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Question of the day

Monday, Oct 30, 2006

This question was suggested by state Rep. Larry McKeon:

Most candidates have a campaign website. What do you find good and what do you find bad about the websites you have visited? Why? If you were going to design one what should a really good website contain?

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Nickname - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 4:39 am:


  2. - Nickname - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 4:41 am:

    Also, for the candidates that really do have more thorough analyses behind their plans and positions, please put that on your website. There’s nothing I hate more than going to an “issues section” and basically reading a few platitudes that could be given in a 30-second commercial.

  3. - Nickname - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 4:45 am:

    Here’s one such 30-second issues section:

    However, at least this has an easy-to-find issues section, unlike this tangled website:

  4. - Anon - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 6:09 am:

    Some candidate websites make it very difficult to find contact numbers. Some don’t have them at all.

  5. - RBD - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 6:29 am:

    1. A list of the first three problems you will tackle once elected.

    2. A list of the first specific action you will take with each action - not including a lame “talk to the people.”

    3. For challengers: A list of the top five actions the incumbent took that you would have done differently - and what you would have done.

    4. A list of the top five actions you have taken to make your community/district a better place, excluding any taken while in office.

    Basically, I want to see that running for public office is your action of last resort to improve your community.

  6. - Anon - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 6:48 am:

    Who reads the candidates web site? Their own people, maybe the media and the opponents. Lots of voters turn off TV and radio ads when they come on. I just don’t think the typical voter is going to take the time to go to their web site. Maybe some day in the future, but not right now.

  7. - HoosierDaddy - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 7:31 am:

    Same problem as with the campaign lit– too much fluff and not enough substantive positions on actual issues.

  8. - Boone Logan Square - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 7:41 am:

    No fancy flash, use a clean design.

    Clear contact information for the campaign.

    Accurate, timely information on campaign appearances and the candidate’s itinerary.

    Substantive discussion of your position on the issues.

    Links to relevant independent media stories on the campaign.

    Space for a blog or comments on posts that indicate you are actually interested in two-way communication with your constituents. (And once this is up, engaging in two-way conversation with your constituents is important.)

    I don’t care as much as you might about this point, but having a secure link for credit-card campaign donations couldn’t hurt the warchest.

  9. - bored now - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 8:04 am:

    here’s a good website that people like:

    it’s clean, easily navigatable, it fits on one screen and seems to have all the bells and whistles…

  10. - Beowulf - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 8:38 am:

    Several of the websites that I have viewed seem to be generic (put together by some kid that is taking a computer science class).
    The other thing that I find disconcerting is that it seems that on several websites that no one seems to be in charge of “updating” the schedule or calendar of events that their candidate has scheduled. JBT initially had a “slapped together” generic website where nobody seemed to be in charge of or bothered to fill in or update Judy’s schedule of events. Maybe she has improved upon it (I sure hope so)but I never bothered to go back to check it again because it was so lame. Perhaps it was simply because she was so overwhelmed with her campaigning or simply lacked the necessary funding to put up a decent website? I would think that whoever was/is her campaign manager should have had that base covered better, however. This might have been her campaign manager’s first political campaign and he/she is still learning.

  11. - zatoichi - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 8:43 am:

    Websites are ok, but who really reads them? I know they have become mandatory to show the candidate understands media. Most websites simply repeat a candidate’s hard copy handouts and platitudes on how great/community based/hard working/dedicated/change oriented/better than their opponent they are. Most are bland forgetteable copy. I agree with Nick. Dump the irritating, flashing software stuff. Get to the point, look like you know what you are doing, make it really easy to find info, and have a nice layout.

  12. - ZC - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 8:58 am:


    A static website is a dead website. People go to a campaign website because they are partisans, or political junkies, and they want to know the latest developments. I’d prefer a website that looks like it was built by a college kid, if it had new stuff on it every day or so, as opposed to a flashy page that never changed in 3 months.

