As a Case Study for our blog we have highlighted out ‘Top 5 Planning & Web Design Considerations’ that came into play when we developed the Presidential Elections website for the Irish Presidential Election in late 2011. Enjoy…
Michael D Higgins who was three months in office last week spoke recently at the Trinity Economic Forum and his words reminded me of our own work ethic in ebow when producing and running the PRO site in the time running up to the election and indeed on all of our other projects too.
We were lucky enough to be involved with the design and development of the recent websites for the presidential election and referendum. Planning, designing and developing a website or event that will have the country’s media and the public’s attention provided a great opportunity. Because as well as being a great site to work on, it provided us with an opportunity to let us check just how streamlined our processes were, check that our creative juices really were working at full capacity to solve anything that arose and to be the cogs that helped it all run perfectly on the day.
The U.S. might be ok with some line blurring in reporting election results, but as a nation of great communicators, that’s just not our style! So with jokes about each of us electing ourselves as president all out of the way early on, everyone got stuck in to doing what we do best and love, finding nerdy and aesthetically perfect ways to solve any digital challenge that could be thrown at the site during the election.
Top 5 Project Planning Considerations – Sine Gaughan
“As we rebuild and restore Ireland’s reputation abroad, we must highlight the best of our traditions, as well as that wonderful spark of innovation that so defines our national character.”
President Michael D. Higgins
This project was very interesting. Not only would we potentially be privy to sensitive government information, our work would be in front of the whole country. To top it off, there was one clear day, on day all eyes would be on us. One date that everything had to be ready. The election was set for the 27th of October 2011. We worked backwards from this date. We allowed as much contingency the far end of the project for third party rss testing and hosting assessments. It was unusual because we out pressure on ourselves to have the first phase of the site ready for August. This was nearly two months ahead of the election day.
Prioritise your feature functionality.
We wanted it all. From detailed data tables to useful Candidate biographies. Our goal was to ensure key data was displayed in an accessible interesting way. We had to be strict and build a website for the Irish people. We still held onto to interactive data maps, fresh colourful charts and comprehensive data tables.
Visualise the risks, catalogue potential issues, plan it all. We used our ebow project methodology of simplifying for clarity. This helped us get a really good idea of how everything would work and fit together. In the run up to the election, we had an on site walk through, data input process maps, hosting hotlines, server backup and security facilities coming out our ears. It was not about overspending to over protect the site. Our test plans were rigorous. Stress testing, server testing, UAT (user acceptance testing) ….How will it look on pcs from 1985?
It was about using the best security and hosting providers and planning efficiently to reduce and if possible eliminate the online risks.
On the day Dublin Castle, was a fantastic buzz of excitement.
The halls and rooms were full of important senior officials, undercover Gardai, high profile journalists all roamed around. We were the last in the line of a long day and countless checks and ticks of the election numbers. People had been counting for hours in the centres around the country. We had little sleep with work ending well past midnight and starting early in the mornings. We knew we still needed to get our job right. We took a few deep breaths and made sure we were happy with our work. As a wrong move on our part would jeopardise all the good work that have gone on throughout the day by others.
We are incredibly proud to have been part of such an interesting project. The months up to the election day we learnt so much about the wonderful protocols and regulations surrounding such an event. On the day we were blown away but how part of the whole process and indeed the country we felt. Half expecting our president to invite us up to the Aras. There was also an impressive display of serenity and decisiveness from our Presidential Returning Officer Ríona Ni Fhlanghaile… We were honoured to be part of it and of course happy that everyone was delighted with our work. Win Win
Top 5 Web Design Considerations – Kerry Lyons
“When I was inaugurated as President of Ireland last year I stated that we must seek to build together an active, inclusive citizenship; I also stressed the importance of citizens of all ages making their own imaginative and practical contribution to the shaping of a shared future.”
President Michael D. Higgins
The overall site colouring would inevitably be a crucial decision, as each political party involved would undoubtedly be associated with their party’s signature colour. So as not to convey any political bias, an understated but sophisticated white base with a textured navy blue formed the dominant head and foot of the site; a colour chosen specifically for its connotations of authority, trust and most importantly, stability.
It was evident that this was most certainly a site that would be visited by all kinds of users, who would be viewing the site in all sorts of screen resolutions. As much as us big-monitor-lovers are trying to eradicate the need for the fold, we simply couldn’t ignore the task of accommodating the crucial content above the fold in this instance. So after separating out every item of required content, we worked out, in priority order, what was essential to see at first glance, and what was permissible to scroll. Then allowing a suitable amount of ‘content peek’ (allowing the user to see a fraction of what’s to come encourages them to scroll) for the lower priority content.
There was a strong requirement for each user to feel a real ease when navigating and discovering content throughout the site. We solved this by providing a clear horizontal navigation across every page, and a consistent secondary navigation on the inner pages, and also by providing detailed, key links on the footer of every page acting as a sitemap. This made the site’s links totally accessible, from everyday, tech-savvy users through to visually impaired users with screen readers.
We were challenged with finding the best way to display the high volume of vote/count data dynamically, as we were responsible for populating the site with live data on the day of the election itself. Through thorough research and a few experiments, we found the functionality and aesthetics of Google Charts was a perfect fit. This allowed us to display the data in a number of engaging, easy-to-read ways; pie charts, bar charts, stacked bar charts and tables.
Finally, our overriding requirement was to provide an accessible site under the WC3 Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. This involved including the allowance of expanding font sizes, changes in colourings, and providing HTML text alongside every image to ensure no information was unreadable by screen readers. A mighty task you may think?! …Just a day in the life of the ebow design team actually! ; )
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