Re-elect Edward Davey — a website story

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The picture above is of the website of Edward Davey (now Sir Edward Davey, former cabinet minister) as he tried to win re-election in the 2001 general election.

I found it while looking for information about Cix, the old bulletin board service that was based where I now live. It turns out that if you search “Cix” and “Surbiton” one of the first sites returned is Ed Davey’s re-election site.

It’s not quite Space Jam, but it is an interesting look at how websites looked then. To be honest, what was most surprising was that a site from 19 years ago was not all that dissimilar to how individual politicians’ electoral/campaigning sites look today:

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Party websites are now managed as all big websites are, as “products” in their own right, with people examining analytics, user flows and outcomes — the Labour Party’s site, for instance, prioritises sign-ups, with three key calls to action at the top-right, and a message about change, backed by a full-screen Webm video autoplaying like an animated Gif.

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But one of the oddities of the way political parties work in the UK is that while parties themselves are usually reasonably well funded, when you get down to constituency level, there’s no real money and no real time or incentive to do any of that, so politicians’ websites look not all that different from how they did 20 years ago (and my suspicion would be that there are not enough likely benefits to justify spending any more money or time on them).

A few interesting things are different, though

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The headlines (the yellow text) aren’t links — I spent a little while clicking the one above before realising I was supposed to use the black-underlined “continues” link. Everything is done with frames, so if you do click through you get the same outer page with a changed frame inside:

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There’s a “pledge” form which uses a CGI form post method, and which sends an email to edwarddavey56@ a particular domain (a domain he or his campaign owned, which at first made it odd that the first bit of the email address ends with “56” but then I remembered that 56 was his majority from his first election in 1997 (he would increase that in this election to 15,676).

It looks like the site was still being used in 2004:

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And it’s super-fast — there is no Javascript, the site drops only one cookie, from the Cix hosting service, and Ghostery lists that no tracking tags are installed at all:

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Compare that with Ed’s current site (this is representative of all web development over the last 20 years, it’s not particularly a point about this MP — in fact, the Space Jam website has, as others have noted, been remade for modern browsers but using old tech, and now it loads both Doubleclick and Adobe Analytics JS):

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I used to be a journalist. Now I’m a product manager.

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