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A pass for democracy. A fail for usability.

July 2, 2016

Daylan Pearce, Experience Design - Strategy

My Australian Election Usability Rant

Today is election day in Australia.

It’s 8:10am and I’ve lined up with hundreds of other local’s on the 6 degree morning at my local primary school to exercise my democratic right to vote for the person I dislike least to be elected to government.

After 20mins in line, I finally get to the electoral roll call, get my name ticked off (voting in Australia is compulsory for any non-Australian readers) and handed two forms. A green federal party voting form, and a white senate voting form.

The green one is easy enough. A form the size of a 1/3 of an A4 piece of paper. Place your preferences in order and drop it in the box. Done.

The senate one however, looks like this:

Look at this horrible thing.

It was almost a meter of paper (not exaggerating). Two voting options. Select the party at the top or the individual candidate at the bottom.

Square Peg. Round Hole.

Now, here’s where my rant begins. Take another look at the picture above.

The form is around 70% larger than the polling box provided to use it in. Most people I’m sure will look at this and think, “jeez, this thing is big” and think nothing more of it.

But the one thing that struck me was that in order to make it usable in the booth, you had to have either side up on the left and right of the box.

With so many options – and almost all of the candidates being unknowns to the majority of the population – this makes the candidates in the middle of the paper the most user friendly options to select in order to fill in the form. It’s a real pain in the ass for people to vote for 25 candidates on the left of the form and 37 candidates on the right of the form.

My guess would be that the middle of the paper is where a large amount of people will vote out of convenience and very little loyalty to the majority of candidates for the majority of voters.

The Big, Black X Factor

Another thing I noticed is that some party’s on this form (on the top row) have logo’s representing their party (about a 50/50 split between logo and non-logo using candidates). One particular party’s logo really stood out to me; the Nick Xenophon party, who’s logo was represented by a big, black X.
It really stood out on the form – to me at least. And my immediate thought was confusion.

This was my thought process:

• Hmm. What is that X for?

• Have I filled to form in incorrectly? Do I need to place X’s instead of numbers? No, that’s not right. It’s numbers. So what is that X for?

• Is it ‘alluding’ not to vote for this party?

• Is it ‘alluding’ that I should vote for this party?

• It really stands out. Oh, it’s their logo. I know this guys name. Was he proposing doing things that were good or bad?

• Oh yeah, this guy is the one causing troubles for the big parties. I’m not too sure if they were good troubles though.

• I do know the guy’s name though.

Now, keep in mind this thought process occurred in a few seconds and not the 20 seconds it took to read it, but I did think this was a pretty great tactic to get noticed.
He’s in the middle of the paper. A big X highlights him. Brings his name to the forefront of my mind. Makes me consider his party more than almost any other candidate in that moment. Clever.


I have no data to back any of this up and it’s purely observational from a guy who looks at user experiences 40+ hours a week and just spent ~2 minutes in an electoral booth. If you’re in Australia, you’ll get to experience it for yourself today.

I’d love to see the data and the correlation between the placement of the candidates and the election results for the senate paper in particular.

This election day.
A pass for democracy.
A fail for usability.

by Daylan Pearce, Experience Design - Strategy

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