National TV Awards
Indigo Television approached us way back when to redesign the website and voting platform for the National Television Awards: the massive public vote to find the UK’s most-loved shows and stars. Since then, each year sees a new iteration of the site: the user experience is refined; we develop more ways to share the vote and engage audiences; voting numbers climb; and Ant and Dec keep winning.
Perhaps the biggest change we’ve seen since the early days is the growth of mobile. In 2012 (when we started counting) mobile accounted for less than one in four of all sessions. Now it’s more than four in five, and still rising. This seismic shift triggered a change in our approach, and ‘mobile-first’ has long since been our mantra for improvements.
Accessibility and inclusion
Another thing we’ve learned is that accessibility is vital. Ensuring everyone can vote independently is a big responsibility. So no matter how the experience is developed, we’re always careful to ensure the vote is accessible to screen readers, tabbed browsing and so on. Of course, accessibility is important in all our projects, no matter the size of the audience. But it feels particularly pronounced when hundreds of thousands of people descend during the voting periods — if it doesn’t work for them, they’re unlikely to come back for more.
With countless configurations of devices, browsers and operating systems, errors—however rare—are almost inevitable. To ease any frustrations, all error messages are accompanied with the option to use a simple-vote system. This one-page alternative is a much more basic web form that provides a valuable fallback for ancient browsers and isolated issues.
Vote integrity and independent verification
A core aspect of a project like this is trust. It takes time to earn and can be lost easily, so a range of measures supports the vote’s integrity (for the sake of the nominees just as much as the voters).
Alongside the use of Captcha technology to stop automated voting, PromoVeritas protects the vote with independent adjudication. They use geolocation, IP addresses, automatic cross-reference with known disposable email providers, and other techniques to spot dubious activity and keep everything above board.
High availability hosting
Ant and Dec have 6.8M followers on Twitter. If they Tweet a link to the vote, and just 1% of their followers pick it up, almost 70,000 people can land on the website in a matter of minutes. High-availability hosting is, therefore, a fundamental component of the project. Without getting too technical, the system can handle these extreme events because of careful balance of caching, cloud hosting and lightweight code.
Transferable technology and know-how
The National Television Awards is our biggest project of this type, but we’ve used the same underlying tech for multiple projects, including:
- The People’s Projects and Lottery Good Causes for the National Lottery
- The British Soap Awards for ITV
- The Astronomy Photographer of the Year for Royal Museums Greenwich
- The National Comedy Awards Channel 4 and Stand Up To Cancer
To an extent, our learnings from online voting have also guided our work in citizen science projects for UCL, including the Big Compost Experiment and the Big Repair Project.