Monday, 23 February 2009

Dare to Act - website evaluation

Dare to Act is a new website campaign launched by the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union. There are lots of strengths in the website that other campaigning organisations can learn from. However there are also some areas where Newscounter would advocate a different approach.

A clear call to action

There are three clear calls to action on the site: get to know the case, dare to act and keep yourself updated. The user can understand completely what to do and how to use the site. The information is informative and entertaining and motivates users to take action.

A range of different actions

The motivated user has a range of different actions - sending an email is easy enough (although would be aided by a single point of contact and the urge to CC the UN secretary general seems a little implausible to be effective. Interestingly, they enable users to send a fax, as well as share the site with friends.

Good integration of multimedia content

The video is neatly embedded in the site and it's easy to navigate between the different sections.

However, there are a number of weaknesses to the site which may hinder the effectiveness of the campaign.

The site isn't well optimised for search engines

The site lacks a meta description or clear page titles and there are few internal links. It is hard to find the site on a search engine unless you have already heard of the campaign.

Content can't be linked

By building the site in flash, each page doesn't have a separate URL which makes it impossible for other websites - and bloggers in particular - to link to relevant parts of the content. Yahoo currently records just 27 websites linking to the domain which is far fewer than you'd expect - particularly given the quality of the website and its content. However, publishing the videos on YouTube was a sensible way of compensating partially for that.

There's no community dialogue

The website won't build a community because it doesn't allow any dialogue between the users.

No capacity for updates

There doesn't appear to be any capacity for regular updates from the campaign (also a missed opportunity for better SEO). A campaign blog, forum or Twitter account would provide a capacity for the campaign to provide regular updates to engage users on the development of the campaign.

Lessons for other campaigns

There are some critical lessons for other campaigns:
* ensure that the structure of a website is usable for different levels of users - those who will just engage but also those who want to participate and lead a campaign
* if you choose to build a website in flash, provide alternative ways to help bloggers and others engage with the campaign
* blog if at all possible to provide regular opportunities for users to engage with the progress of the campaign. Even if the campaign doesn't change regularly, the policy and political context in which you are operating changes weekly and probably daily.

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