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Supporting democracy with a modern voting advice application

Sanoma, Finland’s leading multi-channel media company, built an all-new voting advice application to support civic participation and help citizens find suitable election candidates more easily. The project aimed to serve a diverse group of voters, especially younger ones. Co-created by Futurice, the new application was first used by Helsingin Sanomat, Ilta-Sanomat, Aamulehti and Satakunnan Kansa during the Finnish 2023 parliamentary election and can be reused in any future elections in Finland.

Technologies used

  • TypeScript
  • React
  • Next.js
  • Monorepo
  • Lambda
  • DynamoDB
  • Fargate
  • S3
  • OpenSearch

The challenge

Sanoma’s goal was to develop a new voting advice application that would holistically consider the candidates’ ideological dimensions to help voters find candidates whose values and thinking are most aligned with theirs. The new application needed to be both informative and easy to use. In addition, Sanoma wanted it to be scalable, both across all its media brands and in all future elections. As the previous voting advice application was technically too outdated to achieve these goals, Sanoma decided to develop a completely new one.

What we did

Futurice was responsible for the technical implementation of the new voting advice application, including the front and back end, user interfaces, as well as the election result service used by the Helsingin Sanomat news team after the election. Our team, consisting of one front-end and one back-end developer, worked seamlessly alongside Sanoma’s developers and editors. The six-month process was structured in agile design sprints: the work progressed in order of importance, supported by daily communication and weekly live meetings, and iterations were made according to continuous feedback from test users.

The resulting application provides three different interfaces used by the citizens, candidates, and content editors. Based on Sanoma’s vision and user interface design prototype, we co-created the system’s front and back end simultaneously.

The implementation started with the voting advice application itself, and continued with the platform where the candidates answer the opinion questionnaire. We also developed a common UI component library to speed up the work. To make the application secure and reliable, strong authentication procedures were enforced for the candidates as they first signed in. After that, we developed the application and user interface for the voters, followed by the visuals and building the new algorithm. The font, color and overall design choices were made with accessibility in mind. After several user tests, several iteration sprints were made to each application. As the last step, we then developed the election result service.

Sanoma’s new voting advice application runs on progressive web applications, removing the need for expensive native development. The front end is created by using TypeScript and Next.js, a framework that includes all the features needed for production, such as hybrid static and server rendering, TypeScript support, smart bundling, and route pre-fetching. The backend was developed with TypeScript, and it runs on AWS serverless technologies (API Gateway, Lambda, and Dynamo DW) to minimize infrastructure management and enable scalability. The application can be integrated into any of Sanoma’s media brands’ existing newspaper applications.

It’s always nice to work with real professionals. We are very satisfied with Futurice’s people, as they were a genuine part of our team, and helped achieve the best possible results.
Juho Salminen
Data Journalism Producer, Sanoma

Impact and outcomes

  • Lowering the barrier to participate in democracy

    Supporting democracy and civic participation with a modern and accessible digital solution.

  • More accurate results

    A new algorithm to help analyze and understand ideological dimensions more comprehensively.

  • Cost savings through reusability

    Cost-efficiency and scalability across Sanoma’s media brands and all future elections in Finland.

  • Ease of use for everyone involved

    A voting advice application that’s equally easy to use for voters, candidates, and news editors.

It was a joy working with Futurice. The entire process was fluent, and we got exactly what we wanted, without stress or hassle. We trusted them, and they delivered, simply as that.
Miro Nurmela
Lead Developer, Sanoma

About Sanoma

Sanoma Media Finland is the leading Finnish multi-channel media company. Its newspapers, magazines, TV and radio channels, online and mobile media offer information, experiences and entertainment. Sanoma’s mission is to offer Finnish media content for generations to come. Its vision is to be the most successful and the most significant media company in Finland. Sanoma reaches 97% of Finland’s population weekly.

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