Key Points:

In part one of this series on New Zealand party political websites I looked at Labour and National and found that National were streaks ahead of Labour.

Now it's time to review the online presence of the minor political parties.

Having never visited any of their websites prior to this article, it was with some trepidation that I fired up my web browser and wondered what I'd discover. What I found was an eclectic mix of website designs and content decisions and an overall impression that the minor parties are somewhat dancing to their own beat online.

New Zealand First

This site is something of a throwback to the late 1990's web style with its small centred layout, and boxy two column look. It lacks the wow factor and is a bit too grey for my liking. Out of curiosity I looked the site up on the internet Archive at www.archive.org and, sure enough, the site's current design goes back to around November 2002.

Policy is easily accessed from the main navigation system but the left navigation disappears to be replaced by a horizontal navigation menu when you're on a policy page, which is kind of disorientating for web users. The policy is overly wordy and lacks the plain English style and comprehension of many of the other parties' websites.

Media releases go back ten years, and there's no evidence of a blog, and from what I can tell Winston himself is not on Facebook but there are several pro-Winston groups including the Winston Peters Appreciation group.

It's hard to get past the fact that New Zealand First has not re-designed their site in 6 years, so they get a D for their online efforts.



Act Party

The website's not too bad, but it could certainly benefit from a few design tweaks. Rather a lot of space is wasted in the media centre on the homepage, and the sliding panel effect is probably too clever to be functional. A more usable approach would be to use a simple text panel with a description and link off to each media release.

Fonts on the homepage and within the main navigation links could benefit from being a few font sizes bigger. I rather like Act's slogan 'the guts to do what's right' so typically Kiwi and vague enough to cover anything and everything but who is the judge of what 'is right' or am I missing a double entendre here? Regardless of what it means it's a bold statement and sets the tone for the rest of the website -kind of punchy and a little in your face.

Act's policy page is straightforward and focuses right on the money, showing voters exactly how much they'll get in their pocket if the policy is deployed. Each policy links off to a separate PDF. Act also has a straight forward '20 point plan' which is nice and simple and it's getting plenty of comments from visitors even though they're required to register before commenting.

The main emphasis on the homepage is Act's green policy, taxes, and justice. Somewhat confusingly, the home link in the navigation doesn't go to the default homepage but to a page with a large graphic of the party members and links to policy, candidates and a multimedia link that goes to a blank page.

Though Rodney Hide has a Facebook page with 224 supporters, there is no link to the page from the Act website. From Facebook I discovered www.rodneyhide.com but the URL just goes through to www.act.org.nz/Rodney_hide which pulls out speech transcripts from Rodney.

Act has missed a golden opportunity to capitalise on Rodney's profile with a multimedia rich website. The main site has 'sort of a blog' with some personal messages from Rodney Hide, but it's certainly not my idea of a full blog presence. There is no link to an official YouTube channel, but there are plenty of videos of Rodney Hide on YouTube. Overall, it's a fairly average presence online, and not the easiest website to use, so gets a C grade.



Maori Party

I rather like the Maori Party website for its simplicity; it's fairly easy to use and has fresh content published to the homepage. However, the navigation system could do with some work; in particular it needs better organisation of the content and less link options. The graphic in the top banner could be better, with perhaps one or two striking images used for a greater visual impact.

The site has a tendency to link off to other resources, in particular the party news link goes to a Google news search for 'Maori party' which is not something I would personally recommend as there is no way to control this content.

The website's policy page is not accessed from a main link but is found under the link to 'party', unfortunately they've only published three policies and they're from 2005.

Other Maori Party websites, including those for the Young Maori Party and for Pita Sharples were only discovered when I clicked on the link to 'other webs'.

There is an official page on Bebo with 809 friends, a Maori Party group on Facebook and both Pita Sharples and Hone Harawira have Facebook profiles. There is a presence on YouTube and I rather enjoyed the featured video from Angeline Greensill with her country and western styled ditty calling on viewers to 'get on the roll and vote yeah-ha'.

Not a bad effort overall, but still just a C grade due to the lack of content organisation and very out of date policy.


The Family Party

A very shiny website that is perhaps a little too 'American' in its design style for my Kiwi tastes. The homepage has a interesting video that paints a picture of life in sin city with a 'Cops meets the Matrix' twist to it, and I couldn't help but hum 'bad boys bad boys what they gonna do'.

