Home page > Links > vote letter

This was sent to vote.com as a suggestion, on July 7, 2000, by Mike Liveright



This paper makes a number of suggestions for improvements to the Vote.com site. The updated site will better serve the needs of the on-line users in making their mind up, educating them, and help to guide our representatives.

The vote.com site will be organized in 3 levels:

  1) FRONT PAGE -- a general user portal containing enough information so that the user might leave it open through out much of the day. In addition to carrying information that would "attract" the user, this page would also point to the top pages of each section, and the item pages for important topics.

    2) TOP PAGE {S} -- There will be a number of sections, e.g. News Headlines, Stock Summary, Polls, Weather, Sponsors, each of which would be pointed to from areas on the front page. Each top page will point to individual items within the site or to other sites that covered the material in more detail.

      3) ITEM PAGE {S} -- Each individual topic, e.g. a News story, a Stock, a Poll, etc. will have an page that covered the topic in more detail and would have a large number of links, as appropriate, to other pages, both on and off site with even more detail.

These page types differ by the detail given to individual topics. The First page consists of a set of sections titles and a few important topic headlines. The Top page of each section would carry the initial paragraphs of these topics as well as a more complete list of the topic headlines. Finally the Item Pages would carry the full story as well as pointers to other areas that would be available for the user who is interested.

The rest of this paper is a discussion of some of these individual pages, followed by some discussion of the specific criticisms of the current Vote.com site, some general web design guidelines for the site, and finally a section that discusses how one could go further if these thoughts are felt to be useful to the development team at Vote.com. 

It is hoped that Vote.com can be maintained as a free site, but there is a need to support it, so there are some items, noted with {$}, where   the site might get some support, ether from users who might be interested in more "back end" use of the site, or from contributors who might be willing to support the site in return for some visibility.

Note: It is assumed that the user will identify himself so that the information presented to the user can depend on the specific area he is in, his personal stock portfolio, etc.


                                             Front Page

The Front Page of Vote.com will be laid out like a News paper, with areas on News Headlines, Stocks, Polls, Favorites, Weather, and a pointer to such special areas as: Sponsors, Opinion, etc.

The objective is to have this page attractive and dynamic enough so that users would tend to keep it up on their system rather than just linking through it to register a vote.

If the page carried breaking news and stock indexes, and portfolio values, weather and a set of the user favorites, then the user might keep the page around and use it to jump to the various polls rather than just rapidly looking at it and going somewhere else.

At the top of the page would be a "Purpose" line that would point off to a discussion of the purpose of the site. It probably would be similar to the New York Times "All the News fit to Print", but in this case might be "An enlightened electorate is the last bastion of democracy"


The News area will link to the News Top page as well as the current important headlines which link to the pages that discuss these headlines. It may be the news section can be an external news site that would be willing to allow you to point to them, thus eliminating the need for your staff to generate and pay for the news.

The Poll area would consist of the top few active polls, with of course a pointer to the Poll top page that would give more detail of the active polls.

The Weather area should be localized to the user's area, but otherwise can just point off to a Weather site.

The Stocks area would probably show the major indexes, as well as a user specified portfolio value and link to MSN Money or Quicken, or similar financial site, as specified by the user.

The Favorites and Opinions area are primarily a set of user available links that allow the user to configure his Front page to point to any sites that the user is specifically interested and to columnists that he tends to read regularly. I'd like the Columnist links to not only have the name of the Columnist but also the date of the last column and the headline.

Contribution and Acknowledgement areas could be used to point to people, organizations, etc. who want to be identified as supporters of the Vote.com site. I think that supporters might want to publish their web sites, perhaps their mail address and their contribution, and if so, these areas could be used to "reward" them for their support.


                                             Purpose section

You have written a book that discusses Vote.com, but there seems little of that content on this site. The Purpose section would be pointed to by the Front Page purpose, e.g. "An Enlightened Electorate..." and would be a 3-10 page summary of the purpose of the site, probably taken from the summary of the book.


                                             Poll Section

The top page of the Poll section would generally contain the information that was on the active votes page, http://www.vote.com/category/4075633/activeVotes.html, but I would suggest that the page be denser, e.g. have more text per square inch, and that each item point off to the individual Poll page.

If the user has already voted on that item, then the Top page would contain the summary of the results. Since I think that this site is most useful as it educates the user, I would not allow the user to vote on an item without going to the individual Poll page on that item as this page would contain more information about the topic.

The major content of the site is contained in the Polls, but I think that the organization of the current individual Poll pages is too limiting to really get the information that is desired as well as not providing the information that a user could use to educate himself. When I look at a poll page, e.g. http://www.vote.com/vote/32233033/index.phtml?cat=4075633, its information is only about 550 pixels wide, and 450 down and because of the layout a major part of this is blank area.

Each Poll page will contain much more "pro and com" information as well as having lots of links to other areas that discuss the topic.

The Pole page will have a simple text line giving the question, a line that contains "View Results" and Discussions" and then two columns, with active headers "Vote Yes, Yes Summary" and "Vote No, No Summary" and then the discussions, with about 3 paragraphs, perhaps. Then at the bottom of these columns I would have, something like 10 links to other discussions, and sites that were interested in the topic.

Note: There are some topics that probably could benefit from a more quantitative vote, e.g. One could ask "How much hard money should a candidate get?" rather than just if a candidate should get hard money. This type of vote page would allow a vote on a quantitative scale.

Even more complex, one might like to get a measure of the proportion of the budget that should be collected from various sources or should be spent on various programs. This would require a set of quantitative votes with the proper cross arithmetic.

