Multimedia marketing: election websites

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Candidate web sites collage

With all six University Students’ Council presidential candidates boasting websites as a part of their campaigns, taking politics online has become an integral part of their campaign strategies.

While taking to the World Wide Web is one thing, using it effectively is something else entirely. Here’s a breakdown of each candidate’s use of the web:

Andrew Beach: votebeach.ca
Overall, the design of Beach’s website works. It is simple but still aesthetically pleasing and it is easy for users to find what they are looking for.

It is also comprehensive. Everything a potential Beach supporter needs to know is on the site.

Other impressive elements of Beach’s website are his blog, which has been updated almost daily since the campaign’s kickoff, the “Remind Me to Vote” feature and the integration of humour to what could have been just another dry political website in the “Rejected Campaign Ideas” section.

There are some elements of his website that could have been improved. First, there is too much text in certain areas of the site. Writing for the web is tricky in the sense it requires considerably less text than writing for print, as the onset of eyes train when reading on-screen is much quicker.

Second, none of the quotes under “Why I’m Voting Beach” are attributed to anyone. The quotes would have been more convincing had we known who said them.

Ashley Bushfield: votebushfield.com
Red is one of the worst colours to use on the web, which is bad news for Bushfield, as her campaign colours are red and white.

Despite being harsh on the eyes, Bushfield’s site has a lot going for it.

“Votebushfield.com has the most creative approach to communicating her campaign themes [using the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” approach],” said Mark Rayner, who teaches a website and graphic design course for the media, information and technoculture program.

Like Beach, Bushfield’s site is too text-heavy to realistically expect people to read all of her content.

“There’s lots of good content there, but you have to scroll down to find it and make liberal use of the back button,” Rayner said.

Bushfield’s website also includes personable touches such as “Notes From the Campaign” as well as a page of previous media exposure, allowing students to better get to know the candidate.

Ryan Cassidy: vote4cassidy.com
While probably the simplest site in terms of design, Cassidy’s website provides students with all of the basic information needed in order to be well enough informed of himself and his platform.

“Vote4cassidy.com is the only site that made it easy for me to quickly check the outline of the platform,” Rayner said.

While Cassidy’s site is heavily text-based, he breaks up the text by frequently using bullet-pointed lists. The colour and size of the text and background also makes it easy to get through the text with considerable ease.

Tabitha Navratil: trustintab.com
With eye-catching graphics at the top of the page, the impressive aesthetics of Navratil’s website do not make up for the content.

“There didn’t seem to be a lot of content there,” Rayner said.

First, Navratil’s site is incomplete. As of late last week, her “About Tabitha” section still read “Coming Real Soon.”

Her calendar of events, while visually appealing and including key events such as voting days and debates, reads more like a pub-crawl than a campaign itinerary.

Navratil is also one of the three presidential candidates to take advantage of YouTube and create a campaign video. However, unlike her competitor’s videos, which actually attempt to say something, Navratil’s campaign video is essentially a minute and half of dancing and jumping around to a dance remix of “Thunderstruck.”

Emily Rowe: voterowe.ca
Overall, Rowe’s website is decent. It has the necessities, but what’s really important about Rowe’s use of the Internet is the one thing she has that none of the other candidates can challenge: a campaign video garnering national and international attention.

A play on the Discovery Channel’s current “Boom De Ya Da” campaign, Rowe’s video has been called a “a stroke of genius” by Macleans magazine, generating a buzz around her campaign that’s been unmatched by the presidential hopefuls of recent years.

With over 8,000 views on YouTube, Rowe outshines her fellow candidates in terms of taking full advantage of the Internet as a campaigning vehicle.

Ben Singer: bensinger.ca
“Bensinger.ca does the best job overall at communicating his platform,” Rayner said.

“It’s easy to scan and there’s enough content there that you can get a real sense of what he wants to achieve. The site itself is easy to use and the video was fairly high-quality.”

Singer’s website, much like Beach’s, is both well designed and comprehensive. It is easy to navigate and includes everything from his biography, platform, how to get involved in his campaign, contact information and a photo section with a fairly extensive gallery. However, also like Beach, Singer’s website is a bit text-heavy and can be a bit draining to read all the way through.

The third candidate to release a YouTube video, Singer’s effort is commendable. It speaks to his values as a presidential hopeful and he promotes himself as a personable and approachable candidate. However, to say it pales in comparison to Rowe’s video is an understatement.

Overall
Singer’s website is the best designed in terms of ease of navigation, content quality and comprehensiveness. Beach and Bushfield also impress: Beach with his dedication to his blog and comedic relief and Bushfield with her creative approach to communicating her platform.

However, Rowe has taken USC presidential online campaigning to new heights with the popularity and effectiveness of her spin on the “Boom De Ya Da” advertisement. No other candidate comes close.

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