Five tips for the ultimate union campaign website

Campaign websites are different to most union websites. They have a specific, narrow purpose, which is to immediately inform the visitor to the site about the main issues of the campaign and then spur them to take an action.

The ASU campaign site, Pay Up for Equal Pay (@payupequalpay), while it doesn't do everything perfectly, is a good example of a simple campaign site with a clear call to action.

Complexity comes when you break down what campaign action you want visitors to take – for example, subscribing to the campaign email list, sending a protest email to a targeted employer or politician, donating money, watching a video, etc. The list can be extensive.

The campaign website should be specifically planned, designed and written with its goals in mind. What do you think the most important things are for the website? (Note: some campaign websites may have specific landing pages for specific issues within the overall campaign site, or alternatively, a campaign site should sit within the main union’s website.)

Do you want the visitor to subscribe to your list? Send a protest email? Download a report? Watch a campaign video? Donate money? Whatever it is, your campaign website homepage should be geared to encourage the visitor to take that action. Distractions should be studiously avoided.

I’ve often seen union campaign websites be tempted to add everything to their campaign website – blogs, maps, side bars, Facebook or Twitter feeds, tag clouds and so on. It gets to the point that the main reason for the site – to get visitors to take action – is entirely lost. (A case in point is the UK unions’ False Economy site, which is very, very crowded.)

If you’re running a comprehensive online campaign, you’re probably also doing things like using Google Adwords, Facebook ads, sending emails to your members with a link to the campaign website and linking to your campaign site from your main union website.

If you’re doing all these things, you want to make sure that you get the biggest result from your efforts and expenditure – there’s no point in paying for Google Ads or sending emails to members and then making it confusing or complicated for visitors to take the desired action.

1. Keep it simple

The old “keep it simple, stupid” principle applies to your campaign websites.

  • Have only one action per webpage: Even on your campaign website’s homepage, choose your most important action and make that the most prominent one. Don’t ask someone to share something on Twitter, watch a video and donate money all on the same page. Keeping your message and your call to action simple will normally mean just one ask and one message per page. By all means have other actions or asks for visitors, but keep those on separate pages. If you can, when a visitor does the desired action, create a “thank you” page that have a new (single) call to action, so you can stagger your asks after the previous one has been completed.
  • Follow the “F” eye-tracking principle: There is a lot of research about how people read information on the Internet – notably Jakob Nielson’s Useit.com. What this means is that most users read in a horizontal movement across the top of a page, then move down and read horizontally, and finally scan down the left side of the page. The first two paragraphs are the most important, and headings, sub-headings, bullet points and short paragraphs are important.
  • Keep photos or images to a minimum: In fact, if you aren’t selling something, best to not have a photo at all. If you absolutely must, make it your campaign logo. Any images you do use should not distract from your call to action. Don’t have a photo and a video – and only have a video on the page if watching the video is the primary “ask” of the campaign webpage. If your webpage wants to send people somewhere (such as a rally or event), then your photo should be of the location of the rally. Definitely do not use stock photos or clip art. Make sure you use your “alt” and “title” tags (for usability and search engine optimisation) and consider adding a caption to make it clear what the photo is about. Make sure the photo is clickable (that is, links to your call to action).

2. Have a prominent call to action

Your call to action is the main thing you want a visitor to your page do to. You should make sure that it is as clear as possible.

  • Use visual prompts: Big colourful buttons make it clear that they are action-oriented. Buttons are there to be clicked afterall. Colour draws the eye. The call to action should be the most visual, prominent part of the webpage.
  • Consider A/B testing for optimum results: A/B testing is an excellent way to ensure that your design and copywriting elements are as good as they can be. Split (A/B) testing is fairly easy these days, and take the guess work out of whether red or green buttons are best (for example).
  • Repeat your call to action throughout the page: While you should have your call to action prominently displayed towards the top of your campaign site, the same call to action should be repeated throughout the page. If the visitor to your site doesn’t take the action immediately, but scrolls down to the middle or bottom of your page, then there should be a repeated call to action at the middle and bottom of your webpage.

3. Copywriting is essential

Good copy (the text on your website) is just as important as good design. The writing on your website should be treated with the same care and concern as a major campaign printed flyer or poster – it should be edited, checked and edited again.

