The Electoral Commission

The challenge

The Electoral Commission wanted to explore:

  • feedback on the user experience of voting and
  • users’ responses to the design of ballot papers and associated voting materials.

The voting materials included:

  • The ballot papers
  • The instructions that accompany them:
  • Station posters
  • Booth posters
  • Postal voting instructions

The findings from the testing and input from other interested parties are to be used to develop good practice guidelines for voter materials used at the polling station and for postal voting. These best practice guidelines will encompass all voting methods currently in use in elections.

Screenshot of the ballot vote form

What we did

User Vision undertook testing on the design of all aspects of the voting experience: the ballots, the accompanying instructions, and postal voting. Tests were conducted with the general public representative of the target audience throughout England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

The participants represented a cross section of the public by location, age and voting experience, methods of voting, social demographic, education and nationality. Each test followed the same outline. Participants were asked to vote in 4 types of elections that varied according to location and eligibility, one of which included postal voting. For each of these voting tasks.

  • we asked the participant to declare a voting intention for a particular election
  • we then gave them the appropriate materials for the election, including asking them to read polling place and booth posters, or accompanying
  • instructions for postal voting
  • the participant then voted
  • we briefly discussed the experience of that particular vote
  • we offered a short distraction task between votes.

We then asked participants to compare all the ballots and other materials they had used, and to comment in detail on them. This post-test interview also probed participants’ views on the use of party descriptions.

Screenshot of guidance for voters poster

The outcome

User Vision’s first output was to present the main findings from the testing to the Electoral Commission. These were presented at a workshop to allow discussion around the main points. We then outlined a full list of issues in a comprehensive report along with recommendations on how to improve the ballot papers and accompanying materials.

This report also detailed existing good practices discovered during testing. Download the full report (PDF 994KB) to read more details about the sampling and methodology. The Electoral Commission intends publishing its design guidance in the Autumn.

What our client said

The research undertaken by User Vision enabled us to understand more about how people actually use ballot papers and other voting materials.

Their findings provided detailed insights into how the design of these can make voting easier or more difficult.

Senior Research Officer, The Electoral Commission

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