Ian Lurie Sep 24 2004
I’m a Democrat. I’ll just say that right now. So what I’m about to say in this article is said in the best possible spirit.
Senator Kerry, I really hope you win. I really do. But your web site is awful. Let me count the ways:
Let’s start with the first page. When I go to www.johnkerry.com, I see a splash page that asks me to register. Look a little further and I find a link at the bottom right that lets me skip the registration form. But registration splash pages are one of the number-one pet peeves of internet users. It creates a sense of secrecy, priviledge, and inaccessible-NESS that’s the antithesis of a successful presidential campaign. It also clobbers your site from a search engine optimization standpoint, which means your coverage on Google News is affected, as well.
I just want to know how the campaign’s going – let me into your site. Then provide a registration option. I’ll register, honest. You don’t have to beat me over the head with it.
Just to compare to a certain other candidate, GeorgeWBush.com goes straight to a more informative home page. It’s not perfect, either, but I’m helping the Dems, here. Sorry guys…
Where the heck are you?
If I want to figure out where the Kerry/Edwards campaign is stopping in the next, say, week or so, forget it. I had to determine whether the Senator was stopping in Cincinnati today (long story). I went to the site, and looked for the obvious calendar link. And looked. And looked. Finally, I scrolled down the page and found ‘On the Road’. The information on the home page showed past events. I took a guess, clicked the heading and found myself on the ‘On the Road’ page. On the right there’s a small graphic that at least shows me where the candidate will be today. That’s a start. And there’s a search tool that lets me find events near me. But it took some work to find this stuff.
The fix is easy: Provide an obvious link on the home page called ‘events near you’ or some such. And provide the search tool on the home page. People want to get locally involved. Don’t make it so difficult for them.
I know, I know, campaigns change their schedules at a moment’s notice – posting a calendar is difficult. Well, guess what? You can change a web site at a moment’s notice, too.
Note that the site for the other guy has a calendar link on the home page, and a nice, easy-to-read calendar, too…
Things aren’t necessarily organized in a way that makes sense. The search box is waaaay down the page, on the left-hand side. The home page doesn’t really prioritize. What’s the most important thing? What do you most want to say to me? ‘Stronger at Home’, I think, but ‘Take Action’ competes with it. There’s just a little too much going on.
Note that neither campaign site does this. Both are trying to shoehorn everything into a single page.
Consider splitting the page into two columns, rather than three, and really emphasizing one message, not two or three.
I don’t want to imply that JohnKerry.com is a disaster. The site’s got some solid practices:
The search tool sniffs for typos and automatically finds possible matches.
The site is coded to HTML standards and displays well in a wide array of browsers.
And the site looks good in an 800 x 600 pixel browser window, which perfectly suits the majority of users.
Function Is Message
But the registration splash screen and lack of calendar make JohnKerry.com seem inaccessible. To some extent, all visitors will make the connection between web site and candidate. It might not seem important, but every percentage point counts, right?
Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent Inc. He is co-author of the 2nd edition of the Web Marketing All-In-One for Dummies and wrote the sections on SEO, blogging, social media and web analytics. He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Forbes.com and TechCrunch. And, Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, SIC and ad:Tech. Read More