The Usability of Politics

The Finnish general election is rapidly running to a close. According to reports, this is promising to be the most active election of the 2000s, with 36% having already voted in advance voting (before the main voting day on Sunday). Now, while most people will probably be comparing parties based on the usual matters of policy — taxes, employment, the environment and so on — Poe, our virtual assistant, only has one thing on mind: website user experience.

Poe is ready for action

On the grand scale of politics, UX might not seem like a high priority, however it does show how parties are, for instance, willing to cater for people with special needs, and it can affect how people perceive the organisation and support it. While we shouldn't be blinded by what might be honest mistakes, analysing the UX can give us some insight into how an organisation functions, and where their priorities are. Having good UX also helps search engines to index content properly.

With that in mind, it's time to look at some of Poe's discoveries.

Top 3 and Bottom 3 Sites

Everyone wants to see rankings, so let's get that out of the way first.

SDP got 93/100 with Poe's Attractive Index
The Social Democrats get Poe's vote

Top 3

1) Social Democrats (SDP)
2) Left Alliance (Vasemmisto)
3) Communist Party of Finland (SKP)

Bottom 3:

18) Green Party (Vihreät)
19) Centre Party (Keskusta)
20) The Finns Party (Perussuomalaiset)

Interestingly it seems the more left-leaning parties have done a better job at UX. Have they mobilised their workforce better?

The most common problems

Poe analysed 19 parties and one non-party movement of individuals (Movement Now, or Liike Nyt). The top 5 repeating observations were:

SDP's phone numbers could not be clicked
The Social Democrats were just one of many who don't want people bothering them

1) Contact information not being clickable

This occurred with all the sites Poe looked at. Emails and phone numbers were listed, but without making them links. This can make emailing or phoning the parties, or the people involved with the parties, difficult.  This is especially true for mobile devices. It's almost as if the parties do not want people to contact them. Simply adding tel: and mailto: links would solve this problem.

2) ALT attributes missing from image links

This problem has occurred for decades on the web and unfortunately it still raises its head. If an image is made into a link, and there is no ALT attribute set, there is no way for a blind person to be able to know what the link does. This is the most basic of accessibility matters, and something all parties should concern themselves with, yet many fail at this.

3) Missing Social Media tags

One would think political parties would celebrate people sharing them on social media, but they are making this more awkward than it should be. Many of them were missing meta tags such as og:image, twitter:card and even description. The National Coalition Party (Kokoomus) even lacked a title on their election page. This means sharing the sites on social media can end up with random images and bad information being shared with the post, instead of something powerful. Not only that, but lacking those meta tags will lead to poorer results on search engines. This is very easy to fix.

Kokoomus were missing <title> on several pages
The National Coalition Party lacked title tags on some pages

Some Critical Observations

Poe generally writes reports, highlighting problems and offering solutions. Here are a few selected observations.

Keskusta had an image without an ALT attribute as an election banner
Blind people will not be able to use this site

Several sites had large banners related to the current election — a good idea during such key moments. Here is one example from the Centre Party. However, without any ALT attributes set, blind people will effectively be unable to see those banners, cutting those individuals out completely. Additionally search engines frequently end up penalising sites or links that do not have ALT attributes. This should be inexcusable during an election that includes everyone. Additionally, Poe also noticed the main call-to-action was not highlighted enough. Based on human perception rules, the most highlighted item here is 'SOTE' (the new social security the Centre Party was pushing hard for) — probably something they would prefer not to highlight.

Keskusta has a dialog with multiple languages
This dialog is completely broken

Poe has some understanding of language consistency. Staying with the Centre Party for a while, something terrible has happened with the settings dialog on their site. They have a total of three languages there, and broken support for umlauts.

Vihreät have an image-heavy site
Where does the Green Party want to drive me to?

Speaking of call-to-action problems, the Green Party could also do better. The election button is all but hidden in the top righthand corner. Their page also suffers from being image-heavy, with often poor contrast and almost no provisions for people with poor eyesight or other disabilities — surely an embarrassment for a party pushing for inclusion.

Perussuomalaiset have a very slow site
17 seconds to load this page is unacceptable

One of the most critical, and most frustrating problems a site can have is when their performance is poor. This definitely was a problem with the Finns Party. Their pages frequently took over 10 seconds to display — unacceptable in the ADHD age of the Internet.

Interestingly, the spinoff Blue Reform Party (Sininen Tulevaisuus) also suffered from performance problems. The Finnish People First Party (Suomen Kansa Ensin) also had some performance issues, although not quite as bad as their compatriots.

A link to their entrepreneurship programme didn't work on the Kristilliset site
Are the Christians sure they care about entrepreneurship?

Finally, as entrepreneurs we were saddened to see it appears the Christian Democrats (Kristilliset) might not be as focused on entrepreneurship as they would like to portray. The highlighted link to their entrepreneurship programme does not work!

Broken links were also a problem with the Swedish People's Party of Finland (RKP), the Centre Party (Keskusta), The Communist Party of Finland, Movement Now and the Pirate Party (Piraattipuolue). With the latter having several geeks involved, it is disappointing to see those kinds of things pop up.

Piraatit had many broken links
The Pirates remind us of the good old days of pirating — when many links were broken


While Poe's world view is single-minded and he might thus have a clear favourite, his views should not be taken as Attractive's support for or against any of the parties. However, it is worrying that many fundamental problems do exist. These issues would have been simple to correct, especially those related to accessibility. We hope that in the future the parties will do a better job at giving great online experiences, that exclude no-one. Having said that, we hope everyone legible in Finland does vote.

Oh, and if you want to score your own website, just head to