PoliticsHome: overwhelming and soulless

‘Staying on top of modern politics has become a full time job,’ declares the long-awaited PoliticsHome on its About page. ‘Things move too fast: it is too much for any single person to track.’ Unfortunately, the same can be said about the site itself: load up the homepage, and a torrent of headlines hits you head-on.  It’s overwhelming, and it leaves me dazed. I complained that the new Foreign Office site didn’t guide the eye: I take it all back.
There’s no doubt that, if a political story is out there, PoliticsHome has it in here, somewhere. Most of it is well-intentioned: the whole ‘live reporting’ aspect, a few ‘ticker’ areas, a nice grouping of the various sources’ coverage of the day’s big stories, a diary, a bit of story categorisation. A couple of ideas look familiar – the ‘newspaper front pages’ is a direct lift from my work at Sky News, for example.
But it looks like an ugly big database, more like a stock market terminal than a ‘super blog’, or an online magazine / newspaper. It’s hard to imagine a less engaging design; maybe they don’t consider that a priority. But having brought some famous faces on board, such as Andrew Rawnsley and former BBC man Nick Assinder, I’m surprised not to see them making more of the faces and their original material.
The idea of scrolling 100 items horizontally, in the window at the top of each page, is ludicrous; it’s utterly unusable. I’ve got a few issues with the technicals too: some page elements seem to refresh randomly, then there’s a brutal full-page refresh if you leave it five minutes. Quite simply, there are better ways these days.
I fear PoliticsHome has miscalculated. Politics is increasingly about personality, warmth and engagement. That’s why the blogs’ visitor numbers are growing (regardless of the accuracy of the specific figures). But PoliticsHome feels cold, functional and soulless. I don’t expect to use it.

2 thoughts on “PoliticsHome: overwhelming and soulless”

  1. Sorry if the nice people at PoliticsHome feel a bit gutted, but …
    Initially, I though I’d reached the service admin page showing the uptime graph and a list of error messages. The black screen may be eco-friendly and save on photons, but I can’t think of a single serious website that uses a black background.
    Use of capitals on TOP STORY HEADLINES makes me want to look away.
    A couple (more) hours with a UI specialist and some tweaks to the style sheet might make the site a lot more visually accessible and then the content would be critiqued. But in the meantime, my eyes hurt.

  2. I was part of the project that was shut down so that PoliticsHome could be born – some might remember it as 18DoughtyStreet – either way, it is no more. Instead, we have PoliticsHome.
    As I thought when I was hanging around at the time… The concept broadly is good, but limited in terms of business success opportunity and the delivery sucks. It doesn’t work on Opera, mobile and is a great example of a site non-compliant with the DDA and other stanards. On a broader note it is insiders talking to insiders about insiders. I see that no lessons have been learned from the previous operation at all – probably a difficult exercise to complete anyway given that the turnover was 130% or so in just 12 months.

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