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Canadian Election Web Reporting Report

24-Jan-06 12:37 am EDT Leave a comment Go to comments
Quite a night – a new government for Canada.  A lot of changes this election.  And there were changes too in how technolgogy reported results back to the voters:
  • News sites become less-sophisticated
  • The "best" site in terms of detail of reporting & ease of use – was a government website
  • This election brought a reporting blackout back into effect, that wasn’t around in the 2004 election

The reporting blackout appears to have effectively prevented any widespread reporting of results to areas of the country that weren’t supposed to get results ahead of time.  But cell phones in the eastern part of the country were definitely active, causing their western counterparts to be abuzz with results well ahead of all polls closing.  And the EFNet IRC chat network was also active with results out of Newfoundland right from the start of results coming in there.  Some groups had charged that the Elections Act in Canada wasn’t effective for this rason, yet many Canadians polled during the course of the election felt the ban should stand despite the obvious technical leapfrogging that would inevitably occur.

But as the Elections Act was being strained by the realities posed by the Internet and cell phones, databases started gathering the data that would, at 10 p.m. EST, be allowed to be digested by the vast majority – otherwise unaware (or unconcerned)  of the other Internet tools to bring results to them sooner.

The three sites I had ear-marked to do a review of results on were the Elections Canada results site, the CBC "Canada Votes" (Election Night) website & CTV News "Election 2006" site.  There are several others that could be worthy of review – but there’s only one of me & I wanted to evaluate 3 of what I thought would be the leading reporting sites this evening.

In uncontested 1st place overall: The Elections Canada website.

This website also won in terms of interface design; placesment of inforamtion, click-through counts to info desired, and response time.  The technology was not JavaScript-heavy at all…usage of CSS technology and protocol tools to update information made this site extremely attractive.  One could use this site with the ease of a video-game; drilling into information with the effenciency of a spreadsheet, retrieving data for any riding, province, city or summary data for any region in far less time than it took for you to read about it here.

The CBC Canada Votes, Election Night website came in second.  It too bore much of the efficinecy and simplicity of the Elections Canada site, but lost a few points on interface design.  Placement of some of the controls wasn’t natural, and didn’t follow many of the UI conventions observed in the area of interface design from a technology perspective.  Even so, a good solid site.

The CTV News website was, to be polite, a disappointment.  The interface was not only an example of gaudy, graphics-heavy glitz.  But if pop-uips weren’t busy making the experinece reminscent of some taudry porn site in the nether regions of the net, the interface was cumbersone, infomraiton delivery was slow — and that’s just when the site worked.  I was greeted for the bulk of the first hour with a broken CSS file that returned little but gibberish, amidst broken images…this during the first hour after results were allowed online!  What happened here?  These folks had a long time to prepare for election night and it looks as if it was all horribly misspent overtaking the plumbing, forgetting about the job that had to be done: results DELIVERY.

Better luck next time.

And that could be rather soon.  The nation’s history with Tory minority governments is that they’re short-lived.  Although Canadians will be sick of elections for the next 10 years I’m sure…we’re gonna be lucky to get through the next 18 months without another.  And hopefully, some of the results site designers learn lessons from mistakes made here.

Again – congrats to the Elections Canada design team!

 

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Terry Glavin

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