Thursday, August 01, 2013

Would-Be Mayor Sites Scorecard

However much the current dozen candidates for Boston Mayor paid for their website designs, they spent too much. 

Was it only 7 and 5 years ago that Deval Patrick and Barack Obama (buddies and soul mates on many levels) leveraged the net and social media to win their governorship and presidency? Reviewing the dozing dozen's sites, I have to assume:
  1. Candidates don't put too much importance on web campaigning
  2. Campaigns are unsophisticated about content and visual elements
I went to the 12 to see who did what well and poorly. My first conclusion is that poorly is the operative word. My second is that the typical voter will be disappointed trying to get a fix on any of the dozen by the websites. My third is that the 12 better hope they are right that it will primarily shoe leather and GOTV with a bit of advertising that win the preliminary and then final elections this time. These net sites won't.
Disclaimer and background: I'm a long-term HTML guy. I've worked on personal and corporate websites. I've been a technical communicator for decades, including usability testing for sites and documents. I also host Left Ahead and have interviewed and know many of these candidates. They've had plenty of time to publish platforms, polish slogans, and decide what might sway voters.
I offer a Geek Score per candidate. That's my subjective overview of the use of technology and presentation. There's also a Wonk Score. That's the political POW factor from the site. There there is a grade and comment on the visual aspects, on the effectiveness of tabs, on the power of the candidate's platform, the slogan, the media available, how events appear, and then how usable the site is to a voter.

Campaign slogans are iffy; come candidates seem to have none and others several. This is one thing they should put some effort into and make sure at least the yard signs are memorable and meaningful.

I went a bit crazy in number of columns. I apologize if you have to scroll.

In the table below, lick on a candidate's last name to visit the site and judge for yourself. 

CandidateGeek ScoreWonk ScoreVisualTabsPlatformSloganMediaEventsUsability
A — Clean layout with easy-to-find contentB — Videos are solid but planks are vagueB+ —Attractive and graphics do not get in the wayA — Up top and very clearB —Easy to find, but crowded with 15 topicsBuilding a Better Boston and Forward With FelixA — Video-centric with solid interviews B+ — Tab opens clickable calendar A — Fonts a little small but tabs are plain and easy to use
B+ — Tight and clean design, pulldowns off top buttons work wellC — Spongy, non-specific planksA — Open and well designedA — Buttons on top work as tabs with pulldowns. Highlight then a single click.C — Appears to cover everything but planks are vague and use pol-speakStand Up NowB- — Almost entirely print media links. Takes motivated voter to readA — state of the art calendarA — Features work well and navigation is clear
C — Well designed minimalist siteC- — Not much content but what's there is clearB — Attractive and cleanC+ — Clear and function wellC- — Sparse but fairly deailed for what appearsUnity Builds Strong and First Name on the BallotD — Next to nothing, no meaningful pix or newsC- — easy to access but not interactiveB — Everything obvious and works quickly
C+ — Site well planned, executed. Events fail and vids are boringA — The A+ platform earns political content high markB+ — Nice use of pix, giving a very personal, personable viewB — Easy to use. The empty Events is awfulA+ — Best in the race, with clear goals and methodsBoston's Best Days Are Ahead of UsD — Largely his big talking head with ho-hum messagesD — No events listed. Tab should go until they beef it up.A — Crisp, fast site
B- — What's there is solid, but where's the vid and intereaction?A — He is plain on what he's done, wants to do and howB- — Clean site, everything is obviousB — Minimalist but clear and work wellA — Ideas are very clear and specific, covers all big areasOur Future Starts With Our Schools and Good Schools=Good NeighborsD — Old school print and pix. Needs videoC- — Scrolling, takes multiple clicks to access, no interactionC — What's there is easy to access. Needs more content.
C — Well functioningC- — Content hidden and vagueB+ — Good looking site, with use of pix to make it about himC- — Voters don't know what's hidden behind tabs.C- — Hidden at bottom of About tab, and non-specificMaking Boston BetterC- — Little and in Blog. He should have tons of video and print.D — Gimmicky map instead of calendar. Canvass events OK if you know to go to VolunteerC — Donating or volunteering OK. He should not make you search for h is platform or events.
Golar Richie
C- — Site works but the lack of content detractsD — Her vision tab is grey and mush mouthedD — General goals do not inspire at allC — Mouseover and pulldown tabs are clear and work well, but need larger typeD — There is little here and what appears is vagueCharlotte for MayorB- — Some good news clips, but nothing of her own and some clips don't workC- — Old-style scrolling, not interactive, hidden under News tab.B — Fast and functional site. Only events are so-so.
C- — He is net savvy but form trumps function hereC- — great, but hidden political contentB —Clean and attractive, but you need to scroll for anythingNone, Does not apply.C- —Very detailed, but buried behnid Boston Smarter buttonBoston SmarterB — good linked videosD — Need to visit his FB page for current activitiesD — no tabs, buried content, voter must guess what's behind smallish buttons
B+ — Well designed and fast site. Everything works well.B- — Content is there and better than most candidates but you have to figure out to go to news and blog.B — Very personable, particularly for an activist. Contend and personal touchesB —Tabs are clear and well functioning. Someone put some real thought into these.B- — Platform hidden in news and blog choices. Much there though.Maybe Bill Walczak for Mayor of BostonC — News is print only but it's good, useful stuff. Vids are at the bottom of the front page, kind of hidden.D — Events do not seem to appear on site.B- — Major functions are obvious and work well. A few are obscure, like having to figure to go to news and blog for talking points.
C — Some pages load slowly but overall, the design and functions work well.C- — The About Marty area has bio with implied general goals. Press/Latest News lets motivated voter tunnel down to statements.B — Intense red and blue on white space. Crisp.C-- — Few choices and no platform per se.C- —Minimal, no planksMaybe Marty for MayorB — Lots of press and a little video. With time and interest, voters could find out a lot about his positions.C- — Obscure in right column of each page under many buttons. Click for minimal detailsB — What's there works well and except for the obscure events is easy to find.
David James
D- — Virtually empty with only donation workingD- — No real contentD- — One page with almost no contentNone, Does not apply.D- — Vague goals on single pageMaybe Candidate for Mayor of BostonF. None. Does not apply.F. None. Does not apply.F. No functions ad even Donate does not work.

