Two new LibDem websites (Clegg on WordPress!)

What are political party websites actually for? We’ll see which way the wind is blowing over the next couple of weeks: the LibDems unveiled a new party site earlier this week, ahead of their conference in Bournemouth; and they’ve just opened they’re on the verge of launching a new site for leader Nick Clegg too. The Tories will be relaunching their site before gathering in Birmingham; most of the attention has focused on plans for a new group blog as a complement (or competitor?) to ConservativeHome etc. No word on anything significant from Labour, although that won’t come as much of a surprise.
The new LibDem site is, I’m told, built on Ruby On Rails; there’s also a bit of Prototype-powered Ajax functionality. It plays things fairly straight: if you’re looking for party news or facts, it’s all there for you. The feel is unquestionably ‘bloggy’, with plenty of RSS icons, a prominent ‘tag cloud’, and (generally) chronological presentation. But it doesn’t feel like it’s trying to inspire, persuade or otherwise stir your emotions.
Instead, the thrust is towards the local dimension – including nice integration with their excellent Flock Together site of local events, a database of LibDem People (including inbound feeds from their blogs and They Work For You where applicable), and a selection of posts on other LibDem sites/blogs. I note with particular interest the page of Online Tools to help party activists build their own sites, including specific widgets for Blogger and WordPress, as well as instructions for Mambo/Joomla sites.
On a functional level, I think the site’s a success. It’s easy to take in, with things in logical places. The chronological presentation is becoming a given these days. I love the widespread use of inbound and outbound RSS; I look forward to seeing how this gets used. And subjectively, I like the visual approach. On the down side, there’s a lack of warmth, of personality to it: but there may be a good reason for that.
Complementing the new party site is a new personal site for LibDem leader Nick Clegg – powered by WordPress 😀 (using a customised version of the Revolution theme, and yes, they do credit it). It’s immediately warmer and more friendly: first name terms, bigger and more smiley imagery, comments enabled on the site articles (written, sadly, in the third person), and so on. There’s a prominent ‘Meet Nick’ button, listing his public appearances: a nice touch, although it does invite comparisons with the Tories’ impressive Cameron Direct.
I note the Flickr, YouTube and Twitter links on the Clegg site are all to ‘libdems’-branded accounts (although not his Friendfeed account: the exception proving the rule, I guess). It’s surely a conscious decision to put this ‘warmer’ material here. And with politics increasingly dominated by the leader’s personality rather than his/her party, it seems like a smart move; I always felt Clegg’s promise to go to court in defiance of compulsory ID cards hinted at a conscious strategy to brand the party strongly in his youthful image. (Clegg’s constituency site remains separate.)

4 thoughts on “Two new LibDem websites (Clegg on WordPress!)”

  1. @Shane Yes, I’m now seeing that too. I know the site is in the final, final stages of preparation… and I could definitely see it (very) late last night, but maybe I just got lucky. Expect something imminently.

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