteUsability & appearance: 6/10

The site uses one of the nicer Prater Raines templates, and is easy to find your way around – though that is as much to do with lack of content as it is to do with PR sites being generally easy to navigate.

Manifesto presentation: 2/10

No actual manifesto that I could see, just a personal profile.

E-campaigning wizardry: 1/5

Integrates the latest video from the party nationally, and has an option to sign up for automatically generated e-mail updates.

Standards compliance / disabled accessibility: 8/10

Meets WCAG P1, XHTML & CSS standards compliant, but uses table based design and has no access keys.

Any howlers?

The site feels generally quite empty and neglected – the home page especially so.

Overall score: 17 / 35


Mike Tuffrey's siteMike Tuffrey 

Usability & appearance: 4 / 10

Ah! While it warms the cockles of my heart to see old skool frame-based web design from the mid-90s, most people will think this is pretty amateurish now. The imprint is an illegible graphic and some of the photos look like they could go head to head with the conference office for warping and compression. So, one point for appearance, but three points for usability – though if I were a disabled user, the frames would be less than ideal.

Manifesto presentation: 9 / 10

Straight away I can see what Mike’s top three priorities are, and to be honest in a field as crowded as this, that’s all I’m going to read. Mike scores points for being able to concisely express on his website what his candidacy is about.

E-campaigning wizardry: 2/ 5

An e-mail list that looks like it isn’t automatically generated.

Standards compliance / disabled accessibility: 0 / 10

Frames are an accessibility no-no. The site fails WCAG P1, XHTML & CSS standards tests, and there are numerous images with no alt text.

Any howlers?

None that leap out at me.

Overall score: 15/35


 

Nasser's siteNasser Butt

Usability & appearance: 7 / 10

The design looks good and the navigation is well laid out, but the decision not to support a screen resolution of 800×600 pixels, which still accounts for about 10-15% of web users, risks alienating some voters who will have to scroll horizontally as well as vertically. In terms of visuals, one ofthe most impressive of the bunch.

Manifesto presentation: 5/10

The manifesto was initially difficult to find though I later found a link on the homepage. When you do find it it is only available as two separate black & white PDF files – a print manifesto in an internet context doesn’t work well.

E-campaigning wizardry: 1/5

“Audio/visual details are not available at this point of time. Please check back at some later date.” Err, maybe I won’t. Thanks. If you can’t give me vague timeframe, I’m not going to visit your site daily in the hope there might be some video today. In fact, most of the features of the site are switched off with similar errors – though it could be good in future. Nasser scores one point for having an online volunteer signup facility.

Standards compliance / disabled accessibility: 0/10

Terrible. Fails even WCAG P1, due to using text for images without decent alt tags. Fails XHTML standards test. Fails CSS test. No access keys.

Any howlers?

Once you leave the home page of the site, it looks and feels pretty neglected. My hackles were raised by the fact that the ‘contact nasser’ link presents me with an impersonal contact form, but if I want to make a financial contribution then I’m allowed to see an address, e-mail address, and phone number. No imprint that I could see.

Overall score: 13 / 35


 

Stephanie Dearden

Site appears unfinished, and is in any event largely a copy of Jeremy Ambache’s code.


 

Dee Doocey

Dee’s site contains nothing selection specific, so isn’t included in this review.


Full list of candidates: 

Ajmal Masroor, Ben Abbots, Caroline Pidgeon, Chris Noyce, Dee Doocey, Duncan Borrowman, Geoff Pope, James Allie, Jeremy Ambache, Johanna Christie-Smith, Leslie Coman, Meral Ece, Merlene Emmerson, Mike Tuffrey, Monica Whyte, Nasser Butt, Norsheen Bhatti, Rajonuddin Jalal, Sean Hooker, Shas Sheehan, Stephen Knight, Wayne Hoban.

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38 Comments

  • Count the candidates. You seem to have left
    Stephanie Dearden’s name off the full list of names

  • beingpedantic 23rd Apr '07 - 1:42pm

    To be pedantic, it’s the London Assembly, not the Greater London Assembly. GLA stands for Greater London Authority.

  • Claire Williams 24th Apr '07 - 6:47am

    Have to admit the ‘accessibility’ stuff is all techy mumbo-jumbo to me.

    I’m much more interested in what the site says about whether a candidate is a campaigner (in which case video & blogs are relevant) and what is their vision for London & the role.

    So, short of marking someone down for complete illegibility, the ‘accessibility’ stuff is a bit of a red herring in my book.

  • Sure, but can you genuinely say that any of these sites are inaccessible? It’s not as if any of them are excluding people with disabilities.

    All a matter of opinion, but IMHO I’d be judging the sites on their message and what they tell me about their candidates. So the usuability and the manifesto presentation – and indeed the ‘technical wizadry’ easily trump ‘WCAG P1, XHTML & CSS’, whatever they are when they’re at home 🙂

  • Ajmal Masroor’s site does have an imprint at the bottom.

