Local Election Websites: Swansea City Council

Dafydd Vaughan on 5 May 2008

This is the second part in a series of entries looking at local election websites run by various county councils across Wales. Previously I examined the county of Monmouthshire. In this entry, I take a look at the website run by Swansea City Council.


Swansea City Council - 2008 elections graphical mapSwansea City Council has taken a very different approach to that of Monmouthshire County for their live election results. When you visit their election site, you are presented with a graphical map of the county, showing each ward with different coloured dots indicating each seat available. As expected, the colour assigned to each dot shows the party which has secured that seat for the next four years -red for Labour, yellow for Liberal Democrat, black for independents etc. This allows the visitor to very quickly gain an overview of which party has won in each ward.

Further information can be gained by hovering over one of the dots (if you have JavaScript enabled) – which provides the name of the ward and the name of the elected representative. Clicking on a dot loads a page showing each of the candidates that stood for that constituency (ordered by the number of votes received). I feel that this is a much better way of displaying the results as it allows you Swansea City Council - 2008 electons ward resultsto easily tell who has been elected (especially in wards where there are more than one seat available). It also helps those who know where they live, but not the name of the ward in which they are represented.

The only disappointment is that the ward information pages lack the details of spoilt ballots and number of registered electors. However, this is a very minor complaint and could easily be fixed next year.

From an accessibility point of view, I was initially concerned that the graphical map might pose a problem, however after inspecting the code, I discovered that it was developed using normal unordered lists, absolutely positioned on the page. While this is not an ideal solution, it far outweighs other options such as image maps and flash.

Swansea City Council - 2008 elections page without CSS and Javascript Turning off CSS shows just a normal list of linked wards leading to the full information page – proving that even when using a screen reader, users would still be able to find out what they wanted to know.
The site is let down by the lack of captions and summaries for the tables on the ward information pages. Using these captions is a must to comply with accessibility legislation. However, I am sure that this is an easy fix for next time.

Without a doubt, this is the best local election website I have used this year – it is easy to use, clear and provides a good level of detail. During my research, I was unable to find information about who developed the site for the council, leading me to believe that it was produced in-house – a fantastic achievement. However, I believe there are a number of improvements that could be made – firstly added accessibility, and secondly enhanced information about the results (e.g. spoilt votes, number of registered voters and possibly graphs of the results).

Rating:
Ease of use: 4/5 – Graphical map allows users to locate their area quickly and coloured dots provide a good overview of the current state of play.
Level of detail: 3/5 – Good level of information about each ward but let down by the lack of extras such as graphs and ‘meta’ information
Accessibility: 4/5 – A good attempt at accessibility. Turning off JavaScript and CSS does not break the site, however, it is let down by the lack of captions and summaries for tables and links.

Overall: 11/15

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