Rating The Websites Of The 2016 Republican Political Candidates

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Rating The Websites Of The 2016 Republican 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.

So I thought it would be a good time to take an early look at the websites of some of the prominent Republicans campaigning to win the White House next year.

1/11

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 owner 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
2/11

Jeb Bush

B+

 

Aside from the basics, there’s isn’t much to do on Jeb2016.com and there’s nothing overly bold or inventive here so it’s solid, with a few wrinkles. But no one on my panel was blown away.

“Overall, the Jeb! Presidential site gets high marks for putting social media way out front — #AllnForJeb is what greets visitors to the homepage.”

“This is a big page. 5.9 megabytes. That’s three times the size of the typical page. The Jeb Bush page, like the candidate, is overweight. But the site has a good social focus. The headline is a hashtag. That’s smart. Also the “hero” image shows the candidate right there on main street, with people literally looking up to him. That’s subtle credibility.”

“Design-wise, the background graffiti “All in For Jeb” is a nice, subtle touch.”
3/11

Ben Carson

D-

 

 

No one on the panel had anything remotely complimentary to say about Carson’s site – a complete miss.

 

“Dr. Carson has a reputation as an outstanding doctor – which is a good thing because he’s not making any chops in website design or engagement.”

“The homepage looks like an off-the-shelf Wordpress template and the design elements and engagement tools feel more than a decade old – social media images of supporters, a scroll down calendar of campaign events. And the candidate is boxed in under seven buttons on the home page creating a claustrophobic feel around Carson. You have to leave the homepage to see any video at all and, aside from giving money or reading the candidate’s story, there’s zero to do on bencarson.com
“Not only is there no reason to stay on his site – you regret going there immediately.”

4/11

Chris Christie

B-

 

Christie’s site was good but not great and most of our panel had plenty of notes for improvement.

“Judging by his website, the former New Jersey governor will not only tell it like it is (his slogan), he has a lot to say. Maybe too much.”

“The Christie web real estate is busy – even congested. Between promoting a limited edition bumper sticker asking people to sign up, it’s difficult to find the social media tools.  And the Christie “Issues” page is a little more than a long form run on page listing of issue after issue which is neither inviting nor visually interesting.”

“Christie’s web space is solid but underwhelming. There just isn’t anything to separate it from anyone else. It’s solidly average.”
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5/11

Ted Cruz

C-

There are some things to like about TedCruz.org but plenty to pick at as well. Overall, the site is a bottom-tier effort.

“There’s no strong focus. Several design elements are competing for visual prominence, pulling the eye in all directions. There is no specific action color. Buttons are many colors, red, blue, gray and green. Amazingly, this website doesn’t rank on page one in Google in a search for the candidates name. The Ted Cruz site isn’t the most relevant site for “Ted Cruz.” He’s outranked by other news and other sites.”

 

“If some candidate’s sites are busy, the Cruz campaign landing page is double-booked. It jumps fonts and issues and images with little noticeable organization or reason and squeezes the marquis real estate with multiple banners.”

“To its credit, the Cruz site has a blog but it appears to be only updated about once a week. And for some reason, the more current and robust “Cruz News” isn’t in the blog and, even more confusing, blog entries aren’t even pretending to be from Cruz – they are signed Jeff Roe, who we guess we’re supposed to know.”
6/11

Carly Fiorina

A-

Going alphabetically, this was the first site our panel really liked. Although not perfect, it earned solid marks in a few areas.

 

“Unlike most of her competitors’ sites, the Fiorina site uses video in the background of the homepage, showing life, motion and energy. The images and overall feel of the site are dark, but the large central, clean landing screen is impressive and welcoming. It’s easy to tell her team invested in user engagement tools – it shows.”

 

“The social media tools are easy to find and the home page isn’t cluttered. There’s no way to know it’s related, but you could believe the candidate’s background running a technology company played a role in such a strong welcome.”

 

“The news, while updated and all in one place, is four sections down the homepage which means scrolling for what’s new – which could be a problem on tablets and phones. The blog is well stocked but boring, visually and the “Meet Carly” section is even less interesting.”
7/11

John Kasich

B+

The offering from the Kasich team also earned pretty high marks in several areas.

