Monthly Archives: February 2013

A quick review of local campaign websites

Campaign season never truly ends.

Even more so, on Tuesday there will be a primary election for our City Commission here in Lawrence, Kansas. I thought I’d take some time to review the candidates’ web presence. Please note, I’m not reviewing the candidates or their stances, just their web communications.

And thanks to the joy of advanced voting, I’m already done.

All of this information was found from our local Chamber of Commerce’s 2013 City Commission Candidate Q&A page. Let’s get started.

Mike Amyx, Facebook fan page

  • Desktop experience: Amyx doesn’t have a website, but he does have a Facebook fan page which is viewable to the public without logging in. I don’t particularly care for this approach: I think social media should be a tool in your communications strategy toolbox, not the only tool. Although, he is an incumbent, which makes his effort to get re-elected easier.
  • Mobile experience: It’s really as good as Facebook makes it. Your mileage may vary.

One thing to note: I don’t see anywhere on Amyx’s fan page a “Paid for by” wording, as directed by the Kansas Ethics Commission, which states:

Question: Do websites, e-mails and other Internet communications require a “Paid for by” or “Sponsored by” attribution statement?
Answer: If the website, e-mail or other Internet communication expressly advocates the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate for state or local office, then a “Paid for by” or “Sponsored by” statement must be provided if the communication is disseminated to 25 or more individuals. This requirement only applies to any email or other type of Internet communication which is made by the candidate, the candidate’s committee, PAC or party committee.

This could cause him potential issues should anyone decide to file a complaint with the Kansas Ethics Commission (unless I’m just missing it).

 

Judy Bellomejudybellomeforcommission.com

  • Desktop experience: While not incredibly appealing visually, it does have the basic information about Bellome: quotes about her, how to donate, links to news articles about her campaign, resume, platform and her supports, along with links to her social media efforts.
  • Mobile experience: About the same as her desktop experience, but using a responsive design that is well-suited for mobile. Big globs of text on some pages make the reading experience a little daunting on a smartphone.

 

Rob Chestnutchestnutforcommission.com

  • Desktop experience: Branding is consistent with Chestnut’s signs around the city, and playing upon his previous experience on the commission – “Re-elect Rob Chestnut” will help his overall message. The design is minimal, but clean. The About Rob page’s URL should be changed to something other than “sample-page.” No links to a social media presence and an email address that’s not a hyperlink on the Contact page are negatives.
  • Mobile experience: Pretty poor. There is no mobile-optimized version of this website, making it hard to read from a phone.

 

Scott Criquiscottcriqui.com

  • Desktop experience: Branding is consistent with Criqui’s signs around the city. Pictures are of excellent quality and the design is OK. However, the front page image isn’t text, just an image. No links to social media and underlined words that aren’t links on the Vision page are negatives. On one of his news pages, the menu gets wonky.
  • Mobile experience: Pretty poor. There is no mobile-optimized version of this website, making it hard to read from a phone. The menu is a little hard to use on a phone because the links are small, a consequence of not having touch targets optimized for small screens.

 

Jeremy Farmer, voteyourselfafarmer.com

  • Desktop experience: Branding is consistent with Farmer’s signs around the city. The site is visually appealing, although I’d slow down the slideshow timing if it were me. Clearly, Farmer has spent money on this website, and in his favor, it shows. Some of the links could be a darker color to give better contrast against the light background.
  • Mobile experience: Pretty poor. There is no mobile-optimized version of this website, making it hard to read from a phone. The menu is a little hard to use on a phone because the links are small, a consequence of not having touch targets optimized for small screens.

 

Reese Haysreesehays.com

  • Desktop experience: Clean design, easy to read front page text, and high-quality images are all positives. Negatives include font sizes different on Contact Info and My Views pages (different from the front), no links to social media, no hyperlinked email address on the  Contact Info page. The URLs for the Contact Info and My Views pages are “style-demo” and “full-width,” respectively. That’s just poor basic SEO. I’m not a fan of the center-aligned text on the home page.
  • Mobile experience: Pretty good. The site is responsive, so it looks decent on a phone. I just wish the font sizes were all the same size as the home page. The images on the Contact Info and My Views pages cause the text to break funky, because they’re not optimized for a phone’s breakpoints (at least, not the one I’m using).

 

Michael A. Rost, Facebook fan page

  • Desktop experience: Rost doesn’t have a website, but he does have a Facebook fan page. But, I can’t view it because his fan page settings are set to you have to log in to Facebook to see it. I recently closed my Facebook account, so I can’t see it. Obviously a negative.
  • Mobile experience: Beats me. As good as Facebook allows, I guess.

 

Leslie Sodenlesliesoden.wordpress.com

  • Desktop experience: This uses the default WordPress theme from WordPress.com called Twenty Ten. Every website that is built by anyone who doesn’t have a lot of web knowledge uses this theme, and I’m sick of seeing it. The few images she has could be better quality. She does have all the relevant content you’d need to have to learn about Soden, although a negative is having an email that’s not hyperlinked on the Contact Me page.
  • Mobile experience: Pretty … OK. Viewing on a mobile device kicks it into the mobile version of the Twenty Ten theme. I hate it, but it’s usable. Man, I hate this theme.

 

Terry Riordan, riordanforlawrence.com

  • Desktop experience: I haven’t seen many of his signs around town, so I couldn’t tell you if his branding is consistent or not. Pictures are of excellent quality, but the design is blasé. No links to social media is a negative. At least his email is a hyperlink on his Contact page.
  • Mobile experience: Pretty poor. There is no mobile-optimized version of this website, making it hard to read from a phone. The menu is hard to use on a phone because the links are small, a consequence of not having touch targets optimized for small screens.

 

Nicholas Eugene Marlo, no information available

 

William R. Olson, no information available

In Conclusion

As a web developer, I’m pretty biased. I’m too close to the metal to make an unbiased assessment. I want all of these pages to be excellent.

That’s not to say my opinions can’t be based upon some sort of logic. How we interact with websites, social media and other forms of communications effectively is because of a plethora of factors. Aesthetics, usability, word choices, these things all matter at a subconscious level. There’s a reason the Obama and Romney campaign websites were excellent – the people behind those campaigns understand these principals. It’s time our local officials do too.

And in the end, who did I chose? Amyx, Farmer, and Soden. I chose our officials because of who they are and what they stand for, (and how that fits my values) not their websites.

Call me a hypocrite.