RightsInfo is a new website which aims to provide a concise and engaging online guide to human rights. Inspired by news sites such as Buzzfeed and the BBC, it uses infographics and custom illustrations to summarise key human rights developments and cases in a bitesize, shareable format...
Designed by digital agency Hikkendry and featuring infographics and illustrations by IIB Studio, RightsInfo offers a basic introduction to human rights for UK and EU residents. Launched at an event in London last night, the site presents a timeline of human rights developments, dating from the Magna Carta to the present day and an illustrated guide to protection offered by the European Convention and the Human Rights Act. It also contains a section debunking popular human rights myths.
The site was was founded by Adam Wagner, a human rights lawyer and editor of the Human Rights Blog, which reports on cases and policies. While his blog is aimed at legal professionals and those with an interest in or knowledge of the area, however, Rights Info assumes users have no prior knowledge of the subject and is aimed at "anyone who uses the internet and has an interest in social issues," says Wagner.
Wagner says he set up the site as he wanted to provide a free and easily accessible guide to human rights, where audiences could read accurate information in an easily digestible format.
"Most of the information available online is either found in very long and complicated statutes and official documents, or it's reported by newspapers, who all have their own political agendas," explains Wagner. "There's no clear, free, impartial information for people who just want to found out how they are protected by human rights, and what existing human rights law is actually for," he adds.
Wagner says he also hopes the site will challenge popular misconceptions about human rights courts and legal rulings, and highlight positive cases which are often overlooked in favour of more sensationalist stories.
"People are often under the impression that human rights law is more concerned with protecting criminals or illegal immigrants [but] we want to tell stories about how it affects everyone, from victims of crime and soldiers who've been injured in combat, to victims of hospital malpractice or vulnerable children and the elderly, and I hope the site will offer that in a way people haven't seen before."
When designing RightsInfo, Wagner says he was particularly keen to adopt a visual approach and informal tone of voice, inspired by successful news sites such as Buzzfeed, the BBC and the Guardian: copy is concise and free of legal jargon, and cheerful illustrations and diagrams are used throughout. Wagner says he was also keen to avoid using cliched legal imagery such as doves, scales and handshakes.
The site is colour coded to aid navigation - health-related content, for example, is marked in green, while disability is represented by orange. A section entitled 'what human rights do for us' presents a series of statements relating to different protections offered under current law (pictured below). Each is accompanied by a link to an article about a related case on the Human Rights Blog and the full judgment, plus links to tweet or post the item on social media.
Another section, titled 'The 14 worst human rights myths’, challenges commonly held assumptions about human rights, highlighting potentially misleading news reports and asserting the facts surrounding recent cases covered in the media.
For the next 50 days, Wagner says RightsInfo will also be publishing a new article each day on the blog section of the site, offering a summary of the 50 most significant human rights cases in recent history. Stories will be under 300 words and again written in "plain English."
As creative director Yoav Segal points out, the site uses communications techniques which are widely adopted by brands and newspapers online (such as using infographics, bullet points and colourful designs to explain complicated topics) but rarely by official legal organisations: a Google search for 'human rights explained' or 'human rights guide' for example, currently brings up "a short introduction" from the Ministry of Justice which is over 40 pages long.
The site lacks a little polish in some areas (imagery on the blog isn't as strong as other sections), but it provides a much more engaging and shareable alternative to existing official resources. Some case studies feel particularly brief, but the site aims to offer a basic introduction to human rights rather than a comprehensive guide, and does link to more in-depth sources such as Human Rights Blog for readers who want to learn more. Content is written and checked by Wagner and a team of volunteers with legal training, ensuring it's concise but legally accurate.
As Wagner explains, the aim of the site is not only to provide a jargon-free and cheerful alternative to those set up by human rights charities (which often, understandably, focus on human rights abuses and failures to protect citizens) and visually uninspiring documents from official sources, but also to encourage people to share and talk about social issues online. The site's visually led approach is much more likely to appeal to younger audiences and its bitesize content and illustrations have been designed with Facebook feeds and Twitter profiles in mind.
While magazine and news websites often make great use of infographics, timelines and interactives when discussing complex issues, from global conflicts to election campaigns, there are few websites dedicated to explaining UK law or politics in a similarly visually engaging way. Wagner hopes RightsInfo might encourage similar projects to educate audiences about other areas of the law which are also often misunderstood, such as family or immigration law.
He also hopes to help educate voters about human rights ahead of the UK general election next month, and challenge some common misonceptions about the EU and human rights - for example, the idea that British values have been undermined by European judges.
It's a great example of how to present complex statutes, judgments and policies in a way that looks interesting and easy to understand - and, in the run up to the election, a method political parties should also be taking note of. There's been much criticism of Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem logos and posters, but their approach to online campaigning is equally outdated, and if Governments and parties really want to engage with voters online (particularly younger ones), perhaps they should adopt a similar approach to mainstream media and independent, impartial sites like RightsInfo.