One of the reasons I was brought to London was to improve the services we offer people via the web. At the moment, I have to say that our sites are a little old-fashioned, and don’t really serve the requirements of the groups that are engaged with us, such as providers of information about the European Union (e.g. Europe Directs), citizenship and language teachers and students of EU politics and policies. We’re starting the process and I’d love to get your advice on what I need to keep in mind when redesigning a website. Please leave your comments below, or if you’d rather help me out privately, use the contact form.
I went to a very interesting event yesterday, organised by Figaro Digital, which they billed as a “digital health check”. In fact it was more like digital speed-dating – they had invited a number of companies that deliver elements of digital marketing and communication (from website design to online video to search to e-mail marketing to server hosting) and these companies gave presentations and were available for on-on-one discussions. All the participants had sent in forms in advance explaining what would were interested in, and then we had a tailor-made schedule for the day, with a combination of presentations and meetings. I met several digital agencies, plus people doing search optimisation, e-mail and hosting. We’re planning to redesign one of our sites, and the whole thing was incredibly useful as part of the preparation of that process. It was a bit like when you are directing a theatre show, you don’t need to operate the lights, but it’s useful to know a little bit about what they do and why they are important. So I feel I’m better equipped now to ask the right questions when it comes to tendering for the work for the website. It also meant that I could find some companies out there prepared to go through a public sector tendering process, something I have found in the past is in no way a given! Although I often felt like an O-level student who had stumbled into a university lecture, it was definitely a good use of a day.
There’s been a lot of discussion about how this hasn’t been the “social media” election everyone thought it was. But, like some others, I believe that those writing about it are viewing it the wrong way down the telescope. No, social media may not have replaced the role of newpapers, or even TV. But as I tweeted “#ukvote SE7″ this morning to help log turnout and clicked “Yes I voted” on the Democracy UK page on Facebook, it seemed very clear to me that things were different to how they had ever been before. Social media aren’t about replacing the old media, thaty’re about doing things differently and doing different things. The New Statesman yesterday said more or less the same thing, highlighting the role of Twitter and Facebook in creating cohesion among supporters and activists. Not to mention the mydavidcameron poster site (other poster sites exist…!). Maybe it won’t be Twitter wot won it this time, or maybe ever, but I believe that the advent of tools making it easier for people who focus on a particular issue to find each other and talk about it is a complete game-changer. As a psephology junkie, it’ll be really interesting to see whether there is any evidence that first-time voter turn-out is up on past elections. If it is that will be a vindication of social media’s role, I believe. Either way, if we *are* on the brink of a new era in British politics, our new leaders will have to take all of this into account.
[Update 12.12] And as if to prove my point, The Sun front page parodies have started…