  13. - Squideshi - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 9:05 am:

    The website would be built upon an open source platform and according to web standards, similar to the Whitney for Governor website. The use of open source software demonstrates that the candidate understands technology and knows how to improve security while reducing cost.

  14. - Larry McKeon - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 9:20 am:

    Squideshi - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 9:05 am:

    Could you explain what an “open source platform” is and what benefits accrue. I feel very ignorant because I do not understand the terminology.


  15. - Robbie - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 9:55 am:

    Larry, I will do my best to provide a little example of open source.

    You can successfully run a website on a windows based server. You can use windows authoring tools such as frontpage. You can use microsoft technology such as This can be a perfectly fine website. But in order to run it or understand it you have to have knowledge of Microsoft’s specific technology. Instead there are alternatives to what they offer. You can use a linux based server running apache to host a website. You can use technologies such as php and mysql to run interactive database driven website applications. The benefit? That all these technologies are free first of all. (for campaigns this could be a bif help) And also they are open source. Which means there are developers constantly working to maintain, update, and secure the code. As you probably are aware, microsoft gets all kinds of viruses and hacks constantly. Having open source software allows many different coders and testers the opportunity to ensure the software is safer.

    I hope that makes sense and was fairly accurate. I’m by no means an expert, but I am a web veteran.

  16. - archpundit - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 10:13 am:

    Open source is essentially software that is freely distributed and the code is available to everyone. It’s like linux compared to Microsoft.

    Really, the issue of open source isn’t the issue–the issue is how to best present content to people. Open source is sometimes the way to do it (both Rich and I use essentially an open source platform called Wordpress)

    The key to me is largely what you see above–regular updating. Make sure the calendar is up to date. Make sure there is a regular communication from the candidate. That might be a blog, that might not be. There should be easy to find contact information including a physical address if the campaign has one. There should be someone to call and there should be a regularly checked e-mail account listed.

    Consider it a communications hub. If people want to be involved there should be a way to find out how on the site. How do they volunteer? How do they contribute? How do they get a yard sign? How do they attend an event?

    Beyond that, people don’t really read the issues. Mostly they want to know how to be involved and to be invited to do just that. You should have an issues page for the odd person interested, but it won’t be where most people go.

    While everyone really wants to say they want substance and all that fun stuff, the biggest draw to any campaign site is the picture page. Pictures of events and the candidate with people at the event is one of the most trafficked spots on anything below a statewide race. When you have a fundraiser, take pictures of and with supporters and then post them. It really is an issue of feeling like part of the campaign.

    It’s also good for the press if you have press releases up on the site and any other stories written about the campaign reproduced (link rot–where stories disappear from news sites mean a link isn’t sufficient). Also have a bio with all the offices or community activities listed and a pr photo that can be downloaded—community newspapers find that especially helpful.

    There should also be a set of links to resources in the community and businesses. If you are a part of the community, you can promote it with your site.

    The site bored now linked to is very good. It’s clean and you can navigate it easily. And there is a picture of the candidate right as you pull it up making it a personal experience.

    Finally, it should be accessible meaning it’s compliant with those with disabilities. The text should be easily resizable, the color scheme should be accessible to those with color blindness and the reading software for the blind should work with it–there are sites to help your designer out with this.

  17. - Anonymous - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 10:13 am:

    I really like John Fritchey’s website -… not a surprise from him though. It’s more substantive than fluffy campaign stuff, and the newsboard seems to be up to date all the time.

  18. - Wumpus the Free - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 10:16 am:

    I like the websites where opponents can make stuff up about your positions. Kinda like the Stroger version of Peracia’s website. The part where Toddler’s commercial states that Tony will raise taxes and close provident. Only Todd must have access to that portion, because no one else can seem to find it.

  19. - archpundit - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 10:18 am:

    And I forgot one of the most important features for you–have them sign up for a mailing list. Don’t overuse it, but keep in touch once a month even if not currently in campaign mode.

