Local Election Websites: Monmouthshire County Council

Dafydd Vaughan on 3 May 2008

This is part of a series of blog entries looking at local election websites run by various county council’s across Wales. In this entry I look at the live election site run by Monmouthshire County Council.

Monmouthshire County Council - electons website 2008 (Llanwenarth Ultra ward)MCC made use of a piece of software by Associated Knowledge Systems Ltd to show the results from each ward. The website acts like a PowerPoint presentation with a slide for each ward, automatically cycling between them. This of course is not really appropriate for the web – if you missed your ward, or didn’t finish reading the slide before it moved on, you had to wait for the site to cycle through all the others – taking anywhere between 20 and 30 minutes.

Although this was particularly annoying (my ward was located towards the end of the list) – not helped by the fact that the website regularly crashes and forces you to start again at ‘A’ – the slides provided a good level of detail. The slides allowed you to see a list of candidates, their political party, number of votes (with percentage) and which one was finally elected. In addition to this were the number of registered voters in the ward, number of ballot papers, spoilt papers, turnout and winning majority.

Monmouthshire County Council - 2008 elections website (overall results)This was further helped by the use of a number of graphs showing some of these figures.

I have no problem with Monmouthshire using a system like this for someone who just wants to see every ward – or even to display results in the counting rooms, but why did they not make links available to jump to an individual ward? This would make it much easier for other users who don’t want to wait around 20 minutes just because their ward happens to be at the end of the alphabet! I suspect that this is a limitation of the software they purchased and something they should have considered.

The annoyance factor of having to wait for your ward to be displayed is nothing compared to the fact that the website was inaccessible to disabled users. Any points the site recovers are quickly lost when you start to look at accessibility. To start with, the site was displayed in frames – a very common problem for screen-readers for those with poor (or non-existent) eyesight. Further accessibility problems could have been caused by incomplete captions on tables, and the use of tables for the design of the site – a big no in the age of CSS and style sheets.

I find it hard to believe that Monmouthshire County Council is still refusing to produce accessible websites even though it is a legal requirement in the UK.

Ease of use: 0/5 – There is no reason for making users wait 20 minutes to see information about their ward
Level of detail: 4/5 – Good level of information about each ward and good use of graphs
Accessibility: 1/5 – An attempt was obviously made to include captions and summaries of tables, but the use of frames, tables for design, inline CSS styling, and incomplete captions let it down badly

Overall: 5/15

Next time, I’ll look at the election website for Swansea City Council.

Any views stated here are my own and not those of my employer unless otherwise stated.