Making the Grade:


Since everyone needs a place to start, and Hillary’s site seems to be considered one of the better sites, let’s begin the evaluation with her.

I originally planned on doing two or three sites per post, but as you will read, not an easy thing to do. – (design by Mayfield Strategy Group, backend by solutionset)
At first blush, Hillary’s site kind of looks like a simple re-templating of her Senate site – maintaining the some of the lighter blues of her past campaign site – and adding the requisite navy blues and red necessary for a “presidential” site. Upon the launch, one of the major colors that you saw was the color pink – look at the videos during the initial announcement launch – and watch as the candidate changes the color of her outfits from a purely pink then adding the blues of the jacket, to the total blue suit outfit – all while still being in front of the homestead looking room. Funny thing – when I first saw the launch, especially with the new catch phrase, “Let the Conversation Begin”, I knew Peter Daou had to navigate the Communications Team to coordinate that one. But to get back to the questions at hand:

Design/Technology Smarts as of Feb 15th
Now, to be fair, the head of Mayfield Strategies, Josh Ross, is one of my favorite designers. When we first “met”, after he had responded to an email I had sent out to a Stanford alumni mailing list, I immediately liked what I saw. Little did I know at the time that Josh was one of the premiere designers out there. Josh, with his long-time business partner, Alex Kaplinsky, did amazing things for the Kerry Campaign. And, after the campaign, their work has spread to a number of major campaigns in the 2006 including Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington, Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, Governor John Corzine of New Jersey to name a few. Their work is often clean and to the point, and they use the learning from their corporate clients to improve the sites and features found within the campaign sites. So, I am somewhat biased because it is in my own personal design style, but I am going to measure on certain usability principles and the original metrics we discussed in my earlier post.

  • First ImpressionShe’s soft and strong, she could be our President
    As Tom mentions in his Flash post, the brand is strong – “Hillary” – no mention of “Clinton” there, but it’s already an automatic reflex to connect the two words. The logo is diminutive with the same “soft but strong” font-type (white letters with a hint of a blue outline). IQ pts: +4
  • Call To Action

    Not sure who was the first to do this on campaigns, but Mayfield often recommends having a splash page that almost requires you to have to signup to get to the homepage. But as of my viewing today, it looks like that page is no longer available (clear your cookies and go which leads me to believe that Peter and/or Mayfield has determined the return on investment (visitors to signatures) has either been dropping off or dissuading people from going the next step (they decide to leave instead of doing the next step).

    The first things I see as the call-to-action is the leftmost visual – the main stage as we used to call it. It leads people to the main topic that the campaign is promoting, and the negative font placement (white on a darker color) draws your eye. Secondly, you are drawn to the lower right by the “Contribute” button. Thirdly, well – here is where it gets “wonky”, as my students put it. You could claim it is the “Making History” box, the “Top Videos” or the “Team Hillary Action Center”. This is where it dies out for me – since I am not enticed to be “active”, rather, I am enticed to use the website for two purposes – watch the videos and contribute. IQ pts: +3

  • Signup

    Signup is easy – especially with the signup bar in the upper right-hand corner, and they grab the requisite two pieces of information (name, zipcode). The disappointing thing is the next step, which leads you to the “Team Hillary Page” with the light green “Thanks for signing up for email. Take the next step and join Team Hillary.”. This page is the disaster that every campaign goes through – how do you get more information about a person and their interests without inundating them with too many requests? Mayfield is a firm believer in the “above the fold” rule – all of the work must be above the fold of the screen, to maximize the performance. Consider that every major contact page (e.g. signup, Share Your Thoughts, videos, contribute) all exist primarily above the fold – and the action button is (usually) easy to see. For me, this is key – to maximize the performance. IQ pts: +4

  • Donate

    Again, contributing is easy – all of the lessons learned from eCommerce and the Kerry Campaign are in force – the backend does not enjoy the same look-and-feel of the main site – but we sacrifice for the safety of the server. Same one-page, above the fold concept. Errors are handled appropriately (with small red font where the “errors” live), tracking of where the donations come from and even the contribution receipt has a “Report a Problem” link which can connect to the email account. Minor issue is the font size, but the assumption more than likely is that people with bad eyesight are not going to use this interface as often. IQ pts: +4