In stark contrast is the second homepage video of an almost ethereal nuclear family shot in black and white walking serenely along a beach.

The design is not to my personal taste but I'm sure many will really like it, and it is well laid out with easy access to policy which is comprehendible and broken up into bullet points for quick scanning online. Very recent press releases are published onto the home page with archives going back to November 2007.

There's no Family Party blog, or any obvious presence on Facebook but they do have a channel on YouTube.

Green Party

I was expecting big things from the Green's but the site left me a little underwhelmed. They've tried to be a bit different with their homepage which consists of nine square graphics with calls to 'watch it' 'attend it' and 'blog it' and so forth.

Once past the homepage the site reverts to a pretty safe design with a typical three column layout using a soft green palette. There's nothing overtly wrong with the design, it's just a little boring.

The Greens have acknowledged the impact the web can have with an entire page devoted to cyber volunteering with tips on how to promote the Green party online. They've also gone a step further than other parties by placing web banners online that supporters can download and add to their own websites.

There is a separate blog but though it claims not to "represent official Green Party policy or comment" it does however "form part of the website of the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand".

I'm left with the impression it is written by an enthusiastic volunteer with close links to the party. You need to register to leave comments, but that doesn't appear to have put people off commenting as the posts receive comments from quite differing political viewpoints.

The Green's have put some effort into the look of their YouTube channel which has plenty of videos online. The videos have been added to a video page listed under the link 'resources' but this could be easily missed. They'd be better off moving at least one of the videos to the homepage and updating it every few days for maximum effect.

There's an audio page as well, with snippets of speeches. There's an easy to use document library with images and speech transcripts that can be sorted by subject, author or resource type. It's clear the site is not just about winning votes, it's actually quite educational as well, but they clearly still want your vote as there's a brag page listing what their MP's have achieved.

It's not the slickest website but it's a pretty solid work horse for the party, easy to use and content rich, and for that it gets a B.

United Future

United Future's website has an excellent three column layout with good use of white space. I'm not so keen on the mauve colour but I do like how they've segmented content into boxes. There's a video on the homepage, but it would have a greater visual impact if moved to the top of the page rather than its current position at the bottom left. Once past the homepage the text in the left sidebar is just a little hard to read due to the dark mauve background.

A blog has been integrated into the website with real posts written in the first person, including a strongly worded memo directed at Helen Clark and John Key. Though I rather like the informality of the blog posts by the three authors, I have to nit-pick and suggest they use New Zealand spelling, watch their use of ampersands, and check their grammar before pushing the publish button it kind of gets in the way of the message.

Mini polls have been added to the site, which is a great way to engage voters and get them to comment. Policy is easily accessible from 'our policy' page with PDF copies provided for download. Though Peter Dunne has a page on Facebook there is no link to it from the party website.

Overall I rather like the website but it could do with some tweaks and definitely more multimedia, but its clean layout helps earn it a B grade.

Progressive Party

Quite an unusual choice of design for a political party, with the site looking more like a show reel for a multimedia design firm due to its black background, white text and glossy buttons. It's not a contemporary design, but I'm sure some people would love it.

The homepage is dominated by large scary graphics including a child with a missing tooth and old people shivering in a freezing living room. These images relate to Progressive's core policy. Multimedia is used to expand on the policy but the QuickTime videos took at least 60 seconds to load, and I couldn't get the Windows Media Player videos to play at all.

Relatively recent press releases are accessible from a link called 'latest' and there is a dialogue section which encourages comments on the site, with just one comment added so far and no reply.

And that is about it, but if you click on the links page you get a link mysteriously called 'caring about New Zealand'. It goes Jim Anderton's blog which is simple and quite attractive in design (thankfully with a white background) but has only two posts from back in June, one with a YouTube video from Jim Anderton. Progressive is on YouTube but with just the one video.

There's lots of room for improvement with this website so just a C-.

Summary

Having now spent a considerable amount of time delving into New Zealand political party websites I've come to the conclusion that the parties are not that web savvy and their web strategies are letting them down. Perhaps in another three years they'll catch up, but it could be too late for some of them.

- START-UP TV