Tuesday, 29 September 2015

TheKnow.EU - it's a problem

In web design there is always a gulf between what the customer likes, what the programmer is happy with and what is of use to the visitor. I can see why Mr Banks would be very happy with The Know.EU and I can see from both the presentation and the coding that the programmer is very happy with it. I would be. But I'm not the programmer. I'm a visitor.

First of all, the panel of people moves in bi-directional sweeps which is mildly psychedelic. (trust me on this). Whichever image you click on, it send you to the same donation page. Since there is already an opportunity to donate on the main screen, the widget itself is utterly pointless. Not a good idea for the first thing that grabs your attention to be pointless.

Then there's the poll. What is it for? It's not like it's scientifically valuable data. All it tells us is that the majority of visitors, probably coming in via the Daily Mail/Daily Express/Ukip, are concerned about immigration. This is not news to us, and presumably is not news to Mr Banks either. This conclusion cannot be used to refine the website in that people from this cohort are already catered for. In short, the widget is pointless.

Then we have the "latest news" widget. Click through on this and we see links from mainstream media - namely. The Daily Express, The Daily Mail and the Muslim obsessed Breitbart. Arguably Breitbart is not mainstream media but it is a quasi-racist, pretty far-right rag where the moderation policy (or the lack thereof) means the comments are often filled with utterly vile content that would make the Daily Mail blush. No serious campaign should be linking to this vessel.

Moreover, nobody will come to the campaign website to get what they have already seen on Twitter, Facebook or indeed the host websites. Thus, the widget is again pointless. Moreover, a people's campaign should be promoting the voices of people and their news - not the voices of a press that any good strategy should be keen to attack. I'll leave it to you to decide if the merchandise widget is of value. I wouldn't be in a rush to buy a t-shirt with The Know emblazoned upon it since the referendum question is no longer yes/no.

So straight off the bat we have a pretty pointless website that's actually pretty ugly, doesn't tell you anything immediate and gives the visitor no obvious reason to return to it. If you wanted a website designed by a committee, it would look a lot like this. I would be interested to see the average loiter time of a visitor and the number of return visits. I bet they're quite small.

More than this, were I to cast an analytical eye on "the facts" section, I would find it riddled with factual and strategic errors with no consistency of message. The user has to go two clicks deep to get to the actual content which is anaemic and of little campaign value. Certainly it gives the online activist no reason to use it as an online headquarters.

At best this website is a placeholder, but there is no defining strategy behind it. No philosophy or ethos. It's just a vanity site. That said, the same can be said of Business For Elliot's websites too.

What's actually needed is something not entirely dissimilar to Ukip's own website. It's not cluttered, it has immediate signs that something new has been added and it is a news source in its own right. Effectively it's a blog site - which is the most effective way to communicate. Where Ukip fails is that it does not update every day, has no editorial strategy and no common themes. It's not building a message and there is no apparent editorial philosophy. That website style though, at the very least, would be an improvement.

What we actually need is a campaign website run pretty much as an e-zine much like Spiked Online only with a guiding philosophy behind it, a team of competent writers each working to an editorial line and an overall set of editorial ground rules to ensure message discipline. In fighting this campaign, the lead website should be an antidote to the media, a rival to it and more to the point, more accurate, up to date and persuasive. Nothing about Leave.EU suggests to me there is a strategy or a philosophy.

In reality any campaign site needs a fully staffed newsroom. What we have here is a site that could be run by a part time administrator with very little knowledge of the subject matter. It adds no value. Possibly a news site could exist as a partner to the main website entity but TheKnow.EU as standalone site, while superficially pretty and ticking all the boxes that a placeholder would need to tick, it's useless. If I were Mr Banks, I would be asking for a refund.

The bottom line is that Banks can boast about all the emails he's harvested and all the Facebook likes until the cows come home, but if you don't have an effective campaign website, you don't have a campaign. Just a very expensive brand name that isn't actually selling anything.

The truth is, there are dozens of flashy PHP template websites that an amateur can install onto personal web-hosting in a matter of minutes and the outcome would look much like this. It wouldn't take much more than a day to populated it and you'd need little in the way of expertise to maintain it. Leave.EU looks very much like one of those efforts. I know it's early days, and there is more flesh to be added to the skeleton, but without a strategy and a philosophy, it's always going to be a mess and will accomplish very little.

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