C- — What's there functions but there's littleD- — He runs for both Mayor and Councillor. Mayor site has only bio.D — Facebook images and content with bio, volunteer and donate buttonsC- — Bio, volunteer and donate buttonsD- — Only bio has info, with no planks or promisesMaybe Charles Yancey for MayorF. None. Does not apply.D- — Just a little in FB feed.D- — Easy to confuse this with Councillor site. Very little functionality.

The short of it is that no one is brilliant here. As much as we'd expect web technologies and design to continually advance, forget that. These folk either don't care or don't know their stuff.

It may very well be that those puerile forum thingummies rule in the preliminary. Every candidate gets two minutes to brag and then a minute or less to reduce complex topics to a bowl of grits. I disdain these and there's hardly more than one or two memorable quotes from an evening.

We'll see how savvy it is for the dozen to have half-baked campaign sites. Conventional and media wisdom is that you have to have a website, but that it makes little difference. Most voters don't visit.

In this once-a-generation election, no candidate is outstanding. That is odd for a few. First, Mike Ross is a long-time internet geek. He should have the best site but doesn't. He and Bill Walczak have the big, wide, deep visions for a new Boston; you'd expect great web tech to highlight that. Nah.

A few are predictably dull and even ho hum. Pirate radio king Charles Clemons, teacher David Wyatt and to a slightly lesser extent long-term City Councilor Charles Yancey are running vanity campaigns. None has much money nor has roused much interest. Yancey even is simultaneously re-running for Council. Their sites are bare, sparse and frankly ineffectual — no platform, no reason to vote for them, in Yancey's case little evidence he wants the mayoralty, and for all, not even a real campaign slogan.

There'll be more before the preliminary. I have calls out to other candidates. Meanwhile, I've done four interviews at Left Ahead. to hear their half-hour shows, click the candidates below:

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