What David Cameron needs to learn about web content

It’s rare that we engage in political discussions here at Write My Site but seeing as the latest Government controversy is rather closely related to what we do for a living (that’s writing web content, in case you didn’t know!), we thought we’d jump on in with our analysis.

We’re talking, of course, about the furore surrounding the Conservatives’ decision to delete large chunks of content from their website, and remove some of the WebCameron series from YouTube. Most of the deleted content relates to speeches and statements made prior to the 2010 general election. The Tories have also been accused of displaying an Orwellian desire to purge all pre-election material from the public domain, by including directions within their website’s robots.txt file not to direct users to the deleted content should they attempt to access it.

It is the second action (since reversed) that has attracted the greatest amount of criticism from the press, although this is largely due to a lack of understanding about how the robots.txt file actually works. The reality is far more mundane than the popular conspiracy theory that the Tories have executed a Machiavellian plan to purge the Internet of the entirety of their thoughts, beliefs, statements and intentions prior to the 2010 general election.  Copies of pre-2010 material can easily be accessed within a few clicks, via the UK Web Archive, a project run by the British Library to archive British websites. There are also numerous websites, accessible via a simple Google search, that have archived political speeches from all the major parties.

Nevertheless, the decision to delete large portions of website and YouTube content in this way still flies in the face of best practice. The statements by Chris Grayling and a Conservative party spokesperson respectively that there is “a limit to how much you can put and keep on your website year after year”, and that the changes to the website were to “allow people to quickly and easily access the most important information we provide” fail to ring true. A modern website with good design and navigation should have no difficulty putting in place a structure that enables enormous volumes of content to be stored.

Cameron’s content masterclass

With that in mind, we took a look at the Conservative’s website and discovered numerous problems with its content.

So, David Cameron, if you’re reading, here are a few key lessons to help you create the right sort of content for your party’s website:

Lesson no. 1: Get rid of your splash page

Pestering people to join your mailing list before they’ve had the chance to look around your site is spammy, and poor practice.

Conservative website splash page

Lesson number 2: Link to your ‘Blue Blog’ from the home page menu

If the purpose of the website is to provide a platform for the party’s views, the blog needs to be part of the main navigation – and that means linking to it from the home page.

Lesson no. 3: Update your 1990s menu bar

Tiny font, grey text, ugly boxes: yuck!

Conservative website menu bar


Lesson number 4: (The one we’ve all been waiting for ….) DON’T DELETE YOUR CONTENT!

All you need is a tab on your navigation called ‘Archive’, which enables the user to search historic content by date, topic or other criteria. Easy peasy!