Improving the usability of marking a ballot

Source: Scytl

Online Voting Systems usually have an easy workflow for the voter: Identification, Marking the ballot, reviewing and casting it. However, the most complex part for the user is the marking action. Let’s focus on this one identifying the most important aspects to take into account:

Where the user is

Make sure that the user knows where he is and what is the next action to do, that’s means the voter needs to know he is on the marking phase and the next steps left. A good practice is include a wizard showing the users how many steps are left and their current situation.

How mark the options (Instructions)

Do not put all instructions at the beginning of the ballot, user will forget them in the next steps.

  • Some of these instructions include information about:

- Minimum or maximum number of choices allowed
- If you can leave the ballot blank 
- What to do for changing a selection.

  • Write instructions in an active voice

Avoid: The candidate has to be selected
Use: Select a candidate.

  • Write them in positive terms.

Avoid: You cannot select more than 3 candidates.
Use: Select 3 candidates maximum.

Ballot Structure

  • Try to be similar to the paper ballot. In digital world we use radio button for one selection from a list and checkboxes for a multi selection. In the paper work we can make a one selection using squares.
  • First the option, later the click. This means that we first read the content of each option and then decide the selection, that’s why the actionable (checkbox or radio button) need to be on the right.
  • Don’t split answers in pages. The user can get lost.
  • List all the options in the same column. Don’t use several cols, the reading direction with cols/rows is always confusing.
  • Use consistent headings to separate contests.

General design considerations

  • Be consistent in all design elements: font, text size, headings, and the location of response options.
  • Use a legible, minimum text size, meeting accessibility requirements, such as 12 points.
  • Use left aligned text instead of centered text.
  • Display all text in upper-lower case, avoiding to use all capital letters
  • Use an easy-to-read font, such as Arial.
  • Bold certain text, such as office names to make easy the reading.
  • Allow voters to select or change the language of the ballot at any time during the voting process.
  • You don’t need to include change text size and contrast levels and to get audio support. The current browser already done this work, so avoid using features duplication.
  • Include party or candidate information

Of course there is a lot work to do in order to be consistent with all the electronic voting designs but these short guidelines just try to make a small approach to this crucial step.

Sources:
Better Ballots
Ballot Design Checklist
Civicdesign.org
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