Earlier this week, Stuart wrote about viewing our competition as allies. This probably feels a little uncomfortable for a lot of people — businesses want to succeed, and a big part of succeeding is making money, which comes from getting work, which normally happens at another business’s expense.
But who says it’s a zero-sum game? The Web is changing and the world is changing. The biggest gains — monetary and otherwise — are to come from being a part of that change, and influencing the direction of that change so that we — and our industry — become smarter, kinder, and just, well… better.
Today, through the serendipity engine that is Twitter, I found a really clever, thought-provoking site. It’s called Vote for Policies and in addition to being beautifully designed and very useable, it’s also really timely. (Thanks must be given to @RKTweets, who tweeted this little gem in the first place.)
The site helps users compare the policies of the six main political parties. It removes the party branding so people can get straight to the content and make informed decisions based on the policies they want to live with, rather than be nudged this way and that by the faces, rhetoric and theme songs those policies usually hide behind. By pulling out the meaningful content and putting it in a usable interface framed by clean, instructive copy, this site does something really important: it makes powerful information accessible to more people.
Credit where due: good work that betters us all
I think Vote for Policies is a piece of work that does help us be better — and I was heartened to learn that the people behind it built it for that very reason. The project is a collaboration between Budcus (web consultancy) and Makito Labs (design and development). I left a comment with Budcus asking whether the site had been built as part of a larger campaign, or for one party in particular. Matt emailed me less than an hour later:
In answer to your question, there is no political agenda to this (impossible to predict results anyway so would be one hell of a gamble!). None of us involved in the project have any kind of connection with any organisations – political or otherwise. We’re just doing it off our own backs (i.e. for free!).
Um, wow. There aren’t a lot a lot of people doing pro bono work these days. Sure, Matt and the rest of the folks from Budcus and Makito Labs had to have hoped there would be some PR in it, but they spent unbillable time on it, which in the agency world is kinda risky. What’s more, their name is in rather small letters at the bottom — this is no self-promotion piece. So really, why did they do it?
We’re just taking advantage of a time when, thanks to the web, anyone with a good idea and the right strategy can create positive change.
I think this is awesome. It’s the kind of thing more of us can and should be doing, and it makes me really excited about the future of our culture. What’s more, I love that this is a collaboration. Sharing an idea does not expose a weakness. We have to get away from this thinking. If anything, collaboration makes us and our ideas stronger.
Credit where due: a lovely little site that’s easy to use
I think one of the reason this site works so well is due to the really intuitive, pared-down user experience. You select four or more policy areas from a selection of nine, and then you walk through as many pages, each of which offers six policies on that area — one from each of Labour, Lib Dems, UKIP, the Green Party, the BNP and the Conservatives.
Platforms are *relatively* anonymised (I’m sure the eagle-eyed among you will spot a couple instances of Labour phrasing) and they’re also really readable. More info is available if you want it, but what’s presented is ample enough. Here’s an example:
Once you work through all the policy areas, you are asked to provide the first part of your post code and your email address — not too big an ask, I don’t think. Then you get your results — and lo, it would appear I have a little bit of deciding to do!
Ignoring, for the moment, my possibly schizophrenic political leanings, I’d like to flag up one more thing I think this site does really well: simple, interesting data visualisation.
The homepage defaults to show results by party, but you can easily get a more granular take on the data by viewing by party and policy:
Just hover and click on a colour band to see that party’s percentages. It’s super-intuitive and really interesting. What’s more, if this project helps even a few people make a more informed decision when they go to the polls, hasn’t it done some good?
As Stuart says, the people doing work like this are our allies, and it’s about time we gave them some props for their good work. Bravo, Budcus and Makito Labs — I think you have created some awesome, change-producing work and I hope you continue to make a whole lot more. One bit of feedback though — Matt, you guys use PRINCE2? Come on, go Agile… all the cool kids are doing it!