Design and politics is a tricky issues, from the butterfly ballot fiasco that may have changed the course of an election to the frictionless-to-thepoint-of-being-slippery change.org (who until recently wouldn’t let you unsign a petition). However, for all of the ethics involved, we can’t ignore the power of design to effect change. Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign is dubbed the campaign won by the internet.

Molly Norris was speaking on behalf of her agency, Blue State Digital, who were involved in the 2008 Obama campaign. They’re not using their experience (albeit with a far smaller team – 10 people rather than the Obama 250! ) to try and, to put it bluntly, “get Labour into government”.

Norris took umbrage with UXers not necessarily taking on what she considered the big issues:

I take issue with  UXers aiming for delight…we should be designing for action. I call this design for mobilisation.

Of course, action and mobilisation are key for political sites – she  emphasised the need for strategic growth that balanced impact with difficulty (and in doing so introduced a phrase I’d never heard of: ‘slacktivism’, that thing where people add their names to Facebook campaigns but never actually contribute money.)

The Labour site has been the first in the UK to raise £1 million in small online donations. It deliberately  “does not look like a political site… it looks like a startup site”.

Though some did take exception to its requirements.

Her three principles for the exponential growth were to be:

  1. action obsessed
  2. personalisation to scale
  3. test and iterate

She also provided some practical tips for design for mobilisation including:

  • Personalised email: emails with a first name convert 56% better than those without. She suggested that “it is the forgotten social channel” (for the record, both myself and other people in the audience definitely do not forget about email, but it’s still a useful reminder.)
  • Make “clickventures” – choose your own experience style campaigns. The Labour team had a lot of success with their “find your NHS birth number” campaign. It’s also done by charity:water with “tools that are all open source”.

Header image NC-By-SA by Talk UX.

Vicky Teinaki is a user experience designer at Newcastle upon Tyne agency Orange Bus. She is also working on a PhD at Northumbria University about better ways of communicating design methods within the design industry.