    An original it’s the best site, the others are all the same

  • A late vote in favour of accessibility as very important. If you can’t read it, it isn’t a message!

    I spent some time having to use voice interaction rather than a mouse to get round the web and a site desinged with accessibility in mind makes a massive difference.

    Also, in the rush to video, let’s not forget the minority still on dial-up who need a choice on whether to autostart or not.

  • “Anon Says:
    April 24th, 2007 at 12:31 pm ”

    You are Ajmal Masroor and I claim my £5 =)

  • Out of interest, what’s the different between Duncan’s (good) Prater Raines site and Stephen’s (less inspiring) one. They look identical to me!

    Prater Raines sites are great for a quick & cheerful effort, but they do look rather samey after a while (or perhaps that’s the ‘branding’?).

  • All of the above discussion goes to show – if you don’t mind me saying so – that there’s a gaping gap between the experts who understand all the technical backdrop to these website and what the ordinary punters (& party members) like me actually see.

    For me, it was a case of seeing a load of sites that looked pretty much the same and then a couple (Masroor, Pidgeon) that actually had a different feel to them & hence attracted more of my attention.

    Not sure how much any of it will do to sway my vote – at the end of the day I’ll vote for the person who strikes me as the mostly likely to be an active campaigner.

    5 new Lynne Featherstones (spread geographically across London) would go down very well indeed!

  • I’ve always felt that the nicest thing you can say about the Praiter Raines cans is that they’re cheap and cheerful ronseal-like do what they say on the tin: function as a website.

    I don’t have anything against them per se, I just find them rather dull, samey, and unimaginative – for a second opinion, I went to a friend of mine who studied web design and does it for a living, whose answer was “Well… it reminds me of the start of 1st year, when they showed us a bunch of sites and said ‘Never do this'”.

    I have to say, I was very impressed by Pidgeon’s on message different text with photos for every borough, looks like a lot of effort, which impresses me a *lot* more than a PR clone – shame about the white links at the top, I had actually closed the site without even seeing they were there before I read here that the eye ‘wasn’t naturally drawn to them’.

    Don’t like that Nasser Butt’s already impersonal contact form reminds us “this is provided for a convenience, please do not abuse it”. Just seems rather cold-shoulderesque.

  • Hywel Morgan 25th Apr '07 - 1:04am

    “Well… it reminds me of the start of 1st year, when they showed us a bunch of sites and said ‘Never do this’”

    Extraordinary way to start a design course!

    Whilst Prater-Raines sites do look a bit samey how many people outside the party regularly look at a number of Lib Dem websites.

    What they do give you is a simple system whereby web updating can be put in the hands of a number of basically computer literate people. That way you avoid the “great website that stops being updated when the web person moves/gets a new job/goes to University etc” scenario.

  • I think PR sites are ok for the external world and elections, where Hywel’s point is relevant (though the style of the new federal party site is much, much nicer than any of the standard PR sites these candidates have used).

    But in a Selection contest it’s all Lib Dems voting – and a good number will be looking at different candidates’ sites. In that context, I’d have thought it pays to have something that stands out rather than looking like every other Lib Dem website you’ve ever seen – and most other GLA candidates’ sites.

  • In response to Andy, the mailing for the Londonwide list selection goes out to all members the end of next week I believe.

    The SW London seat was the first to hold it’s selection. The rest of the seats should start the selection procedures after May 3rd.

  • Thanks Duncan. By the way, there’s a fairly elementary arithmetical error on the homepage of your site. Have you spotted it yet?

  • Chris Squire 30th Apr '07 - 2:02pm

    I have added a page listing all 22 List candidates [with contact details for all but 3] to the Richmond-upon-Thames Lib Dem site: http://twickenhamlibdems.co.uk/pages/SWGLA.html
    If anyone can provide contact details for: Ben Abbots, Johanna Christie-Smith and Leslie Coman, please contact me.

  • Chris, I think its very helpful to put all the candidates details on your local party’s website. Wish more would do the same. Last time the turnout was only about 30%. Many members still don’t quite understand what the selection is about!

  • Amazinggrace 1st May '07 - 5:05am

    Back to the disability rant… Why does Duncan get a 7/10 when other PR sites get an 8? It seems that you are taking off points for not subtitling video when by adding video he is helping the visually impaired by allowing an audio commentary?

    Oh, and I declare an interest as his wife….

    I hate insomnia

    Grace

  • Amazinggrace 3rd May '07 - 12:29am

    No, ignore my husband – I would like to understand. For goodness’ sake what happened to Emmeline pankhurst? When you get back from Scotland we are having words Borrowman…..

  • Lies… there’s no such thing as a “good Prater Raines package”.

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