Rating The Websites Of The 2016 Democratic Political Candidates

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Rating The Websites Of The 2016 Democratic Political Candidates

According to a recent report, 2016 political candidates will spend a billion dollars on digital communications before November of next year.

More than likely, only a fraction of that will be spent on website design, content and optimization. Even so, candidate websites are where most voters will first connect and engage with a candidate.

I asked four web design, branding and marketing exerts to review and rate the sites of the leading Republican candidates. Now we’re taking a look at the sites of the top four Democrats in the race and putting them through the same process.

We visited these site the week of August 24 and we know sites can change overnight as news breaks or candidates want to promote different issues or events. Our thoughts and assessments measure only what we saw when we visited. We are all non-partisan and have no business interest in who wins. We’re also not political experts; we’re website, design and engagement experts.


The reviewers

Adam Fridman is the head of digital branding for Mabbly, a digital marking firm in Chicago which designs and manages complete digital campaigns. @Mabblydigital

Jonathan Lacoste of Boston is co-founder of Jebbit, a leading post-click engagement platform designed to enhance website user engagement. @lacostejonathan

Ammad Khan of San Francisco is the founder of Citrusbits, a top mobile app developer and expert in mobile design and messaging. @citrusbits

Elena Titova, in New York, is a UI/UX (user experience) graphic and web designer and founder of Et 2 Graphics. @tihelennyc

Andy Crestodina, from Chicago, is co-founder of the web design firm, Orbit Media, which provides full web services for business clients. @crestodina

Hillary Clinton


Hillary Clinton’s site seems to have a great deal going on, visually but yet doesn’t seem to go anywhere. The panelists were fine with it, just not overly impressed. Interestingly, after looking over the sites of the other three Democratic candidates we reviewed here, the reviewers pushed to elevate Clinton’s grade from a B to the B+ giving her a boost by comparison.

“The red background and volunteer pop-up when you first visit are harsh. Together they almost scream at you to go away. Even so, one you get the red scream to go away, the homepage photo is exceptional. One of the best out there.”

“Visitors will like that there are issue articles on full display – and just four of them. It’s smart to not overwhelm the audience with choices and too many things to consider. They layout of the articles pages is nice and clean but making each one a new window was a poor choice – many visitors won’t like that.”

“The social media tools are buried all the way at the bottom of the page… Sharing is impulsive – the site should make it easier to do. I do like that her site doesn’t hit you over the head to donate. It’s there, but unlike other campaign sites, it’s not the first and only thing you see. And on mobile, her site loads and feels like an app – that’s good and smart.”


Lincoln Chafee


The panel felt that, although there was nothing really wrong with the Chafee effort, it was still just a textbook site with little new or interesting.

“Chafee’s page is exactly what you’d expect a presidential candidate’s page to look like – and that’s the problem. It’s a yawner.”

“To a designer, it’s bow-ring. All the text is in the same layout, the photos don’t convey action at all. I think it’s an off-the-shelf web template and even if it’s not, that’s how it looks.”

“People visiting Chafee’s site have literally four buttons asking them to donate on the home page alone. And one place they can buy his book. Good web design means make a donation option clear but not so in-your-face.”


Martin O'Malley



On this one, our panel, and especially the designers, had a bunch to say. Not much of it was good.

“Goodness. As soon as I opened the page, I got tele-tubby flashbacks. Someone at the O’Malley campaign needs to revisit their color pallet. The light blue and bright red and world bubbles on the home page are quite a bit too much.”

“I think this is the only site I’ve seen which doesn’t feature a glamour photo of the candidate in the prime, top section of the site. It’s an odd choice. Especially when you replace it with text. Structurally, the site is good – it’s consistent but varied and diverse. I like that twitter and video options early on the homepage. But not having the candidate photo will seem odd and disorienting to many visitors.”

“On mobile, the site loads well and is a good representation of the full site, which isn’t necessary but is a nice touch. It feels as though they build the site for mobile first which is forward-thinking and will help in mobile conversions but it may explain why the design elements on the desktop or laptop versions of the homepage are so flat.”


Bernie Sanders


Overall, the Sanders site was likeable and engaging but some design elements made it feel sparse. It gets average marks, not great but not awful either.

“Clearly, the campaign is selling Bernie. Normally that would be obvious but it’s clear some campaign sites aren’t so sure about what they are offering. I’m talking to you, team O’Malley. Bernie’s photo is fun and top of the homepage is clean and easy to navigate – a solid greeting effort.”

“The top banner space is well done, with a good photo and easy navigation tools. But there’s just too much white space around things as you move down the landing page. The result leaves a visitor feeling sterile and cold. With design space, less is more. But here, Sanders went with too much less.”

“The site is consistent with look and feel throughout, which is well done. There is a nice mix of images, video and text – not too much of anything. This should be the baseline of presidential campaign websites –everyone should be able to get at least this far. Sadly, many don’t.”