Comments from the judges on Senators Clinton and Obama Websites

The Web Marketing Association asked past WebAward judges to review both www.hillaryclinton.com and www.barackobama.com using the same criteria used in the annual WebAwards program. The sites were judged side by side on seven criteria of a successful Website. More than 100 Judges responded on short notice and named Senator Obama’s Website as the Best Websites in head to head competition against Senator Clinton’s Website.

One of the main benefits of participating in the annual WebAward competition is the feedback participants receive regarding their Websites. Below are some of the comments from the WebAward judges regarding the two sites being evaluated. They are the personal opinions of the specific judge who made them and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Web Marketing Association. Attribution is given where available.

For compete information on the Clinton Obama Website Challange, please visit our Website at www.TheWebAwards.org.

I think both designs and architectures were well planned. But on the user experience side, both the Clinton and Obama sites initially forced a sign up page, requesting my email and contact info on my first visit. When I landed on Hilary’s site, I thought I had received a link in error to some landing page see http://hillaryclinton.com/splash/. Both sites request this ahead being allowed in the main area but it went away on a browser refresh, so while I did not study the code, I assumed it was a basic use of a cookie. Overall, I thought this was a poor treatment of the first time visitor by forcing the desire of the campaign to gather information without having served the user. Both sites did offer a “skip this” choice to proceed to the main site but it took some review time to even find that. I tested this with others on my staff and got the same reaction about the treatment of the 1st time visitor. For the record I also checked and McCain’s site did not currently use the same information gathering tactic which may only relate to where he is in the primary cycle. With so many undecided voters, I thought this was a clear cut example of not putting the user first and designing the experience for them rather than forcing them into a model that worked for the campaigns.
Bo Simmons, President, Cool Blue Interactive

Barack’s website has a more calming effect and eases you into the different topics on the site. Hillary’s feels more clutters and pushy. As far as web design goes Barack’s website has a more current web 2.0 look and feel. Both websites are very impressive and the technology used is equally so.
Jon Harrison, Webavt.com

The navigation of the site appear the same — even the DONATE NOW/CONTRIBUTE button is the same color and placement. Even the language of video (candidateTV) is the same! In the end, Barack seems to be doing a better job visually. There is much more use of white space, which results in homepage scrolling, but this works better than cramming all the content into the homepage like the Hillary site. Content-wise the websites appear similiar just with a different candidate. Obama does seem to make more use of social media, but one has to wonder if it a case of name-dropping (“hey, I represent on MyBatanga!”). Interestingly, Hillary’s “bilingual” page keeps navigation and a lot of the call to actions in English. No bueno.
David Felfoldi, Sherpa! Web Studios

I found the design of Barack Obama’s site to be lively, consistent and professional and the messaging to be positive and engaging. Every element was handled with finesse and the flow of information invited exploration. The site definitely conveyed “possibilities.” If I lived in bubble and this was the only exposure I had to the candidate and his campaign, I would be very impressed. On the other hand, I found Hillary Clinton’s site to be uninspiring in both its design and its tone. The site appeared overly conventional and cluttered, the messaging came across as harsh and needy, and the overall experience felt stale. I think the site might actually do the candidate some disservice because it lacked warmth, vision and personality. If I were to vote for a candidate based solely on the merits of his or her Website, Barack Obama would win by a landslide.
Sherry Bastion, ARCHESITE.

Both sites are almost complete copies of the other. The differences are so minor that I believe they are very evenly matched with Hillary’s site being more compact and Obama’s site is more iconic. The Hillary site is more pure CSS than Obama’s but both function nicely. One cool thing that the Obama site has is ring-tones and more focus on the mobile user. Also his layout of the video channel is nicer although her’s loads much faster.
Bruce Baughman, President, Design Monkey Artists Domain Inc.

Overall, it was tough to determine a clear winner because both sites were very similar. What made BarackObama.com stand out for me was that through the use of color and his photography, it made the experience more inviting and personable. HillaryClinton.com felt a bit stale and cold, not engaging enough. I did prefer Hillary’s story though with the timeline and photography. Another great element was ‘The Hillary I Know’ microsite that featured video of those closest to her – nice touch.
Jeannie Metz-Fratoni, Creative Director, Red Door Interactive

While both candidate web sites are superb on their own, when judging them side by side, Barack Obama’s web site has the edge on every available metric — from the initial look and feel of the splash page to the way the interior of the site is structured and dressed to communicate effectively. As one example, the Barack Obama web site is much more effective in its use of white space to make each area of the page stand out whereas the Hillary Clinton web site feels more crammed — with lots of bold colors competing for attention.
Raymond Pirouz raymondpirouz.com/

It is very hard for me to distinguish between the 2 of these sites. if you took the name and photos off, they would look almost exactly the same- color palette, font, layout, menu headings, they have nearly the same content in the same order.

