Wake County, North Carolina answers voter questions with a redesigned election website

This story was featured in our ELECTricity newsletter in February 2014. Sign up to receive more success stories from election offices across the country. And how is your election office using technology to run excellent elections? Tell us about it by emailing kurt@techandciviclife.org -- we'd love to share your story!

Wake County, North Carolina is home to the state capital, Raleigh, and is the most populous county in the Tar Heel State. With over 650,000 registered voters, the county's Board of Elections conducts elections for a dozen municipalities in the county. The election team recruits and trains 2,000 poll workers to staff 200 polling places every year.

Today we’re sharing the process that Wake County election staff went through to update their official homepage. From soliciting feedback from front desk staff to the director’s final approval, Wake County takes us behind the scenes of their recent website reboot.

Find resources for website design and more on our Election Administration Survival Guide.


The Wake County Board of Elections homepage before the redesign

The Wake County Board of Elections homepage before the redesign

Disclaimer: the old Wake County Board of Elections homepage wasn’t terrible. But they recognized that some limitations of the design -– gratuitous graphics, complicated text, hidden hyperlinks, and unused space -– made it difficult to meet the needs of their visitors. So, staff set out to simplify the page and focus on information that visitors are looking for the most.


Wake County's new and improved Board of Elections homepage

Wake County's new and improved Board of Elections homepage

Prioritize information

Wake County election staff concluded that members of the public visit the website for information on three main topics: registering to vote, voting, and deep dives in areas like candidate information. With that in mind, the election team reduced the four existing categories of information down to three. Also, they created a slideshow banner to highlight seasonal topics like sample ballots, candidate filing, and early voting.

The new design brings to life some of the best practices identified by the Center for Civic Design. For example, the site's layout groups together the answers to common voter questions, and the homepage will feature sample ballots before elections.

Here’s how Wake County made it happen ...

Form a small team to lead the design process

With permission from the director, three members of the Wake County Board of Elections staff set out to create and deploy a fresh homepage design in two months. During the first month, the team met to:

  • Brainstorm ideal homepage design characteristics

  • Identify areas of improvement for the current homepage design

  • Research other local and state election websites

For guidance, the team noted some of their favorite election websites: the Hamilton County (OH) Board of Elections, the Virginia State Board of Elections, and the Miami-Dade County election department.

Solicit feedback from key stakeholders

A critical part of the team’s process was meeting with front desk staff to determine the questions that were frequently asked by the public. The team included easy-to-find answers to common questions in the new design. And they mapped a new homepage using a large dry-erase board. When the team landed on a new design that they liked, they presented it to the director for approval.

Review, review, review

During the second month, they spent time with Wake County Information Technology (IT) staff to find potential pitfalls of the proposed design. With IT’s support, the small team developed the look of the new homepage and supplemental pages. The entire election staff reviewed each page for accuracy and clarity. Finally, IT deployed the redesigned homepage and staff publicized it via social media. The process was complete and the new website went live.

Want to see the results? Check out the new Wake County Board of Elections homepage. And follow Wake County Board of Elections on Twitter and Facebook.

Planning to update your homepage?

What about you? Would your election website benefit from some remodeling? Consider these suggestions from the Wake County Board of Elections:

  • Track your most common questions from the public via phone and email to help you rank information

  • Include front desk staff when deciding what information to focus on

  • Add a section to highlight seasonal topics such as candidate filing, early voting schedule, and sample ballots

  • Update your calendar of events in January of each year and keep it current with unexpected events

  • Consult the Center for Civic Design’s Field Guide 7: Designing Election Department Websites

Have you recently redesigned your election website? Share your process and talk about what you learned by emailing us at kurt@techandciviclife.org. We're all in this together!