Testing the Voting Experience in UK

The UK Electoral Commission wanted to explore the the user experience of voting and evaluate the responses to the design of ballot papers running a qualitative usability test in 2008.

User Vision was the company in charge of carry on this study and they recruited 45 participants:

  • They were from 18 to 67 years old.
  • They came from rural and urban places.
  • The research included new voters, occasional voters, and some with considerable voting experience.
  • It also included Welsh speakers and people who spoke English as a second language. Participants were varied in educational level or social demographics.


  • Participants used their previous voting knowledge to guide their actions, even when these were wrong. One participant even had applied an incorrect voting approach for many years.
  • Text on instructions have to be as minimal and informative as possible.
  • People liked seeing a box with an X above the columns.
Intructions. Source: User Vision
  • Participants liked seeing logos. They helped participants to identify parties.
  • Having more than one vote on a ballot was no understandable. They asked questions as:

“Can I vote twice for Boris?”

“Do I have to vote for someone else?”

Recommendation: Elections with more than one vote allowed needs to include an extra explanation.
  • Candidates whithout logos on the ballot were considered as inferior
Candidates with and without logo. Source: User Vision
Recommendation: If there is no logo, put the name of the party or ‘independent’ where the logo would be.
  • Show the candidates address was not approved. They said:

“Not necessary”

“Potentially dangerous for the candidate, especially in London and Northern Ireland”

“A way to sway floating voters.”

  • They didn’t like to have numbers on the left parties/candidates. They found this:



“Cause of possible error by participants circling the number instead of marking the box”

The number for each candidate. Source: User Vision
  • Don’t show titles on the ballot is unhelpful.
Recommendation: Provide election titles on all ballot papers.
  • Display multiple candidate names in sentence style make the list hard to read. Here an example:

Sarah Morton, Tim Hopkins, Sana Sadollah…

Recommendation: use always one line per candidate.
  • People liked the appearance of full boxes on some ballot papers.
Source: User Vision
  • Light text on a black background is easy to miss.
Source: User Vision
Recommendation: Use always dark text on a light background.
  • Using coloured ballot papers had several results. Participants liked the colour of ballots, however, in London, no one knew how to describe the peach colour. In Wales, one participant dismissed the orange ballot, thinking it was a flyer.
Recommendation: Only use colours that are easy to distinguish from each others.
  • Displaying a black line to highlight the voting box didn’t like. Participants thought this was too rough visually.
Source: User Vision

All these findings have an enormous value for designers and it should be taking into account when we design for Online Voting.

See the complete research conducted by User Vision