There also would be way to have a user to immediately see if they had voted, and be able to change their vote, to add a comment to their vote that would be anonymous, or not, and this comment would be sent along with the vote summary.

Associated with each topic would be a Discussion area. This should have a list of only the Major topics so that the user could see all major topics at once. When the user clicked on a topic, this summary page would be replace by a reasonable long and dense page with the Major topic letter followed up with as many letters that could be contained on say a 200 line page.

Note: The letters would be in a field so that most of the page was covered with text, which could wrap as the user narrowed the window rather than the very empty page, e.g.



         Subject: YES THE COST IS WAY TOO MUCH!!! Author: Joe Date: 07/02/2001 15:04:54

HA! Got some of you. I'm sure the Government is just going to crumble if they don't get more of my money.

If you think they are not taking enough for all the Liberal income redistribution's then by all means send some more of YOUR money. NOT MINE.


         Subject: Please reign in spending. Author: Common Cents Date: 07/02/2001 15:12:59

It's my money and I want it back.




On each Topic page there would be a search button. This would allow the user to find Articles and Editorials on the web that discussed the topic.

A paying user {$} could ask the system how a vote was broken down by various groups, e.g. what percent of the Republicans voted yes etc.

The people who vote using Vote.com are self-selected. Perhaps the experts in the polling industry could alter the raw numbers based on the groups that voted, thus coming up with more accurate estimates of what the general population would feel. If so, then of course, in addition to sending the raw numbers to the vote recipients you could send the adjusted numbers.

Perhaps vote.com could get money {$} by adding some sponsored polls. Such polls should be identified as such. Users who want to support the site might then be willing to participate on one of these once a while for that reason. In addition, if you do develop ways to "modify" the results to more accurately reflect the population, then of course these tools could be used by the sponsors of a poll to adjust the raw results to be more useful to them.


                                 Contribution Section

It would be useful {$} to provide an area that listed the supporters of the site. Any "major" contributor, who wanted to, could have an area on that page that listed their:

         1) Web Site

         2) Email address

         3) Site or group's purpose

         4) Amount contributed in the last year


There would be 4 benefits of this listing.

         1) It would allow supporters to get recognition and visitors for their support.

         2) It would allow vote.com to have yet another list of some of the other sites those users could visit for more information.

         3) It would show that vote.com was supported by various groups and not only by the radical right, I hope.

         4) It might encourage contributions from groups that would like the recognition or advertising.


                                 Acknowledgement page

This page might be similar to the contributions page except that instead of acknowledging monitory contributions it would acknowledge intellectual contributions. The first two people I'd like to get on this page, e.g. would like to have review your "new" site design would be:


Bruce "Tog" Tognazzini is a principal with the Nielsen Norman Group, the "dream team" design firm specializing in human-computer interaction. 


Edward Tufte has written seven books, including Visual Explanations, Envisioning Information, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, and Data Analysis for Politics and Policy.



                                 Email Notification

There should be a sign-up for regular, or irregular, Email notifications, with {$} bottom of page ads, or it might be based on {$} paid membership in vote.com.

The Email would contain links to the current open vote.com pages that the user has not voted on. The Email would be send either, as I think is done now, when a new vote page opens up, as well as, as the user requests, Daily, On a specific day each week, etc.


                                 General page design

In general your pages do not have enough specific information and are user configurable hostile. The following are some general suggestions.

1) Page Width. At this time most users have monitors that are wider than 600 pixels. Thus your information should usefully be displayable on larger screens. There are ways to put information on a page that allows the user to either: enlarge the page, and have the information extend to fill the page, or shrink the page, and have the information wrap. This allows the user to either go "full screen" to read the information in more detail, or shrink the view to catch just the important "top" of the page.

2) Less formatting/graphics, more text. If one looks at your pages one is struck with the small amount of information that is carried on the page. Obviously a page that is entirely unformatted text is hard to read, but the blank space in your pages seems excessive and leads too much less information on each page. You seem to have little further detail on each vote page, this means that you tend to be asking for a snap opinion rather than trying to educate the user.

3) More Links. There seem to be almost no links from your pages to other pages on the same site on similar topics, or to other sites and articles. This leads to the same criticism as criticism 2), e.g. lack of user education, and also makes the user suspect that there are not opinions other than your editorial writers. As discussed in the previous sections, there should be lots of links to other internal pages, if they are relevant, and to other relevant sites that have done research, have strong positions, or are interested in supporting education on a topic.

4) Search capability. Of course your editors may not have time to write and fully research all your topics, but there is a lot of information on the WEB and having a search engine, or pointing to relevant pages would allow the voter to find even more information about a topic.



1) Vote.com is a great idea for allowing the Internet to assist our population to participate more in the business of government.

2) The site as it now stands allows users to express their "snap" opinions.

3) If there is sufficient time, money, interest, the site could be expanded so that it become a more useful in educating users and pointing to WEB information on important topics.

4) If the Yes-No votes were extended into Quantities and Multi-dimension votes, and there were areas on the vote page where users could add their "Yes-but" opinions, then other topics other than Black/White topics could be added.

5) If the discussion topics were re-organized, then they would be easier to follow, and thus used more effectively.


         If these ideas are useful then great,

         If you feel that it would be useful to discuss these ideas, have me clarify or expand on this possibly confusing paper, have me beta test either your ideas or preliminary new pages, etc. please feel free to contact me.

         Otherwise, thanks for your site...


Home,   Site-map,   People,   Links,   The-book,   Contact-us,  
August 25, 2002 15:12