 

“Of all the landing pages, the Kasich campaign gets it right. Though not as bold as the Fiorina campaign’s use of video, the Kasich images are clean, strong and look great.  The standard “news” and “get involved” buttons are off the screen to start, which helps the welcome images stand out.”

 

“The site has free profile images and badges, which are nicely highlighted near the top of the home page. There’s isn’t too much to do JohnKasich.com but this is a good rule of web design and usability – you don’t need too much if what you have is good. And this is pretty good. ”

 

“Unlike other sites, the Kasich platform moves with a visitor as the scroll down through different sections – images appear and frame important features. While that could stall load times on some devices, it’s a nice touch over the stale, static alternatives. And best of all, the moving features stop moving after they load once.”
8/11

Rand Paul

B-

 

The panel was pretty divided about this site – a few things to really like, a few things that drove us nuts.

 

“The first thing you notice is that the prime real estate is crowded and confusing. The social media tools are old looking and limiting – no Instagram? And scrolling text over the candidate’s face is a no-no.”

“Once you scroll off the top, the background changes to distracting, blurry, bright something – which seems unnecessary.  On the other hand, the Paul video section – about midway down – is well stocked and the interactive endorsement map is really impressive. The map is engaging and fun and no doubt driving participation and sign ups.”

 

“The “About Rand” section is long with text and bogged down by images and video insertions which will, no doubt, drive some mobile phone users crazy. Overall, the Paul campaign site has some of the best, most creative tools for supporters. It’s engaging and fun but just a bit too much.”
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9/11

Marco Rubio

A

 

Website wise, the stat pupil is the Rubio campaign. Not perfect, but our panel really had a lot of nice things to say about this effort.

“The Rubio campaign site gets the only “A” because it’s rich with tools and has design and presentation elements which set it apart from the others.  Among this group of candidates, it’s the only site that’s both inventive and informative without being boring.”

“Design-wise, below the main images, the homepage cascades like an Instagram layout with seemingly different sized boxes of seemingly disassociated items. For example, the Rubio team has wedged an image of furry white cat between two attacks on Hillary. That’s fun and bold and will keep visitors scrolling and reading. There’s plenty of video and the social media icons aren’t where you’d expect – which is good and bad – but it keeps nicely with the theme of nonstop action and chaos.”

“On the downside, the site does go on forever. And if you were searching for something specific, a search tool would be nice to find. But, overall, it’s a great site – I like it.”
10/11

Donald Trump

C-

 

The Trump campaign’s website and tools were mostly panned here – not much to offer, even less to say and nothing whatsoever to engage visitors.

 

“From the looks of his site, you could think The Donald was running for President in 2004 not 2016. But that may not be fair – few candidates sites were this static and boring in 2004. There’s almost literally nothing there except the smiling photo of the candidate and two unlabeled video clips, a single press release and some tweets –although it’s not entire clear from whom.”

 

“There’s only one issue in the old-school drop down menu under “positions” and, with the exception of signing up and giving money or buying a t-shirt, there’s nothing for a visitor or supporter to do.”

“On the up side, there’s plenty of updated news and the Trump campaign may be the only one that lists an actual campaign phone number instead of hiding behind a contact form.”
11/11

Scott Walker

B

The Walker campaigns turns in, according to the consensus, a solid effort. But nothing to blow anyone away.

“The Walker site could be a template for other political campaign sites. The candidate is front and center, they respect the space on the landing page and avoid cluttering it up, and the options are kept to a minimum.”

“Walker uses video – but not enough – and has good image engagement with featured stories on the homepage. At the same time, the newest “top story” on the main page is a week old. There is no blog or downloadable badges or icons that I could find.”

“What is on the site is well organized, well designed for user experience and things are easy to find and easy to read – which isn’t the case with every presidential candidate website. The site gets bonus points for displaying a “Proudly Made in the U.S.A” logo, even though most of the other sites probably are too.”

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