    Pushing information to people is generally more effective than waiting for them to come to a web site. When in an active campaign then, you don’t have to rely on people coming to you, you go to those who have expressed an interest.

    Don’t use every mail to ask for money either–use some just for information–or people tend to tune them all out. Then when you ask for volunteers or money, they are still paying attention.

    And with that, you’ll want to develop privacy policies for the e-mail list and site in general. Most of this is easy to get already done and then just adapt it over.

  20. - Tessa - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 10:33 am:

    Not that I check out candidate websites on a regular basis, but they should include:
    1) a schedule of what the candidate is doing, where they’re going to be
    2) contact information, address, phone, e-mail
    3) what you’ve done, or what you will do in office for your district
    4) your platform for running for office
    5) background information, what makes you qualified for office, WHY should we elect you
    6) a place for us to sign up for e-mail notification to assist with the campaign if we want to help, or to keep us notified of what’s going on.

    This is just a thought.

  21. - RAI - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 11:11 am:

    For those who think that just political junkies go to candidates websites it’s not true. If you were the one who had to respond to questions you would know that allot of regular voters are now going to the sites to find out for themselves what the candidate stands for.
    If you are a movement candidate who has allot of grassroots supporters you had better have an up to date page for your positions. If you skimp on an issue you will hear from groups about their views getting ignored. I have had groups hold their support until the website addresses their issue completely. A campaign’s issues advisor now has twice as much to do, not only connecting with the people who write and call but now must check the email daily.
    I have to admit, in this campaign a good site was expected more than it was just 2 years ago by the next campaign cycle you will have to spend the money on professional webmasters. It will now be the face of the campaign. You will run your ads on them as well as being the contact with your voters.

  22. - Squideshi - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 11:15 am:

    Larry, click on the link in my original post; or take a look at this article on Wikipedia.

    You might also be interested in learning about free software (free as in freedom, not price.) This is not exactly the same as open source, but a good deal of open source software also happens to be “free software.”

  23. - Squideshi - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 11:21 am:

    Incidentally, here is Rich Whitney’s recent press release regarding the use of open source software in Illinois state government. It was issued in response to a security vulnerability at the Chicago Board of Elections that exposed the Social Security numbers and birth dates of more than 1 million registered voters.

  24. - downstateyp - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 11:25 am:

    The Greg Brewer site is really good. It is the best I’ve seen in Illinois politics.

  25. - VanillaMan - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 11:27 am:

    There should be a video statement of the candidate speaking to the camera on every issue that arises during the election.

    Nothing is more powerful that wanting to know what a candidate’s position on a issue is when YOU want to hear it, and having a video presentation of the candidate answering you.

    What every website needs is what is done in person during campaign stops: direct answers to your questions. Modern websites will utilize video communication to recreate that powerful exchange.

    What you want to do is create a virtual version of your candidate online. After you have done this, then you will be able to have first rate visual information available whenever voters demand it.

    You want to make the website similar to stopping by and asking your question in person.

    Everything else is just detail.

    No. No one out there is doing this yet. The so-called professinals are still thinking 20th Century brochure and TV mentality, and are damn obsolete.

  26. - So-Called "Austin Mayor" - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 11:31 am:

    I think that the race for the 46th Dist House seat provides a striking example of contrasts in website philosophy:

    Democrat Joe Vosicky’s site — — features a welcoming homepage, a bio, his stands on the issues, a list of upcoming events and it allows folks to contact or volunteer with the campaign. And of course, there is a page where you can Donate to Joe Vosicky’s campaign. The layout is attractive and simple to navigate.

    One might even call Joe’s site “minimalist” — except for the fact that his Republican opponent has no website at all.

    Hard to belive isn’t it?

    But if you don’t believe me, would you believe the DuPage County Republican Party?

    Perhaps it’s just a function of my age, but a candidate without a website just screams, “I don’t care!”