  • Activism Action Center - click to see full view
    With the Action Center provided by solutionset, Hillary has one of the nicest action centers – with the lovely hues, simple interface and above the screen fold principles. Each of the functions are clearly available on the right, and clicking through, the particular features are clear and simple. They falter when you look at the so-called Featured Actions are essentially performance trackers – “Did respond to this issue? If so, track that”. Note, that there is very little to do once you click through the Featured Actions aside from identify yourself (as I explained almost six months ago in another post). And, if you want to get involved in a party for Hillary, the party locator is excellent – as long as someone has published the party within her system. IQ pts: +3

    Recommendation: consider publishing the events via an iCal feed for google and/or other services like zvents or eventful for interested parties outside of the domain

Engagement Strategy Smarts

In this stage of the campaign cycle, it is difficult to create an engagement strategy when you are working the specific states necessary for the primary season. Including the fact that this election cycle has started far earlier than any before, this can be something of a challenge. But, from the site and services, let’s take a look:

  • Equity

    Here becomes the fundamental issue in any campaign site – is it for the candidate or for the supporters. Remember, my initial premise is that candidates need to serve the supporters, not just be a place for press releases, policy statement and blog posts to reside. And consider the fundamental tradeoff – give me what I want, and I will give you what you want. Hillary, for the most part, does that.

    Contribute to HillaryI come to her site, and instead of forcing the issue of sign up or donate, I get the major information of the day. I can easily navigate to her story, and the content is easy to read, found on no more than two screens full of information – with a simple navigation timeline for following the story. The nice touch is the inclusion of the photos and inline videos that do not start when I reach the page – I get the chance to start them on my own. And, no matter what I do, the email signup is either at the top right (or the Welcome message with the logout button), the Action Center beckons me from the right, or the Contribute button to the lower right.

    Does this make the grade? I think so, for where we are at this time. IQ pts: +6

    One small problem – if you already signed up on the email database or the Senate Action Center, it seems as though your password from before OR you have no password, which means you have to go through the “Forgot Password” sequence.

  • Engagement

    This is a challenge – since this site is primarily a marketing tool for Hillary. The blog still does not exist and the content is primarily a YouTube for Hillary supporters (and reporters). As for actions – it is primarily a flypaper solution determining your interest, rather than engaging you. Even the emails are simply calls to action to determine your interest in issues. The particular “actions” you can be engaged with is simply to tell others and to raise money. This is important for people trying to self-identify and/or raise money as an individual who can show their fundraising prowess to the other development members (read: fundraisers). Does it engage? Hmmm… IQ pts: +2

  • Offsite Engagement

    For this election, this is going to be an interesting effort – since Peter was originally hired as the Blogger Outreach person, there are a lot of challenges to the effort. Particularly, one can not simply have a myspace site and count up the number of friends that the person has – that is a game that does not bear fruit, unless it brings in money or supporters. While Hillary has a number of myspace profiles ([1], [2]) and some negative ones and has “accumulated” a number of “friends” (she has 12,726 on myspace and 100 on Facebook as of today), this does not make an offsite engagement strategy. In order to be effective, the channel needs to be utilized by someone within the campaign to engage with actions and activities that will inspire and be measured. These channels have always had the potential to be useful in reaching people where they are, rather than where they aren’t (which is at your site), since their friends are not hanging out at the campaign site – yet. While Hillary has a large footprint in the online community space, I do not see the engagement by her campaign, but a very enthusiastic supporter who should be commended – and/or recruited by Peter. IQ pts: -1

    I have not mentioned the virtual campaign office in SecondLife, but that is another kettle off fish.

  • Respect

    In this site, I am inclined to grant that it is more about Hillary than about you – but the respect provided is about making the experience a pleasant one. Remember that my metric is about engagement, not about features. For that, all of the emails that come and go between me and the site as well as the final pages of a process are clean and lead to another step or appreciation. To that end, I think they are respecting the balance between marketing and application. IQ pts: +2

Final Result – IQ of 125

Now, this number is a challenging one to generate, simply because it is my metric on their performance with my own assumptions on what is important. But this is an attempt to point out the good and bad of these sites, in the hope that the other campaigns will also realize what is important and give us, the supporters, the benefits to make a difference this campaign season.

Next up: Senator John McCain

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1 Response to Making the Grade:

  1. Great post. I look forward to reading the rest. Note Tom posted a Flash piece on the Edwards site today.

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