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Election Website Showdown 2011: Part 1

Reading Time: 3 minutes Conservatives get a Google Analytics and usability audit to kick off our Election Website Showdown. Let’s find out how conservative their website really is.

Recently, we here at Cardinal Path began to wonder just how, and how well, each of our major political parties were using their websites to support and augment their election campaigns. Well, now that we’ve had a look at the Conservative, Liberal, New Democratic and Green parties’ websites, we’ve come up with some answers that should shed some light on exactly how each party is handling the rapidly maturing digital medium.

This series of blog posts will look at each of the major parties’ websites in detail, picking apart their web analytics strategies, design and code. We’ll be going over one website per week, so keep checking our website or subscribe to our Twitter feed to be notified about updates to this series of posts.

Two gunslingers duelling at high noon in front of the polling booth. Instead of bullets, though, their trick guns have fired out a rod with a banner attached - a banner with the websites of the Liberal and Conservative parties respectively. Look closer, and you'll see that each gunslinger has the logo of their party on their clothing.

It’s high noon, folks. Harper, Ignatieff, Layton, May – turn around, then walk straight ahead twelve paces. This here’s a showdown!

Here in Part 1, we’ll be looking at…

The Conservative Party of Canada

http://www.conservative.caThe website of the Conservative Party of Canada.

Google Analytics Performance

All the Google Analytics page tracking code is situated at the bottom of the page – not a good thing for the newer asynchronous code, which must be placed at the top of the page.

There are also two old-style page tags with the same account number – this may result in double-counting of incoming page traffic to that account, verified by examination of the _utm beacons sent to Google Analytics. This is generally not a good thing for accurate data.

The code used here deviates from best practices in that both the old and current versions of the GATC are used on the same page. Best practices indicate that a GA user choose a version of the code and stick with it.

The inconsistent code coupled with the novice mistake of doubling the page-tag seem to indicate an amateur job, perhaps an afterthought forced on their web developer near the end of the project. It does not appear that a specialized or competent web analytics firm or expert was consulted by the Conservative party on their tagging and analytics strategy.

Design Performance

There is no clear call to action within the top 600 pixels. Assuming that the Conservative target audience is their traditional supporting demographic of older Canadians and that these same individuals are not likely to upgrade computers often and/or set their resolutions low (800×600 or 1024×768) purposely for easier reading, this could be a problem. Features to help find local candidates, organize campaign efforts on the “Tory Nation” forum and join the party’s Facebook page are found even further below the fold. This is not ideal. Furthermore, the “Tory Nation” forum is not being tracked in Google Analytics (perhaps because it is supposedly in ‘beta’, according to its logo).

The main nav items are not solid calls to action: they are single words that say very little and certainly do not present actionable recommendations to the user as to what they should view next. The closest the first top third of the page above the fold comes to a call to action is a rather weak “find my candidate” link in the extreme top-right.

They use tables rather than CSS for layout. The last time this was a best practice was the turn of the century – no professional web designer worth their salary or freelancing income would be comfortable with this. Even backward browser compatibility is no excuse for this: CSS support for most of the elements we use today for proper, modern layout began in Internet Explorer 4 and was refined further in Internet Explorer 5 and 6, the latter being the oldest browser still in common use.

Code Integrity

The W3C HTML Validator reported 54 errors and 11 warnings when the page was validated as the version declared in the tag (XHTML 4.0 Transitional).

Also, despite not using much of it for proper layout, the Conservatives’ website had 79 CSS errors as reported by the W3C CSS Validator.

The Final Verdict


The archaic structure, sloppy code and poor usage of the Google Analytics tracking code blow the Conservatives away here at the P.I. corral. The final nail in the coffin is the chronic lack of clear calls to action that could compel party faithful and undecided voters alike to take action in support of the Conservative party. Will the Liberals fare any better? Drop by next week and find out!

Next week, we’ll have a closer look at the website of…

The Liberal Party of Canada

The website of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Week three belongs to…

The New Democratic Party of Canada

http://www.ndp.caThe website of the New Democratic Party of Canada.

And in week four, we’ll round things up with a look at the oft-forgotten …

Green Party of Canada

http://www.greenparty.caThe website of the Green Party of Canada.

Stay tuned, and subscribe to our Twitter feed to be the first to hear about updates to this series of posts!

Note: as this content is time-sensitive, it will be released immediately, rather than being held back exclusively for newsletter subscribers.