Wow, that election season sucked. As we get more and more of our information from online, and by taking in so much more information daily than we used to, it can be really difficult to stay on top of an election. He said this, she said that, truth is mixed with lies, or lies are made out to be truth. I honestly don't understand why so many people on either side of the isle would rather lie to push their agenda than work together towards proper solutions based off of fact, but as a technologist I feel it's my job to sort through the muck and help people make clear choices. As a designer it's a fundemental part of my job.
I followed the election cycle pretty actively from early on and when the primaries rolled around in June I was met with a surprising realization when I opened up my ballot – I didn't know jack about anything except for a few presidential candidates. The presidential candidates only made up a small portion of the ballot yet 100% of my knowledge was in that bracket. How could I, as a caring citizen, possibly know how to vote for the local offices and measures? As I looked back and forth between my ballot and the Google search bar on my monitor, I realized I was in over my head. Surely there had to be a resource center that could help me out, right? Not really.
I started Politiclear on the mission to educate voters like myself. I wanted to create a virtual ballot that broke down every candidate and measure, local and national, into digestable information that the average person could and should need, and present it in a way that leaves the user better off when they leave than they were when they came in.
Heads up: There's a lot of politickin comin' up, so if you're unable to see his face or her face without having flashbacks, you should move on. The placeholder content I used are real politicians and real issues. What follows does NOT accurately reflect my political leanings. Some of it is accurate and some is not.
Site home page
When a guest arrives at the home page they are greeted with three main sections: Upcoming house votes, ways to get involved, and a news section. We all know that not enough attention is paid to Congress even though they have some of the greatest impact on the country. Surfacing upcoming votes is a great way to encourage proactivity among constituents, and should help people get a better understanding of what the government is focusing on. Riding on the idea of involvement, the "Get involved" section would serve as another way for activists to get involved in ways they may not have known they could. I'll explain the news section later.
Politiclear works best if it knows your location. I don't want to focus only on national issues when local are just as (if not more) important. When the guest arrives they are greeted with a big 'ol banner suggesting that they create an account. When the user creates an account they are given access to extra features to further customize the information they receive, including the ability to take a quick quiz to identify their political leanings, which I'll talk about later. This is used to filter content that they may be interested in, such as bills pertaining to specific issues and assumed preferences on elected officials, candidates, measures, and news sources. Unlike a lot of other services that feed content based on preferences, Politiclear would use it to serve up content from both sides of the isle so as not to promote one-sidedness and not create an echo chamber.
If someone visits the site during an election cycle they're greeted with another big 'ol banner asking for their ZIP code. Providing this information will serve up their ballot containing everything they'll be voting on.
The news section is very simple but designed in a way that will allow the user to see news from the "other side". News is organized at regional levels (national, state, county, and local) with exception to the "Trending News" section which is from all areas. Instead of displaying individual articles at the highest level, articles are batched into topics. Any recent news articles about Obamacare are put into a bucket, and any articles about energy are put into another – regardless of the leanings of the author or publication. This is meant to serve as a brief snapshot of the news that is likely to have the most impact on you and removes the requirement of sorting through all of the news if you don't want to.
In the flow to the right we can see how a user would navigate the topic of Obamacare. They click on the "Obamacare Under Threat" topic and are taken to a page full of articles on the topic from various news sources with the publication called out via a badge.
The intent of this design is to promote users to read articles from publications that lean in different directions. Rather than Hannah the Hippie only seeing news from sources that she likes, she's forced to see things from the other side and become better informed. How she forms her opinion is on her, but at least she (hopefully) saw the other side.
Election ballots, much like my case studies, can be pretty long and quite overwhelming. In an effort to de-clutter the user can access their ballot in two ways: to look at candidates or policy measures. The full ballot can be navigated through on the ballot page, but I felt that dividing the entrypoints into two sections would help clarify the overall contents of the ballot as well as give the user the ability to quickly jump to the section they wanted to. Somebody who wants to get to the measures won't have to scroll through the candidates to get to where they want to be. However, when on the ballot page, the user can easily jump between candidates and measures via the left-hand navigation panel.
All of the information on these pages is public information that can be found right in your government-supplied voter handbook. Did you know that that was a thing? If you didn't then don't worry, neither did 85% of the people that I asked.
On each candidate and measure page, signed in users have the ability to add claim their vote. This information is mirrored into the Politiclear Ballot mobile app which can be taken into the voting booth and used to fill out the ballot. I'll talk more about that later.
The candidate profile is a brief and clear rundown of the candidate's history. It begins with a brief overview on the candidate and is followed by your suspected rating of the candidate based off of your political leanings quiz profile, their top three priorities, a breakdown of their stances on popular issues, their past experience, a breakdown of the contibutions they've received, statement honesty (very similar to Politifact), recent news articles about the candidate, as well as their contact information and social profiles.
Measure pages are very similar to candidate pages. They provide a brief description of the measure complete with a plain-speak overview of the proposal, the background of the proposal, details of the way it is now, what happens if it passes, and its impact on the budget. It also includes arguments from both sides, a plain-speak explanation of what happens if the bill passes, and an impartial analysis.
Engagement in any product is important. If I'm going to keep people interested in Politiclear and politics in general I needed reasons for users to come back. There are numerous features in Politiclear that drive important content and make political engagement more interesting. Some of these features include a political leanings profile quiz, a "who to watch" feature to help you keep an eye on elected officials that you love or hate, and live events.
Political leaning quiz
Thanks to Buzzfeed making quizzs that help you discover important things about yourself like which possible illuminati member you are, folks are more than willing to answer a few questions in order to get a better look into how they feel about issues. The ability to create a political profile on yourself was important for two reasons: for one, it gives you a better understanding of yourself and forces you to think about issues that you may not have thought about in the past. Secondly, the information provided helps Politiclear serve up the best content and enables the ability to predict how a user may feel about a particular issue, candidate, or upcoming vote. This can be seen in the form of iconography badges placed over those subjects. If we recognize that you have passoinate opinions on abortion issues a blue "thumbs up" will indicate to the user that they may want to click in and take action.
The rating badges on these publications indicate the political leaning of the publisher. The give stances are Left, Left Center, Center, Right Center, Right.
The quiz itself is simple and borrows from products like OKCupid and numerous other political leaning quiz sites. The user is guided through multiple chapters based on issues like the economy, healthcare, budgets, etc. – each containing a few multiple choice questions. For guided metrics, the user also indicates how important an issue is to them. This is important because while you may have an opinion on the minimum wage you may not care too much about the issue as a whole.
Who to watch
There are a lot of political figures to remember. Admit it, sometimes you hear about something that someone did, form an opinion, and then months later you hear their name again or find them on your ballot but you can't remember how you feel about them. To help with this, Politiclear places a like/dislike badge over the portrait of every political figure that you may see. In an effort to drive followings for politicians you love or hate, I felt it appropriate to add a "Who to Watch" feature to surface both notorious politicians and upcoming figureheads alike.
The user profile serves as a snapshot of your political landscape. It shows the results of your ever-changing political leanings, offers alterante entrypoints to your ballots and voter information, activist groups, and more.
Politiclear also comes with a mobile app to take into the voting booth. Every candidate and measure page has a voting button that lets the user mark their opinions which is then reflected in the app. This simple app can be taken into the booth to allow the user to quickly review their stances to vote.
Thanks for reading
If you like this project and want to see more, check out my full portfolio. If you want to connect with me, you can find me on these platforms.