  • Plain English, not slogans: You may want to showcase how clever or creative you are, but your campaign website copy should be clear and persuasive.
  • Put your important points up front: Most people read the beginnings and ends of sentences and paragraphs, not the middles. You should put your most persuasive and important points at the start of your paragraphs. Use your headings, sub-headings and dot points to get your message front and centre. Most people skim information on the Internet, and your website is no different.
  • Write for the web: Copying and pasting your flyer or media release text to your campaign website is not a recipe for success. People read online content differently to printed content. Most people find reading dot points on the screen easier and faster. Paragraphs should be shorter – 2-3 lines for example. A significant number of people don’t scroll down a page, so the text in the first 300 pixels of the screen should be the most punchy and critical.

4. Design is important too

There is a very useful report by a company called Omniture about effective ways to ensure conversion (that’s Internet marketing speak for getting website visitors to buy your product). In union terms, a conversion is when someone takes the desired call to action – subscribes, donates, joins, etc. Not everyone who visits your campaign site will take the action – so our goal is to get the maximum possible number of visitors to take that action – known as maximising conversations. Online businesses have something called an engagement funnel – which is the pathway that site visitors take from their original location on the web (Facebook, Google search, their email), to your website (which has been optimised, right?), to taking the action, to becoming a lead (or for businesses, a customer).

To save you from downloading the report yourself, here’s the main points:

  • Have a nice design: Most people on the web are used to excellent design. Over 10 million people in Australia use Facebook, and Google has 90% of the search market, so most people are used to sleek, cutting edge design. It’s fairly easy for unions to have good design for their campaign webpages, and it’s worth the investment.
  • Make sure your website loads quickly: In the age of broadband, most people will leave your site if it takes longer than 8 seconds to completely load. This means keeping large graphics to a minimum, and ensuring your website code (the HTML, PHP, Flash or javascript) is of good quality.
  • Put your critical elements within the top 300 pixels of your page: While this advice is increasingly controversial, Omniture maintains that a significant proportion of Internet users won’t scroll down a page, but instead look for the information they want within the top 300 pixels of your page (known as “above the fold”). This doesn’t mean you can’t have information below 300 pixels, just that your main calls to action and crucial information should be above this line.
  • Use a single column: For important campaign pages, get rid of your navigation and side bars – they just distract from your main call to action. For home pages, try three columns, with your navigation in the left column, your key campaign message in the centre column and your call to action in the right column.
  • Follow web usability standards: Hyperlinks should be underlined for example. Jakob Nielsen again has a good reference for usability standards.

5. Know your metrics

Let’s be honest. You’ve probably spent a lot of time, and possibly a lot of money, on your campaign website. Your campaign is an important one to your union. It’s essential that you know whether it is time and money well-spent. Luckily, there are heaps of tools to help you measure how well your site is doing and that let you improve it.

  • Check your conversion rate: I’ve already explained what conversions are and why they are important. You should use a web analytics service (like Google Analytics) to track how many of your visitors are completing the call to action. Your conversion rate is the percentage of visitors that take the campaign action – conversion rates of 1-2% is not unheard of (especially if money is involved) and doing something like subscribing to an email list could have conversion rates of around 6%. This means if you have 1000 site visitors, only 50-60 people will actually follow the call to action.
  • What is your bounce rate? A bounce rate is the number of people who visit your webpage and then leave without visiting another page on your site. If you have a high bounce rate, and a low conversion rate, then you should look at revising the design and/or copy of your call to action. Your bounce rate could be high for any number of reasons. It could be unclear what action you want someone to take. You could also have a prominent link on your page to an external site – unless this is a very important link or site, you should probably consider removing external links (even to your main union website).
  • Have you figured out your cost per action? If you are using Google Ads or other paid online advertising, you should investigate what your ratio of expenditure to completed campaign action is. How much do you really want to be spending per completed campaign action? If your conversion rate is low and your bounce rate high, you could be spending a lot of money per person per campaign action.

Remember, your campaign site is a visitor’s last stop before taking a campaign action

You want to make it as easy, simple and fast as possible for a visitor to do the thing the campaign site was created for. Before creating your campaign site, think about some of these things – and most importantly, think about what the site’s goals are.

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