In this campaign Hillary Clinton appears to be trailing in every aspect, including online campaigning. While her campaign has made an effort to include references and connections to most social networking tools, they clearly lack the commitment and resources to make the most of their online opportunities. As a result her Website presents Hillary Clinton as a fairly scattershot candidate. Barack Obama’s campaign, on the other hand, clearly started with a strong commitment to using design and online campaigning to engage the public in their campaign story. As with his speeches and other communications, every element of Obama’s Website is meticulously crafted. Typography is impeccable, graphics are gorgeous, and his message of hope, community, and vision for a positive future are unmissable.

As an objective judge for the WebAwards for the last 4 years, as well as dealing with web design and communication issues daily in my business, the Clinton site was by far more professional and intuitive than the Obama site. As an Obama supporter I felt quite disappointed in the disparity. Perhaps the answer lies in the financial resource that Clinton has over Obama in hiring the right web and communication managers.
Brian Bickford, President, Strategic Productions

I think Obama’s site is much more contemporary, and will appeal to more technically savvy viewers, while Clinton’s is not as innovative in structure, technology, etc. As a designer I’d rather be taking credit for Obama’s site, although I’m a Clinton supporter.

Both candidates have loaded their sites with the latest media tools and are nearly identical in form and function. They have nailed the technology, but they are missing the human element. Neither Clinton nor Obama have a personal blog where they could connect with voters in their own words and share their daily experiences. Everyone from Moms to CEOs are blogging today, why not the candidates? It’s a real chance to make a competitive difference on the web and build a personal connection with voters.
Bob Gilbreath, Chief Marketing Strategist, Bridge Worldwide

Most annoying on both sites was seeing a sign up form very prominent on the page. I almost thought that’s all there was until I saw the “Enter site” button. This would turn off a lot of people I think and is almost the same as the annoying “Skip Intro” Flash sites. Clinton’s site was more straightforward HTML so it was a little easier to use and the contribution form looked and worked cleaner. However overall Obama’s site was better especially in the copywriting it was clearer where he stood on positions or at least was able to find his positions better. Probably the biggest piece of cheese on his site was the “Powered by Hope” emblem on the bottom. It almost felt jokey and if it wasn’t, it’s taking the “hope” theme too far and making it meaningless. (I hope his t-shirts aren’t “built by hope”) Overall there’s not much differentiation between the sites, it’s almost like they bought the same template and went from there. Especially when they aren’t going for politics as usual, their sites certainly are.

“The websites of the 3 leading U.S. Presidential contenders reflect, not surprisingly, their various personalities and agendas. The design, contents and use of technologies vary from conservative to very progressive. A look at all three websites gives insight into how modern media planners can integrate technology tools to promote their message and their brand strategy.
Ric Shreves, http://RicShreves.net

While many of the details of their platforms are informed by similar values and proposals, the vitality of Obama’s site is inspiring and engaging (even the backgrounds of the Obama site have a vitality lacking in the Hillary site’s drab gradients). Will a site change the minds of visitors? I found that it effectively drew me closer to the candidate; in fact I might just go back and volunteer.
Jamie Leo, Creative Director, The Monday Campaigns

In the battle for popularity, the ability to use the Web and Social Media effectively can be a critical determinant of success. The Hillary Clinton campaign has put together a cogent, persuasive website with sophisticated use of technology, including social media. The Barack Obama website however has an earthy appeal to it, and perfectly reinforces the message that the Obama campaign has consistently sought to convey. The Obama site thus strongly resonates with it’s target audience.
Dr. V P Kochikar, Assc Vice President and Principal Consultant, Infosys Technologies

It’s clear that the Obama website has embraced all that is new about the web. An indication of what he stands for and what he’s aiming to achieve. It is clear, concise and beautifully designed. Although not a poor site in many ways, the first impression of Clinton’s is of desperation. It is loaded with colours and content that can confuse the user. Being from the UK, I can judge these sites with little affiliation to a candidate, and I would say Obama’s site is by far the most appealing.
Nic Sheppard, eBusiness Manager, iShares Europe

Barack Obama needs to make it clear to the user that visitors do not have to provide their name and email information in order to view the site. Currently, you can only use the logo to access the site. Hillary Clinton clearly states it on the home page.
Linda Girard, Pure Visibility

Both sites were slick, but I would have to give a narrow edge to Sen. Clinton. The design was denser, the content seemed richer and the video streaming was clearer on the Clinton page. Both sites reflected the personalities of the candidates — Clinton’s site had more detail (and threw more punches); Obama’s site was more inspiring. Both candidates emphasized money raising, no surprise there.
Rob Wray, Rob Wray Marketing

The Clinton site whilst looking very basic on entering it is really full of technology but not in an “in your face” kind of way. Subtle, good copy, nice graphics.
Nic Carter-Jones, New Millennium Internet UK

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