  27. - So-Called "Austin Mayor" - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 12:28 pm:

    I think that the race for the 46th Dist House seat provides a striking example of contrasts in website philosophy:

    Democrat Joe Vosicky’s site — — features a welcoming homepage, a bio, his stands on the issues, a list of upcoming events and it allows folks to contact or volunteer with the campaign. And of course, there is a page where you can Donate to Joe Vosicky’s campaign. The layout is attractive and simple to navigate.

    One might even call Joe’s site “minimalist” — except for the fact that his Republican opponent has no website at all.

    Hard to belive isn’t it?

    But if you don’t believe me, would you believe the DuPage County Republican Party?

    Perhaps it’s just a function of my age, but a candidate without a website just screams, “I don’t care!”

  28. - Lovie's Leather - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 2:10 pm:

    I think that site is the most put-together site I have seen from a candidate. It has the biography, issues, photo gallery, endorsements, even policy councils and policy papers. Has a video section and an election countdown. It is simple to understand… and I bet my mom could even navigate that site… Which is a task in itself….

  29. - JoeLC - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 2:47 pm:

    The Charlie Crist web site is very good. As far as Illinois goes, I think Michael Bond’s web site is the nicest. It has an appealing, easy to use layout and provides alot of content. For those interested in facts and figures, it has it. And for those who want to look at pictures, etc, it has that too. In terms of communicating with voters and volunteers, it has what is needed.

    It is an exciting race too.

  30. - Robbie - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 3:17 pm:

    how about the illinois democratic party website??? hands down the worst site out there. you wouldnt even know there was an election coming up if that was an indicator. no news, no updates, no dynamic content. its a terrible site.

  31. - Levois - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 4:08 pm:

    I like this website. It’s very simple and has a record of his experience.

  32. - GOP - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 4:20 pm:

    This guy has a horrible website. No content. No issues info:

    His little bio makes me laugh. It’s like someone who is running for high school class president. He actually lists his membership at a couple of museums as “credentials” for being a congressman. Anyone with $50 can get a museum membership! He bores me.

    It’s scary that this was the best we Republicans could do for a candidate in this district.

  33. - Robbie - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 4:24 pm:

    check out the illinois democratic website… quite possibly the worst site out there. i would have no idea that there was an election next week looking at that site. no news section, rarely updated, no dynamic content… terrible site.

  34. - Robbie - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 4:28 pm:

    anyone ever looked at the illinois democratic party website??? quite possibly the worst website ever! you wouldnt even know the election was a week away looking at that site… no news section, never updated, no dynamic content. that has my vote for worst political website.

  35. - Slarty - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 5:02 pm:

    Michael Bond’s web site is one that I visit (I’m in district). It is informative, current, good contact info, candidate information, issues, news, etc. The emails are also the most original. They post some of the content from some of them.

  36. - Will County Wiseguy - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 6:34 pm:

    Having just visited a number of web sites for a newsletter piece I wrote on the elections I would suggest: (1) a decent bio containing relevant educational, employment and governmental service history and other qualifications, (2) endorsements, (3) civic activities including memberships in organizations, (4) a link to a good district map that includes a narrative of the district boundaries, (5)positions on key issues (fiscal, education, health care access, economic development) (6) phone, fax and email contact information, (7) upcoming “meet the candidate” events, (8) a clear concise statement of why the candidate thinks he/she deserves our vote.

  37. - El Zorro - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 9:10 pm:

    It is important for candidate websites to have pages in Spanish, as well as English, in order to better connect with the growing number of Spanish-speaking voters. Remembering that the ballot is also printed in Spanish in Illinois, candidates’ web sites MUST follow suit. Z

  38. - HRH Weezer - Tuesday, Oct 31, 06 @ 8:19 am:

    - GOP - Monday, Oct 30, 06 @ 4:20 pm:

    This guy has a horrible website. No content. No issues info:

    Some one told me he lives with his mommy. Is that true?

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